Being self-employed, master of your own kingdom and Chief Executive Officer of your own company holds many benefits; you set your schedule and hours; you reward yourself when you want and can and you dictate when you holidays. You are not beholden to anything or anyone other than your profit margin, continually trying to expand, improve and evolve your empire, as well as balancing those essential long days with family and social commitments. The rewards of running your own business should outweigh the negatives but, on occasions, this balance gets lost. One thing that many entrepreneurs are not prepared for is the abject loneliness that running a business can bring. The majority of huge, successful companies start with one person, sat in a shed/garage/outbuilding/kitchen table slaving away over their brilliant idea. It can take some time before the business is in a position to employ anyone, let along move away from the shed or kitchen table.
Is networking the key?
In big companies or even smaller ones who employ staff, there are water cooler friends and colleagues. Those people that we strike up working relationships with, as well as friendships can be the people who act as a sounding board. You may have an issue with a computer program or you have come across a difficult customer or client, and wonder if anyone knows the best way of ‘dealing’ with them… and all the other scenarios you can think off, water cooler friends are essential in many cases for boosting confidence and ability. They are a great way of letting off steam, and getting the run down on who is doing what and where…
You get the picture. Once you go self-employed, the fact is that for a run of a few days or more, you may not actually see or contact anyone. With many businesses carving their way on the Internet, it is no surprise that on occasion, despite all the major advantages, loneliness can impede many a dream.
Networking is the answer and although you may not ‘feel like it’, it is essential; from finding new clients to finding a friendly ear, this is a great way to alleviate boredom.
Social media networking
Social media is a many-faceted thing; hate it or loath it, all those social media apps out there are popular. People use them. They use them to promote and market their business but there is also another bow to social media fiddle that you can tap into… networking.
Using just one example of Twitter, there are many groups and ‘hours’ on Twitter than serve the purpose of networking, that maybe could alleviate some of this loneliness linked with running a business.
Firstly, the loneliness is not a physical ache as we may know it, but more a void where your boisterous office colleagues once occupied. Networking on Twitter can open up a whole new landscape of people and contacts that can make the process of running your business a little easier; think of it as a virtual water cooler.
- Hours – there are various groups in Twitter and you will need to spend some time finding them but, we find that the various groups using #hours as their call signs are all ways of finding some virtual business friends. For example, many operate in geographical locations so if you are based in the North of England, there are #hours here that will help you tap into local businesses and people.
- Business based group – there are also various groups set up by businesses just like yours that tap into a speciality. For example, if you are a web designer, then seeking out various groups that look at web design, latest innovations, software, programming etc. could be one way of making contact with other professionals.
- Specialist groups – there are also groups that are set up specifically to meet a need that people before you may have identified. One very proactive group is a networking group that specifically supports women in business. This Twitter group in the North West has such a following that they now meet on a regular basis for a breakfast and morning of networking. Although they charge a fee for this, for many entrepreneurs this has been an invaluable, yet relatively inexpensive way of finding people who acts as friends and mentors. There are examples of such groups across the UK; search Twitter to find out more!
Many of these social media groups are quick to foster a sense of community so, the next time you feel a little lonely, adrift or are wrestling with a problem, ask the online, social media community for help… you’ll be surprised who will come forward (and how many!)
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