They say it can be lonely at the top…and even lonelier if you’re self-employed and running a solo business.
So it’s important to build a network of like-minded people, peers and colleagues around you to bounce ideas off, talk through your latest challenges, or just chat about the latest apps and tech tools.
But how do you build up this community of people who share your goals, understand your mindset and can bring their own unique skills and capabilities to the table?
Going it alone as a solopreneur
Many start-ups begin life with one person sat at kitchen table, huddled in a box room or squeezed into an improvised office in a garage or shed. And a slim percentage of those start-ups find a hidden seam of gold and grow into huge global businesses – Amazon and eBay are just two examples of businesses that hit the growth jackpot.
But not everyone wants to start the next Amazon. Many lone business owners want to go the ‘solopreneur’ route and build a brand and business model around their own personal unique skills.
The availability of remote working has made this solopreneur business model even easier to create. With cloud technology on the rise, laptops growing ever cheaper and our smartphones and mobile devices becoming ever more powerful, in 2017 your office can be literally anywhere that has a Wi-Fi signal.
The rise in the number of ‘coffee shop workers’ continues to grow at pace. Walk into any coffee shop in a major city or town, and you’re likely to see a small number of people sat working from their laptop. A few are attempting to become the next J K Rowling, but most are a mix of businesspeople, freelancers, corporate remote workers or solopreneurs who are just starting out on their own business journey.
So, without doubt, it’s become easier than ever to set up a business and work on your own. But is working wholly alone the best thing for you, your fledgling business or the long-term satisfaction of bringing your idea/service to market?
Why not hook up with other equally skilled people and see what you can achieve together?
Combining ideas and skills
Going it alone as a solopreneur might sound attractive for some, but the reality is that none of us is good at everything – everyone has their our own highly specific and individual skills and capabilities.
For ambitious start-up owners or solopreneurs, the key is to know your key skills (and your key limitations). As a content writer, for example, I know my key ability is the written word. I have expanded on that skillset over the years, to include creating basic web pages in WordPress, managing social channels and designing wireframes etc. – but I know that if I wanted to create a truly brilliant website that there are many professional web designers who will achieve a far superior end result than me.
And the brilliant thing about having worked with so many great companies over the years is that I’ve built up a diverse network of friends, ex-colleagues and connections – all of whom are amazing at what they do.
If I want to get that top-class website made, or a quality video produced, or a truly excellent event planned then I know people who will do it 100% better than me.
Being part of that ‘hive mind’ of like-minded, but differently skilled, people has so many benefits for the startup founder or solopreneur who may be feeling a little isolated.
With those connections:
- You feel part of something bigger, overcoming some of the potential worries around going it alone and not being part of a direct team of people.
- You can reach out to ask questions, expanding your knowledge and expertise – and, on the flip side, provide answers and support to your peers too.
- You can share ideas and motivate each other, keeping some real drive and engagement in your business ideas and keeping you at the cutting edge
- You can refer your clients to other specialists, so when a client needs that top-notch designer or marketing guru, you can point them in the direction of your network.
Knowing people who are experts in their field is an amazing asset, and it’s something that many larger businesses are getting wise to as well. For many established businesses, it’s more economical, more effective and more timely to use contractors and freelancers – rather than going through the expense, stress and hard work of hiring a permanent team.
Being part of that ‘gig economy’ can pay real dividends.
With a great network of people around you, you and your peers become a far more attractive proposition to any potential clients – and you can support each other along the way.
Being part of the community
There are 1.4 million British freelancers working across all sectors, and that’s a lot of people who could benefit from linking into to a wider community of like-minded self-employed solopreneurs.
The future of small business may well be freelancers and it’s the ease with which we can connect, communicate and support each other that has, in part, enabled this transition. In 2017, it’s never been easier to reach out and connect with your peers.
To make the most of this potential community:
- Get yourself some social media accounts – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are all great places to follow your peers and start conversations with people. Share useful links, post your thoughts and (please, please!) respond to people and interact – it’s a two-way communication tool, after all.
- Replicate your real-world network online – Make sure to connect and follow the people you already know, and by doing increase the chances of virtually ‘bumping into’ more people though your overlapping professional networks.
- Go to plenty of events and conferences – Online is a great space to connect, but you can’t beat talking to real people in a real room. Attend as many events as you can and work on your ‘mingling and chatting’ game.
- Help your peers wherever you can – Remember this is not a one-way street. Offer help, advice and support to everyone in your network whenever they need it. To get the most out of any community, you need to put a whole lot of yourself into it first!
Living the solopreneur life
Working for yourself requires a great deal of organisation, determination and hard work. But there’s no need to feel like it’s just you against the rest of the world.
In fact, with the ubiquitous nature of online communication and networking in the digital age, there’s absolutely no excuse for failing to be an asset to the freelance community. Connect with people, support each other and face the new solopreneur challenges together.
To paraphrase a certain election strapline ‘We’re stronger together…’.