Why every solopreneur should find their tribe
We’ve all heard of the concept of “finding your tribe”. It’s become one of these trending notions on social media alongside the ubiquitous hashtag and envious “squad goals”.
I’ve recently taken the leap into the realm of solopreneurship by starting my own business. Although this was something I did in contented isolation, I have quickly realised that I was missing a tribe of likeminded souls that can support me – and I them – on the journey.
The dream of becoming a location independent girl boss
I had a dream to work for myself and create a location independent business that could see me working from anywhere with a Wifi connection. As a seasoned backpacker with over five years of travel under my belt, I pictured myself working from cute, quirky cafes dotted around the world and exploring on my days off.
After several years on the road, working to fund my travels as I went, I returned home to the UK in April 2017 brimming with the desire to start my own business. After such a liberating period in my life, settling down in a 9 to 5 just seemed unimaginable.
The most natural thing to me was to continue to forge my own path. If I became self-employed, I figured, I could continue to blend a satisfying mix of travel and work into my future.
The reality of working from home
The summer of 2017 saw me register as self-employed, build a website and begin the daunting process of reaching out to prospective clients. Sitting at a desk, alone in my house, it wasn’t long before I craved some outside interaction. Being location independent may be one thing, but feeling isolated was something I’d never anticipated.
Sticking to a work routine was surprisingly difficult. With the whole day stretched out ahead, you can be forgiven for thinking there is time in the day to fit in your work. However, with the simple distractions around the house, I found my work time was diminished by those ‘quick’ tidy ups or an elongated lunch break.
Although perfectly comfortable in my own company, I found that having no one to share my trials and tribulations with whilst setting up my business was hard. With no bustle of a typical office around me, there was no one to act as a sounding block.
And perhaps more crucially, I began to realise I was lacking a connection with the outside world that I had established through my travels.
Having gone from the social environment of travelling and working in mainly hospitality and tourism based jobs as I went, I realised I was missing interaction with other people that boosted my spirits. I had gone from chatting daily to new people in new places to sitting in splendid isolation inside my four walls at home.
If I didn’t nip it in the bud, all this had the potential to kill my motivation, creativity and sparkle.
Why every solopreneur should find their tribe
What struck me as most poignant was that I had endeavoured to work alone yet I was craving the company of others.
A quick internet search into self employment depression would suggest that the feelings of loneliness coupled with the unpredictable nature of flying solo are commonplace amongst freelancers who work from home. An honest article in The Guardian suggests a few tips about how to overcome your worries, which include the importance of setting a morning routine to set yourself up for a successful day.
Whilst I am thankfully not feeling too stressed over my working situation, I knew that it was definitely time to tap into a support network in real life. Online communities can be very supportive and it’s definitely worth finding a few to join, but at the end of the day, nothing beats eye to eye contact, a smile and conversation over a glass of wine.
Here’s a few reasons why it’s important for small business owners to find their tribe:
A support network…
It’s incredibly inspiring to immerse yourself amongst a group of people who are all on a very similar – yet incredibly varied – path. Joining together for the common goal of lifting each other up helps to keep motivation and happiness levels high.
…of people who get you
Not only will these people offer guidance and support when you need it, their advice will be on point because they get you. They understand what it’s like to be self employed and building your own empire one brick at a time.
A small business owner has to wear many hats at once – finance, marketing, product development – and some things will come more naturally than others. Finding a tribe of people who empathise with the difficulty of having to be all things at once is invaluable. It’s a safe environment to share your struggles because it’s likely that you will be met with a dozen nodding heads.
An opportunity to make connections
Notice that I didn’t use the word network here. Networking is great for growing your business and I strongly recommend that any small business takes the time to network in person. However, finding your tribe is less about straightforward networking and more about spending time with people on a similar journey to you.
Making connections – hey, even making friends – is often a far less daunting process than the rather standoffish network procedure. Sitting down with a glass of wine in a relaxed setting with a friendly, engaged group of women can feel incredibly refreshing.
With no pressure to do the hardcore sell, make referrals or work the room, there is time to make deeper, genuine connections. From these conversations it is quite likely that collaborations will grow in a much more organic way.
Whether you’ve lived in your area for years of are the newbie in town, the benefit of tapping into other people’s local knowledge can be enormous. Looking for recommendations for something business related or the best pub to take the inlaws for Sunday lunch? Whatever you are stuck with it’s guaranteed that someone will have a suggestion for you to follow up.
A social event
It sounds simple, but writing in the date of the next time you will meet with your tribe is incredibly motivating. When that day rolls around you will relish the opportunity to down tools and head out for an enjoyable evening surrounded by likeminded people.
