The Power of Connection (Part 1)

If you’re a solopreneur, chances are good that you’re pretty independent. You’d have to be to leave behind the perceived stability of a traditional job and strike out on your own to make your way in the world.

But that fierce independence and self-reliance can quickly turn to isolation if you’re not careful. If you work from home, like I do, you might spend more time than you care to think about within those four walls. It can be pretty lonely.

Just Because You’re a Solopreneur Doesn’t Mean You Have to Go It Alone 

While your friends and family are an important part of your support structure, unless they are also in business for themselves, they may not be able to relate to the highs and lows of starting a business. You need to connect with other solopreneurs.

The most immediate benefit of connecting with other solopreneurs is simply knowing that you are not alone. It’s important to have others you can talk to about the fears, frustrations and joys of starting and building a business. But connecting with other solopreneurs also provides a social outlet. Many of the people I’ve connected with started as business connections who simply understood whatever I was going through at the time. But today, I consider these men and women my friends—even if I’ve never met them in person. They are both a personal and professional support network and a great source of ideas, inspiration and referrals.

In today’s day and age, it’s easy to connect with other solopreneurs. For one thing, there are just so many of us! According to the latest statistics from the National Association of the Self-Employed, there are more than 20 million solopreneurs in the United States. You’ll find us at your local coffee shop and online engaging in conversations on social media and writing blog posts. And if you reach out, we’ll welcome you into the fold and reassure you that you are not crazy. Well, not any crazier than the rest of us!

5 Places to Find Fellow Solopreneurs

But before you can connect with other solopreneurs, you have to find them. In the next articles in this series, I’ll talk about ways to really connect with other solopreneurs and build and maintain relationships. But for now, let’s start by looking at where you can find these folks and how to start building relationships.

Stop 1: Blogs and Online Magazines. If you’re reading this article, you’ve already found one great online magazine! Upmarket is written specifically for micro-businesses and solopreneurs, so a lot of the folks here are people you might want to connect with. Most of us who are self-employed read and write blogs. Find ten blogs that are written by and for solopreneurs or microbusinesses and start following them and commenting on the posts that resonate with you. Take note of the folks who seem to be aligned with your own beliefs and who you might want to get to know. Check out their websites, follow them on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at the folks who contribute to UpMarket and follow their blogs!

Stop 2: Twitter. In my experience, Twitter is the single most powerful tool for online connections. You can follow folks who interest you and search for people who work specifically with solopreneurs or who are solopreneurs themselves. You can pop into a conversation or take part in a Twitter Chat, where a group of people all talk about a specific topic. If you haven’t participated in one of these chats, give it a try. It’s a great place to really connect.

Stop 3: Facebook. Many solopreneurs have Facebook pages for their businesses. Because Facebook has a very good search function, it’s pretty easy to find businesses that intrigue you. So, like a page or two, comment and participate in the discussion and if the person’s message resonates, sign up for their email list, follow them on Twitter and, when you’re ready, send a Facebook friend request with a little note about why you hope to connect. Don’t worry if they don’t accept your request. Some folks only connect on Facebook with people they know well. Others connect more broadly.

Stop 4: Classes + Workshops. I’ve made some wonderful connections with other solopreneurs through online classes. I took my first online class a few years ago and was assigned an accountability partner. She and I still stay in touch and support each other as our businesses have grown and changed over time.

Stop 5: The Coffee Shop. If all this online networking seems a little overwhelming, you can take it offline! One of the best places to meet other solopreneurs is your local coffee shop. Of course, your community might also have a meet-up or networking event specifically for folks who are self-employed.

No matter which of these methods you choose, you’ll feel a million times better once you’ve connected with a few like-minded souls. One way to get started is to share your story about making connections in the comments. Has it been easy for you? Would you like to connect with more people? Do you have any tips to add? And be sure to let us know how we might be able to connect with you.

Photo Credit: Jevuska

About Erica Holthausen

Erica Holthausen is the Chief Instigator behind the Honest Marketing Revolution and creator of the 10 Steps to Honest Marketing. As a marketing mentor, she works with solopreneurs and microbusinesses to help them fall in love with sales and marketing so they can help more people while building thriving, life-sustaining businesses. She believes marketing is an integral part of how you serve the world. Sound good? Sign up for her email newsletter and join the revolution!

  • Judith A. Ross

    Excellent tips from someone who does all of these things on a regular basis!

    • Erica Holthausen

      Thank you, Judith! In the next installment of the series, I’ll be talking about how to take your online relationships offline.

  • Lisa Sutton

    Thanks Erica, for a great article. Connecting is the key, especially when you a solopreneur!! I look forward to the follow-ups.

    • Erica Holthausen

      Lisa, you are so welcome! And thank you for stopping by and commenting on the article. I couldn’t agree with you more. Connection is where it’s at!

  • Jamie Wallace

    Even SOLOpreneurs don’t have to go it alone. You’re so right!
    I am one of those people - sole proprietor of my own business, working from home, spending way too much time with just my MacBook and my cats (no offense to the cats). I couldn’t agree more about how critically important it is to find and nourish your personal connections with peers (who become friends who then become family).

    The thing people need to realize as they embark on this quest is that it IS work to create and maintain these relationships. Like ANY relationship, there’s time to be invested, give and take … all that stuff. I’ve seen too many people give up because they don’t consider connecting a priority.

