As a solopreneur, you'll wear many hats. From marketing and sales to customer service and admin tasks. It's easy to lose your focus or motivation.. and don't get me started on the household distractions: chores or family that seem to want your attention - or even the latest streaming series (Ted Lasso, anyone?).
I've talked to a LOT of solopreneurs in my time who felt "stuck in a rut", isolated, or unable to take their business "to the next level".
Look, I get it. More often than not, I too have found myself caught up in the day-to-day tasks of running the business. Then, you look up and recognize how far you've come on your own.
On one hand, props! It's not easy to build a business. And it's especially challenging doing it by yourself. We Fusion Creatives manage to do a LOT on our own. But that loneliness and sense of disconnection isn't the only problem that comes from trying to do it all on your own.
Take it from someone who knows: it may feel like you're going faster, but at some point, you hit a wall where you're carrying all the things, wearing all the hats, and you just can't add another thing to your plate. What's worse, because you've been trying to manage it all yourself, you may not have built the network and business relationships that could help you take the load off.
Which puts you in a place where it feels like you can't step away from the business - everything is riding on YOU.
Why is community important for creative entrepreneurs?
Finding a supportive community can be vital to your growth and success. Notice the key word here: supportive. I've been part of too many groups that pretended to be communities. Some were little more than places for people to pitch their shizz and try to turn members into their own customers. Either that or propaganda machines where the host didn't allow ANY promotion except for their own stuff.
Some were just not a good fit for who I am and how I show up. One community that provides a TON of value to their clients does almost everything in real time (synchronous connection) in order to get support. They have a "group" forum where you can post questions, but the answer is always "show up live in the chat room and we'll help you!"
I have a full calendar most of the time and I wouldn't have joined if I'd known the only way to really get help was to be on in real time. Why have a forum if you never use it?
Other groups just didn't match the level of growth I was at. I've been online for 30-ish years and an online coach for about 20 of them. When I have a complicated question that needs support, I get a lot of crickets in those groups. But I get to GIVE a lot of help, which also has its place. I've learned to balance that desire to give generously with the genuine need for help that I often come to community for.
I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer here. The right community makes a BIG difference. Running a business can be lonely, and having a supportive community can provide much-needed encouragement and motivation. There's nothing like being in a room with people who understand the challenges you face as a solopreneur. Sharing experiences, offering support and advice, and providing a safe space where you can come out of hiding and be witnessed by others on a similar journey is GOLD!
That kind of recognition, safety, and belonging can help you push through tough times (or just witness the "hard" you're going through for moral support). Celebrating your wins builds your confidence, helps you feel more capable and can be just what you need to re-commit to your Great Work when things have been hard for too long. Not that I speak from experience or anything!
When I'm in the right community for me, I discover new tools and strategies that help me streamline my workflow and save time. I get to learn by watching others: the words to use when I ask for help or hold healthy boundaries, contract examples, lessons learned. That shortens my learning curve and saves me a crap ton of resources I don't have to waste! I've also learned best practices for systems and processes that allowed me to better focus on what I do best.
In short, I become a better business owner and a better human when I'm in the right communities for me.
Being a part of the right community can also help keep you accountable for your goals and progress. Sharing your goals with others and receiving feedback and support can keep you on track and motivated. Cheering others on can inspire you to set and achieve your own goals, too!
And yes, a supportive community can also provide valuable networking opportunities, which can lead to collaborations, referrals, and even new clients. Meeting other entrepreneurs in your industry or related industries can open up new doors for your business.
Some communities can be a great place to learn new skills and gain or deepen your knowledge. Whether it's through workshops, webinars, or simply sharing information and resources, being a part of a community can help you grow and develop as an entrepreneur.
How to find community when you're busy
I get it. Being a business owner demands a lot of your time and energy already. So how do we find or create community when we're already strapped for time?
While I've attended a few in-person events and networking-type meetings, I do most of my connecting online. I was on Zoom before Zoom was cool! Before that, it was Skype. Before that, it was teleclasses! I've been around for a WHILE!
Online communities can be a great option for busy entrepreneurs who don't have a lot of time to attend networking events or meetups in person. My preference is hybrid communities. Where there's a face-to-face, "synchronous" connection opportunity in addition to a group, social media page, or app. I've been able to connect with people all over the world through communities like Polka Dot Powerhouse, LunchClub, and others. Some are more familial or social in nature, while others are great places to connect with other entrepreneurs in your industry or niche. In fact, the lessons I've learned from being in those communities have helped inform how we're building our own Rising Tide community!
Another place to look: join a mastermind. A mastermind is a hand-picked small group of folks with common interests or goals. Often, you'll hear this term used to describe entrepreneurial groups, but it can also be for other goals and pursuits as well (a book club or DND group can also function similar to a mastermind). In the business world, you'll meet regularly to support and hold each other accountable to goals or actions you've committed to achieving before the next meeting. Masterminds often provide a deeper level of connection and support than larger communities. You get to know your fellow masterminders more intimately, learn more about their backstory and context, and develop stronger "know like and trust" when you're interacting more regularly.
Attending industry conferences is another way to meet other entrepreneurs while you learn new skills and/or knowledge. Conferences that are relevant to your industry or niche can connect you within your industry, while conferences that are outside your industry can connect you to collaborative partners, potential affiliates, and even new friends or colleagues. Yes, celebrity conventions (ComicCon, D23 Expo, etc) also count. The point is to go places where there are people you'd like to connect with and learn more about. Community doesn't always have to be about business!
Paid or free? While there are plenty of free communities out there, consider investing in a paid community that provides more value and support. Paid groups often have facilitators that can monitor and moderate conversations, answer questions and provide technical support that's hard to come by in a free community. Paid communities are also incentivized to keep engagement cooking. New content, valuable resources, and meeting new connections make paid communities sometimes more valuable than what you can find for free.
Our Rising Tide community is one example that provides resources, training, coaching and other support for creative entrepreneurs. We just migrated off Facebook (for lots of reasons), and our Open House is on now! The Rising Tide is the best of both worlds: a free level that includes a growing learning library for early stage entrepreneurs, and a paid level that gives more advanced entrepreneurs support for issues that might be more complex. We're an inclusive community - meaning all our members at both levels can interact with each other to develop new connections, make new friendships, and learn from one another.
Regardless of how you choose to build your community, do your due diligence. Not every paid (or free) group is worth your investment of time, energy, or money. Ask for a trial period, whenever possible. Then talk to people who've been there a while and get their take on why they stick around. Take note of their answers and see how it jibes with what you're looking for in a community. If it's not a good fit, don't feel obligated to stick around. Thank you for taking care of yourself!
Ultimately, it's easier when you've got a crew to help row the boat. It may be a little slower going at first, but the rewards are much sweeter when it's a team effort.