It will give you a sense of purpose, of belonging and pride in yourself as a business owner to go out and be the face of what you do.
Enter Girl Tribe Gang
I’ve been finding Instagram has been an incredible platform for me to network and make connections online with a variety of other businesses. More specifically, it has enabled me to identify and reach out much more easily to local business and individuals in my area in a less formal way than sending a cold email.
Instagram produced the goods once more when I noticed a post shared by Girl Tribe Gang boss, Catherine. It revealed that she was creating a female only networking evening in a city nearby. I jumped onto her profile, devoured the information on her website and realised immediately that Girl Tribe Gang was exactly the tonic I needed for my gin.
Many of us may wrinkle up our noses at the thought of a slightly regimental, uber-official networking evening, where name badges are the accessory of necessity and you have to pitch a revolving door of people.
I totally get that.
For me, finding my tribe had to give me the opportunity to build a community of likeminded business women who could relate to my experiences. The aim isn’t necessarily to refer business to each other – although that would be a perk, of course! – but more to feel genuinely supported in a relaxed, friendly environment and to counterbalance the isolation felt as a solopreneur.
Speaking with Girl Tribe Gang creator, Catherine, she explained the concept behind the meet-ups:
“Here at Girl Tribe Gang we know that being a girl boss or an aspiring girl boss can be a pretty lonely place and we thought that if we could help to reduce even a tiny bit of that isolation you’re feeling, well then that’s going to have a positive effect on your overall Girl Boss well-being and success. […]
We are all about creating a community of like-minded women, an eco-system of support, and we have a real passion for wanting to create something you can feel part of, which fits and supports what you are about.”
This was exactly what I was looking for and the inclusivity I needed as a freelancer not part of the corporate world.
And it seems like other women were looking for the same kind of social connections: although in its infancy, Girl Tribe Gang is quickly blooming.
Originating in Yorkshire, UK, the concept of GTG is incredibly simple. It’s a casual, no pressure evening in the company of female business owners, boosted by a members only Facebook community where a wealth of information on running and growing a business is shared.
Tribes are created in a number of locations and events are held monthly for members and guests to attend. There are regular Power Hours before the evening begins where a member of the tribe shares her expertise and knowledge in a specific area for the benefit of the group.
Credit thanks to @girltribegang
Tackling self-employed loneliness
The idea that I would feel lonely working for myself never crossed my mind as I established my business. It’s only after I’ve been working for a while by myself that I realise it’s more of a common issue than I thought.
Finding a tribe of local women who are all rocking their business – no matter what stage they’re at – is incredibly motivating for me and the power of that inspiration is priceless.
For now, here’s couple of tips on how you can combat the self-employment blues if you are struggling at home.
Cheer yourself on
Yes, a little naff and we can all roll our eyes at this one, but ask yourself this question: who is going to be my cheerleader if I don’t even support myself? Being your own biggest fan and believing in yourself is going to help you focus, keep motivated and power through those long afternoons where you begin to doubt yourself.
Work to background noise
There are times when I like working in silence but there are other times when it just highlights my solitude. If all I’m hearing is the ticking of the clock in the furthest room in the house, it’s the perfect nudge to turn on some background noise to emulate the hubbub of an office. Even if it’s the radio or a podcast on low, having some noise around you can help you focus and help you feel less alone.
Hold regular online meet-ups with other work from home buddies
Melissa Griffin shares her tips on how to tackle work from home loneliness by explaining she connects regularly online with several other bloggers. “These meetings keep me in check (since we often discuss what our upcoming goals are) and help me connect with people who “get it.”
A face-to-face meeting is preferable as that gets you out of the house, however, if you’re short on time or don’t know anyone nearby then a Skype chat can work to alleviate some of that isolation.
Head to a co-working space
If there’s one nearby then I would suggest working in a shared office or co-working space once a week. I used co-working spaces to get things done when I was travelling in Indonesia and they’re usually really cool and creative places to hang out. You’ll find they host regular information or networking nights themselves, which enable you to meet new people. Or you could strike up a conversation the old-fashioned way – around the water cooler.
Find your tribe
What’s stopping you from finding your tribe? How could you benefit from that group of people that are willing to have your back?
Who are your tribe? Where do you go to connect with your fellow entrepreneurs?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the benefits of meeting other business owners. Have you found this beneficial or do you view networking as a chore you’d rather avoid and work happily on your own?
Get in touch in the comments or send me an email and let’s chat!
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