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When you’re starting your business online, there is a lot to do and a lot to learn. Regardless of the type of business you’re operating chances are you’ll need a tribe to keep you strong. I know, I know, you have a fantastic partner, a beautiful and supportive best friend and a puppy that licks your face when you cry but hard truth, it probably isn’t enough. I have a wonderful circle of family and friends in my life, but the truth is they don’t totally understand what I do.
That is why it is wonderful when you find a group of like-minded business owners to build a support community with.
If you’re ready to create a community that lets your connection with other entrepreneurs then here are are some tips to help you in the process.
Don’t Be a Creeper
No one likes a creeper. Not at a bar and not online. I know firsthand how easy it can be to fan girl out or over gush about someone you admire. Let’s be honest, trying to make new friends as an adult is a lot like dating. You don’t want to come on too strong and you don’t want to end up with just anyone.
I’m not a shy person at all but I am a private person. If you want to build a real community and make a real connection you have to be willing to let people in. Don’t worry I’m not telling you that you need to write a deeply personal essay talking about how you cried for 3 hours over a client who asked for a refund. But you need to be able to be open and honest with your community.
What does that look like?
- Share that less than perfect Instagram photo where you’re makeup-less on your 4th cup of coffee.
- Do a live stream about how you send 20 pitches to HelloGiggles before you ever got a response and then sent them 10 more before they finally accepted one.
- Reach out to another business owner you follow who is going through something you’ve dealt with. A year ago I wrote a very open article about a rough time I was dealing with, this involved ugly crying in a parking lot and resting my head on a stranger’s shoulder. I got a number of emails that led to true friendships I otherwise wouldn’t have made. Friendships I value and benefit from still.
Look at All Different Levels
We are all at different levels in our businesses, and while a lot of people will tell you to aspire for relationships with people who are where you want to be in the future, I believe a balance is important. You need that more experienced person to bounce ideas off of and be encouraged and inspired by. You need that person who is at the same stage and really understands what you’re dealing with in the moment because they are too. It’s important to have friends who are working their way up because not only can you give back to them by teaching what you’ve learned. They can make you see things through beginners eyes when your more experienced eyes keep you limited and stuck using old methods.
Create Your Own Opportunities
The best example of this is what my mentor did. She couldn’t find a like-minded in-person community and felt lonely running her one-woman shop, so she started going to a group an hour away. After a few trips, she got together with two other women and created a local chapter of the organization. In fact, that is where I met her. You don’t have to take on the full responsibility of creating an organization but you can create opportunities to connect.
A few ideas:
- Do an open invitation in your newsletter to schedule coffee chats. Just put a casual note in your newsletter saying you’re looking to connect with other entrepreneurs and reserve a few spots on your calendar each month to chat.
- Post in Facebook groups that you are looking for a mastermind group and BE SPECIFIC. Talk about your business. What you’re looking for in a group? What qualifications do you want them to have? How often do you want to meet?
Here is an example: Hi, I’m Dia and I’m a project manager. My business is called Project Managers Corp. I’m looking for mastermind buddies. If you’re a business owner who has been in business for at least two years, I’d love to talk. Ideally, I’d like to have bi-weekly meetings via zoom to talk about business strategy and hold each other accountable. I’m in the Central time zone and am looking for 2-3 other people. If you’re interested, respond with your email and time zone. Don’t over think the first call; things will happen naturally as you get to know each other but there are tons of resources for making the most out of your accountability relationship.
- Do a slow build. When that business owner you follow writes at the end of their “hit reply and let me know what you think.” hit reply and let them know. Start randomly building conversation and after a few of those emails, you may feel comfortable enough to ask to chat one on one.
Disclaimer: This is not a way to get free coaching from someone you admire. When people are successful online, they tend to come across a lot of people who want free access to their brain. Ask for the call from a place of wanting to build genuine connections and you can even say that you are looking to build real connections and would love to take the conversation to a face to face chat.
Remember business owners are busy and if they say, “no,” it’s okay. Don’t make it awkward and don’t take it personally. Keep responding and being supportive and eventually, they may ask you to chat. The first time I emailed Rachel about meeting for coffee, it took her over a week to respond to my email. During which time I freaked out like three times that I came on too strong, though maybe I spelled her name wrong and also convinced myself she’d looked at my website and thought I was weird. When she responded she apologized for the delay and a week later we were talking business at coffee, now it’s become a regular thing and she is one of my biggest motivators.
Get Off the Computer
I know, we are so safe and happy behind our computers but one of the biggest things that moved my business forward was getting out and meeting people in person. Go out and meet people. I’m not suggesting you go to stuffy networking events where you come home drained and with 50 business cards you’ll never use. I mean events with like-minded business owners, search Meetup and Facebook for such events, pay close attention to the descriptions.
Remember Your Value
When you meet someone you think might be a good mastermind buddy or just a biz bestie come from a place of giving. You’re a rockstar and a go-getter, people want to work with you. Now get out there and make connections.
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Now tell me:
- How did you meet your biz friends?
- What do you do when you feel lonely in your business?
- Do you ever take things offline?
- Do you have a regular mastermind group?