The life of a solopreneur can be very lonely and it gets even worse when things aren’t going to plan. You get up in the morning, dreading dealing with the day ahead, who are you going to call, where is that next lead going to come from? You look through your contacts wondering ‘who can I call again?’ Deciding there’s no one, you trawl through the internet to find some meet-ups or networking events, but then decide you can’t face talking to a room full of strangers. There’s nowhere to go, all your friends are at work and the other freelancers and business owners you know are busy doing their own work. You’re stuck, who do you turn to? Your friends and family are as supportive as they can be, but you don’t want to moan about your predicament. You were the one that went gung-ho, head-first into this venture, so you just have to carry on as best you can.
I remember feeling not too dissimilar at various points after I went solo. I just used to feel very alone and felt under huge amounts of pressure to make things happen from nothing. It was the fact that there was just me and the people who know me, know that I’m a social person; I missed the interaction with other people and staying at home was making things worse.
Fortuitously, there were two things that came into my life at about the same time earlier this year. The first was Central Bloomsbury, a co-working space just off Tottenham Court Road in Central London and the second was the Key Person of Influence Accelerator Programme, a 30-week business incubation programme. What both provided, as a by-product of their main service, was community. It’s hard to say your business isn’t going as well as you want it to without feeling like you’re undermining your credibility. However, everyone struggles and what we all need is a trusted network of people who have been through or are going through the same journey.
Central is not your average co-working space and I was immediately impressed by my first visit. The whole space is set up to allow people to collaborate both in a formal and informal way. One of their working spaces is much like a cafe where you can just strike up a conversation with another member and they also put on events to help you fill knowledge-gaps you may have, whether it is social media, marketing or getting investment. The staff is very attentive and the co-owners have an aim of supporting 1,000 grow in the next five years. Working at Central allows me to have the buzz of an office environment and in the members I have colleagues with whom I can share what is going on for me, bounce some ideas around and where in turn, I can support them if needed.
The KPI programme has also been a huge support, not just the content of the programme (which, BTW is amazing) but the generosity of the people involved. We have a Facebook group where past and current members come together. It’s a very active group and people share everything from requests for help, their successes, opportunities for other members. My programme is coming to an end but I know that I am part of this community for life. It has become a trusted network and often the first place I go to get some inspiration, offer support or get some help.
If you are on the lonely path of setting up your own business, I can’t recommend enough getting out there and joining a group of some kind- there are lots of options out there, not just the ones I have mentioned above, from Mastermind groups to online networks like Ecademy. You don’t have to go it alone and there are lots of people who want to help. Once your part of one of these groups, my top tips are to make yourself a valuable member of that community, support others and give generously- it will come back to you manifold.
It was at one of the KPI workdays that I came across the phrase ‘being alone together’. Penny Power who was running our Social Media day mentioned she had heard it somewhere (I forget where exactly) and wrote it down thinking it was a very apt description for many people I know. Certainly, it is where I am; alone but surrounded by amazing people who completely have my back.