You’ve seen those glossy, perfected photos of entrepreneurs smiling, working blissfully on their laptops in their sunny homes, right? They adorn blog posts and magazine articles almost everywhere you turn, and they paint an idealistic image of entrepreneurship and work-from-home small business owners. But, just between us entrepreneurs, that’s not often the reality (as I’m sure you know).
Don’t get me wrong – starting and growing a business is an exciting, rewarding, and dreamy opportunity. But sometimes we work an entire day without showering or getting dressed. Sometimes we eat cold cereal at our desk while trying to meet an impending deadline. Sometimes we look around and desperately wish there was someone to talk to. But there’s no boss, no co-worker, and no water cooler chats to speak of. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely and isolating. And it’s a problem that most of us deal with, whether we like to admit it or not. But is doesn’t have to be that way. With the right strategy, you can tap into an engaging network, build relationships, and feel supported and encouraged through your entrepreneurial journey.
Here are 3 ways to help you build a support network and stay engaged while working solo.
FIND A MENTOR
No matter what stage of the entrepreneurial game you’re at, there is always something to learn from others who have accomplished what you’re still working towards. Mentors can have a hugely positive impact on your success as an entrepreneur, and they help ward off isolation by giving you access to someone who is interested in your success. To find a mentor, start close and then expand. Is there someone in your family or friends circle that would fit the bill? How about someone in your personal or professional network? If no one in your current network is mentor-material, reach out to them anyway and see if they might be able to offer an introduction to someone who is.
Talking with people in person (no, Skype doesn’t count) is super important. We have so many opportunities on the web, but staying planted behind your computer all the time is a sure path to loneliness. Commit to attending a local networking event at least a few times a year. If “networking” events just aren’t your thing, seek out business related community events like classes and seminars where you can mingle with like-minded people.
JOIN SUPPORTIVE ONLINE GROUPS
In addition to staying connected in-person by networking locally, I absolutely believe that online networking and relationship-building can be a rewarding and positive experience for you and your business. Networking online means your limits are erased: you can meet people from anywhere in the world and build a massive network that would otherwise be impossible. Online groups for business owners and entrepreneurs are a great place to find support, get advice, ask questions, and stay accountable. You can choose from paid membership sites or free communities – or a mix of both. Whichever groups you decide to try, remember that jumping right into the conversation is the best way to see results.
How do you stay connected and supported as an entrepreneur? Share your tips in the comments below.
SONJA JOBSON // SonjaJobson.com
Sonja Jobson helps small business owners and entrepreneurs become incredible on the internet with smart, fun, authentic marketing. Join the free Success Lab for more business building content, live Q&A parties, and access to a supportive community of entrepreneurs.