Keith Ferrazzi wrote a book, “Never Eat Alone,” that has become a standard on how to network and market yourself or your business. His premise is there are many opportunities to make connections. Networking isn’t just for job seekers or business people trying to make a sale. He suggests it’s more a way of life, a natural habit that keeps you connected with others.
Entrepreneurs, freelancers and solo practitioners can spend a lot of time alone. The lifestyle gives us what we want the most—freedom to work our own schedule, pursue our dreams and not have to punch a clock or be at the beck and call of someone else. Starting a business can be a lonely task. Finding clients, setting up a website. Long days and nights pounding away at a keyboard, posting blogs, sending emails, dreaming up marketing campaigns, and then checking social media and our email to see if anyone is out there listening. Days can turn into weeks, weeks into months. While the lifestyle is what you want, it can get lonely.
1. There are a lot of freelancers, solo practitioners, sole proprietors and one-man (woman) bands out there facing the same struggles and loneliness. Make plans to meet someone for coffee or lunch at least once a week. Keep it simple (not a lot of money for splurging) and short (a coffee at 8 a.m. can easily turn into a lost morning). Getting out of the house around people, stimulating conversation, and even the music at Starbucks can get my creative juices flowing.
2. Reconnect with past co-workers. It’s fun to keep up with the old crowd and hear the horror stories of your wicked boss or crazy policies when you’re not saddled with them anymore. People’s lives and situations change quickly. They may be moving on and want your advice. It’s nice to have some expertise to share and help out an old friend. They may also have some leads for you that can lead to your next big assignment.
3. Join the ranks of business owners. It’s sometimes difficult to see yourself as a real business owner when you never get dressed in street clothes until about 2 p.m. But, you are a business owner, not JUST an entrepreneur. Join the Chamber of Commerce and attend their events. Check out resources for small businesses in your area. Participate in a 5k run or be a sponsor for an event. It’s amazing how having your name in print as a sponsor for a charitable event elevates your standing in the business world.
4. Start a Mastermind group and schedule some meetings. It can be as easy as calling a few independent business owners like yourself for lunch at Panera. Everyone starts somewhere. It's a great way to share ideas, leads and solutions to common challenges in running a business.
Besides a good business strategy, never eating alone is good for your mental health. Too much isolation makes small problems seem bigger and you lose touch with what’s happening out there in the business world. But don’t go overboard. Filling your days with meetings and lunches can take a lot of time away from the business. Unless you have a staff working away while you’re socializing, you’re not going to reap the benefits.
What kind of things help keep you fresh while working solo? Share your tips in the Comments section below.