By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
Being your own boss as a freelancer is exciting and liberating—but can also be scary. When you’re on your own, you have no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to congratulate you on your successes, or buck you up after your failures. In order to sustain the enthusiasm and energy required to succeed at self-employment, you’ll need to create your own support system. Here are six ways to do so.
1. Join industry groups and associations, both online and offline.
No matter what your industry—whether you’re a pet sitter or an accountant—you can find an industry organization tailored for you. Membership typically gives you exclusive access to conferences, seminars and training opportunities. Just as important, however, is the opportunity to make connections with others who are in the same boat, and who can provide feedback, ideas, and encouragement.
2. Join local business organizations.
Being part of your local Chamber of Commerce or neighborhood business association enables you to make connections with other business people in your area. The face-to-face interaction is invaluable, especially if your freelance gig means you spend most of your time sitting at home in front of your computer.
3. Join groups on social media.
If you aren’t already on LinkedIn, sign up and create a profile. Then look for groups you can join. There are so many groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that you’re sure to find one for your particular niche. For example, you can find groups focusing not only on industries, but also on regions, cities, demographics such as minority or women business owners, and particular areas of interest within those subcategories. This is a great way to get input on business challenges you’re facing and new ideas when you feel stuck.
4. Create your own meet-up group with colleagues.
Once you find some other businesspeople you feel a connection with, set up regular times to meet with them for breakfast, coffee, or lunch. Look for people with noncompetitive businesses so everyone feels comfortable talking about their business concerns, problems, and challenges. You may end up finding ways to work together—but the focus should be on supporting each other emotionally and sharing solutions that have worked for you.
5. Talk to the experts.
Your local Small Business Administration (SBA) district office, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and SCORE provide support and guidance from business experts at no charge. I’ve spoken to many clients of these organizations, and while the groups focus on business advice such as marketing or accounting, clients inevitably tell me that the most valuable part of the relationship is the emotional support they get from talking to someone who knows what they’re going through. (Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my business.)
6. Don’t forget your friends.
Sure, your friends are always positive and encouraging about your business—but sometimes, that’s just what you need. As a solo entrepreneur, you can easily get so busy that friends fall off your radar. Keep track of your time so you don’t overwork yourself, and build time into your calendar to get together with friends on a regular basis. Just being around people who care about you will give you a shot of confidence.
By making an effort to create your own support system, you’ll get more from your business—and your life.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.