As a solopreneur life can get stressful, lonely, challenging and frustrating. It can also be incredibly exciting, fun and rewarding. In these highs and lows as a business owner you need a support system that understands what you're going through.
It may seem like your family and friends will be enough. Your spouse, kids, friends, parents, whoever, has been there for many of the other events in your life. So why not lean on them in this time? And you should, but, they can only provide so much of the support you'll need, unless they too are business owners.
When you come to the people closest to you and ask them to help with your business or vent about a tough situation, you may put some extra strain on the relationships. They may want to help you, but they don't fully understand your work. So just like having coworkers and teams to lean on at times that you need help at work, as solopreneurs we need a network of other professionals to lean on.
And some of us are lucky enough to have family and friends that own businesses, understand what we're going through and can really be there with us through out journey. If you don't have that particular support system in your life, don't distress. Your family and friends love you, and you can still share your special moments with them. But you can also build a strong group of business friends and be there for each other!
How to meet people!
Meeting people, especially while you're busy and they are busy running businesses can be tough, but there are some options that make it easier.
If you're planning on renting an office, consider joining a co-working space instead. In addition to having the space you'd need to work and meet clients, you'll also have the opportunity to meet other professionals in your area. By working together in the same space and getting to know each other, you can offer each other support as well.
It's possible to join a local chamber of commerce or networking groups. Some of these groups are paid, others are entirely free. Some are open to any businesses in your local area, some only allow 1-2 businesses of each type, and others focus on particular industries or subsets (like wedding professionals or creative professionals). Find the groups that work best for you. You want to aim for the ones that help you learn, grow as a business owner and form relationships with the other members.
Each group has it's own rules and structure and is appealing to different types of people. Find the group that works best for your communication style!
Check out social media! Many of the networking/training groups have an online presence. Many have meet-up, Facebook or LinkedIn groups online. This makes them much easier to find and read about. Many are doing virtual meetings.
Speaking of social media, you can follow local businesses on Instagram, Facebook and other social media! Commenting, interacting on their pages and messaging them are great ways to reach out. Keep the conversation light and let them know why you're reaching out right away.
Who to meet?
As you're thinking about which groups or organizations to join or how to build these relationships, you're probably wondering who you should be trying to meet?
Ideally, you want to meet people with whom you feel comfortable, can form great relationships and you can share things with each other. A great way to start is to try to find people in industries or professions similar to yours. If you're a make-up artist, try meeting other make-up artists. For one, if you work in the same type of job you have at least one thing in common in addition to being a business owner. In addition you all probably have different styles, schedules and ideal clients. So you can refer to each other.
Another group to meet with are people in the same industry. For example wedding professionals like make-up artists, hair dressers, venue owners, photographers, caterers, decoration rentals, wedding planners, etc. all have weddings in common. Though they do different things they all work with similar clients and understand the wedding process. By reaching out to this group of business owners within your own industry, you can form relationships where you can help each other see situations from different perspectives, refer clients to each other, work on projects together, and form a good group to lean on together.
Ultimately, the most important thing is that you get along, help each other grow. So regardless of where you meet or what types of businesses you run, if you can help each other get over hurdles, discuss decisions and celebrate wins, when your other friends don't really get it, then this is a great relationship to build.
Things to remember!
Don't go looking for networking that will help you get something from other people! The most important thing to having a great friendship is to be a good friend. To build good circles of friends, to have good relationships, try to give as much as you take.
Focus on building real friendships where you can find friends you can confide in and build trust.
Surround yourself with people you admire! People you believe are good people and good at their business. Not only can you learn a great deal from people like this, but having them in your life will help you to continue to try to work on yourself and be your best as well.