    Dead wrong. Ask any successful entrepreneur what factors took them to the top and 90% of the time you’re going to hear an answer that includes the support, guidance, and camaraderie of a group of like-minded peers. (When you don’t hear that, the person is probably an egomaniac - steer clear.)

    Looking forward to your next installment!

    • Erica Holthausen

      Jamie, you bring up a great point. It is work to create and maintain really good, strong relationships. It takes time, energy and, to be frank, a discerning eye. In the third installment of this series, I talk about how to maintain these relationships. A part of the process is knowing which relationships to work on and which to either let go or allow to be spontaneous and casual. But that core group offering support, guidance and chocolate? Yeah. They are essential!

  • Cheryl Dolan

    Congratulations Erica! I love this topic because it’s often not even talked about until someone is feeling so isolated and lonely they can’t see a way out. Including connection (aside from marketing/customer connection) as an important ingredient of setting up a successful, satisfying and joyful business, makes it that much easier to happen right from the start. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

    • Erica Holthausen

      Cheryl, that’s so true. I remember feeling terribly lonely. I missed the water cooler conversations that I had with my colleagues when I was working for my last employer. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I could (and should) create my own community of solopreneurs. Once a friend introduced me to Twitter, light dawned on marble head and the rest is history!

  • Ari Herzog

    Introverted people tend to prefer online networking whereas extroverts tend to prefer offline networking. There are always exceptions. But whether you excel at connecting to other people on places like Twitter or in the coffee shop, bookstore, or library, the key is you’re getting out of your home (with or without an office) and socializing with other people — if only for lunch.

    I enjoy meeting up with like-minded sole proprietors over lunch or tea because everyone’s gotta eat, right?

    • Erica Holthausen

      You bring up a great point, Ari. I am an introvert. So I find it easy and fun to connect with people online. It also makes the transition to an offline relationship a lot easier. A good friend of mine finds it difficult to build online relationships but loves to connect with people at conferences and workshops. Both of us enjoy (and need) to get out of our houses and do some work where we are surrounded by other people. And getting together over lunch? Well, that always works! As you said, everyone’s gotta eat!

  • Kerri Richardson

    Really love and resonate with this piece. Thanks, Erica, for writing it. I find that my creativity and enthusiasm can get really stifled if I spend too much time in my four walls. Even going to a coffee shop along helps — being around the energy of others gets me excited again. Then, there are those days, when I can meet up with other solopreneurs and brainstorm, share, and support, or just work across from each other. I think we small business owners shortchange ourselves by still trying to fit into some traditional work mode. Mixing up the way I work (and where) helps a ton!

    Looking forward to the rest of your series!

    • Erica Holthausen

      You are so welcome, Kerri! I know that if I spend too much time in my four walls, I am no longer suitable for public consumption. I get cranky and lose my focus. Creativity goes out the window. I start to doubt myself and end up listening to my inner critic, whose voice gets louder and louder. Connecting with the outside world is critical — for both my business and my sanity!

  • Rock Langston

    As a freelance graphic designer, I know there needs to be more to my professional day than working in my pjs and talking to the dogs, so I’ve learned the value of online connections. My list would be reordered, as I find Twitter to be the motherlode of connecting. My tweeps provide banter, resources, referrals, and a running faucet of wisdom and humor. I also get links to blogs and online publications from Twitter. What I would add is a reminder to use the networks to get out of your comfort zone. Don’t sing to the choir! Find people whose interests and experience are tangential to yours. Doing this has put me in touch with new opportunities for work and relationships.

    The real fun begins when I step out from behind the computer and meet my imaginary friends IRL. Classes and workshops are a great place to connect, both online and in person. We have so many cool opps available. It works if I work it.

    • Erica Holthausen

      Rock, I am also a huge, huge, huge fan of Twitter. A good case could be made that I am addicted, and happily so. It’s a great place to connect with others who share your interests and offer new perspectives. I’ve always found that getting out of my comfort zone is beneficial. New opportunities, new ideas, new perspectives and new people. It’s a beautiful thing. And, my friend, you hit the nail on the head: “It works if I work it.” Thank you for being a part of the conversation!

  • Janine Grillo Marra

    Erica, thanks so much for writing about this topic! It reinforces the importance of connection and community regardless of the forum. Reading this reminds me that we all have needs for connection and support despite our individual traits and tendencies.

    • Erica Holthausen

      Janine, I think the desire for connection and community is a basic human need that is hard-wired into all of us. And in this day and age, it is both easier and more difficult to connect. It takes a conscious effort to connect deeply with others, but there is also room for spontaneous and fun connections that only last a few minutes. The trick is to find what works for each of us, and to make it happen.

  • Karen Klein Brandt

    So much good info here! Connecting with others who resonate — online or offline -brings balance and perspective to our work. Looking forward to your thoughts on taking an online friendship to a personal meet and greet.

    • Erica Holthausen

      Thank you, Karen! I’m so glad this article is valuable. And yes, there is tremendous value in connecting with others whose perspective is different from our own but who nonetheless resonate with us.

  • Deborah Zawislan

    Connecting IS a critical success factor in business and in life! Thanks for the concrete suggestions. Looking forward to part 2.

    • Erica Holthausen

      It’s true. Connection makes both our businesses and our lives much richer. Thank you for being a part of the conversation, Deborah!