When you work for yourself it can be hugely rewarding. But it can also be incredibly isolating and it’s not something we often talk about.
Isolation – You don’t generally rock up to networking events and admit you’re feeling a bit lonely. More likely you lie and tell anyone who’ll listen how great it’s all going and how fabulous being self-employed really is.
As solopreneurs or owners of small businesses, isolation is part of the package whether you like it or not. It’s how you deal with it that matters.
Even if you employ staff it’s not the same as having a partner or peers to talk to. There is always that distance between you. I remember years ago in my previous career as a journalist when I went from being a reporter to a news editor and effectively the boss of people who were my friends. We were still friends, but I would be lying if I said they didn’t treat me differently.
If you work on our own, you just don’t have the same opportunity to socialise as you would if you were in an office. And if you’re not careful, isolation can wear you down, chip away at your confidence, make you doubt yourself and even lead to depression and anxiety.
Networking is one way to alleviate isolation because you get to meet all sorts of people in different businesses but who are all likely to be facing similar issues to you. It may feel nerve-wracking walking into a room full of strangers but they’re probably all feeling the same thing. It’s also worth mixing up the groups so you meet a wide range of entrepreneurs – if you stick to the same group all the time, you’ll often see the same faces. This isn’t a bad thing because you can make some brilliant connections. However, by trying different groups you’ll meet a more diverse range of people and discover what really works for you. (If all else fails grab a croissant whilst networking and open the conversation with food.)
There are also more specific groups like the Directors’ Hub, where you meet regularly with the same small group of people and is, in essence, a little like having your own management team. Yes, you discuss business issues with each other. But it’s also a chance to let off a little steam and sometimes just have a good old bitch, which let’s face it, we all need in business sometimes!
Networking is by no means the only way to alleviate isolation. Joining a club or finding a course outside of your business can also help you meet different people. They may not be an entrepreneur like you, but they can offer you a welcome break from the daily grind and give you something to look forward to.
If you don’t have time to step away from work, there are plenty of online or Facebook groups where you can get support. There’s many a time I’ve turned to various cake groups for a bit of advice or just a good old chat.
The main thing to remember is whatever you choose to do is not to do it alone. Don’t let isolation get the better of you. They say it takes a village to raise a child, a business isn’t all that different so don’t go it alone.
Written by Fay Millar – Gingerbread World