While some entrepreneurs may love total isolation and the hermit life, many more prefer a mix of time alone and time around others.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to connect and I reckon that a regular reminder that we're part of a bigger universe really keeps isolation and loneliness in check. Some nice solid chunks of connection offer a top-up of warmth and comfort, which we can bring back to our own space.
You can’t beat networking in real life to help build real relationships, although certainly those who identify as introverts may prefer to connect with others online. In that case, you may consider starting an online chat group, this only need comprise three, four or five people to start being effective.
You can do this as an invite-only Facebook Group or make use of any of the team chat and meeting software that’s around. There are lots of free options, with or without video interaction. For the past few years in my business, I found Slack to be a terrific means of staying in touch with those working on the same projects.
Ideally an online group will sit in the background, under your control so you can get the benefit of connection, but avoid being interrupted and distracted when you need to keep your head down.
Checking in a couple of times during the day can be quite enough to give you a sense of connection – working for yourself, but not totally by yourself. And it sure beats talking to the cat.
Cafés, libraries, coworking spaces
Getting out and about is another way to remind yourself that you’re part of a larger community. Drop into your local café, library, neighbourhood community space or co-working space.
You could try camping out at a friend’s office for a day or two and take turns to swap it around. You might start these co-working days with a mini-meeting - five minutes stating what you intend to achieve and check in again at the end of the day to report how you went. Accountability like this works wonders for your productivity.
Online communities like forums and social networking groups are another effective way to connect.
You don’t even have to do this under your real name (just in case you’d like to speak openly and avoid your thoughts being seen by your clients!). Informal discussions can be an enjoyable way to get things off your chest regarding any aspect of your life or work.
If you’ve come to your own business after a corporate career, it’s common to spend a few months relishing the silence. But if and when the need to connect makes itself known, be sure to reach out.
The power of small groups
A small group meetup is a great way to connect with others who share your passion for running your own show and who will openly share the joys and hardships.
Your group might meet in your front room, in a café, library or any other public spaces. It works best when you all commit to a regular set time: the first Tuesday of each month, for instance.
You can brainstorm a series of themes to explore at each meeting or allow the conversation to evolve organically. My observation is those with some structure that leaves room for spontaneous conversation are by far the most fruitful.
If you can’t find one in your area, why not start one up? Look online by all means, but this is one example of how a sign in a coffee shop, an ad in the local paper or asking around among friends could be an effective way to find members.
These meetup groups make most sense when members are from the same area. Keeping it local means you can share experiences and tips in an environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable. Also on a practical note, it is easier to organise when no-one has to travel too far.
Creating a space where you can explore individual challenges, maintain a strong sense of group and individual accountability and contribute ideas to a greater knowledge pool can really give your business a boost.
Robert Gerrish is the founder of Flying Solo, author of The 1 - Minute Commute and host of the Rekindle podcast. Read more of his work at www.robertgerrish.com