Help! Where did all my friends go?
These are words I uttered frequently this January as I forged ahead with setting up my own communications business. Making the transition from years spent in corporate marketing and communications, to working on a laptop in my dining room was, to say the least, a culture shock. I was used to office banter, constantly being tapped on the shoulder and frequent trips to Starbucks. Now I only had myself for company and I had to make my own coffee - the horror!
Empathy and understanding
I know there are millions of entrepreneurs out there who can empathise with my situation. How do I know this? Well, I’ve surrounded myself with a number of them who understand exactly what I’m going through. They’ve shared their own experiences and I’ve learnt from them. I’ve learnt how to adapt to my new environment and still keep myself motivated.
I began networking in month two and didn’t stop. It wasn’t something I imagined I’d be terribly good at, but once you start you realise it’s just akin to making new friends. My strategy was to sample as many groups as I could then choose the ones which are the best fit for me and my business. Corporate friends often ask me how I find all the groups. Google is a wonderful tool!
I discovered Jelly quite early in the year but never came across a convenient local group until this summer. Now I’m hooked! Jelly is a co-working space where freelancers and entrepreneurs can take their laptop to work for the day. It’s completely free (apart from a small contribution towards hot drinks) and there are Jelly Babies on tap. Not only do you get other people’s company for the day, there’s also a chance you might make some new business contacts. What’s not to like?
Webinars and support groups
Before I entered the world of self-employment I had no idea how huge the sector actually is. There’s a raft of development groups, online chats and social hours out there providing resources and strategies to cope with the isolation of working from home.
I recently came across this great article from Intouch Accounting, 'Six ways to beat loneliness when you work alone'. One of the tips is to find your energy source. For me this comes in two forms: like-minded people and setting deadlines. There is nothing that motivates me more than a strict deadline! I’ve never been a morning person, so I try to arrange client meetings and attend networking groups early in the day. Once I’ve spent time with other people, I’m fully powered up to get on with my other projects.
Learning not to feel guilty
One of the skills I’ve had to learn (and I’ve probably still not quite got there), is that of not feeling guilty for not sitting at my desk during the hours of 9am - 5pm. Having been on the hamster wheel of corporate life for so long, I feel an instant pang of guilt if I’ve only worked for half the day, or, god forbid, if I take more than 60 minutes for lunch. I’m slowly learning that I don’t always need to work 8 hour days to achieve my goals and meet my clients' needs. If I’ve ticked everything off my list, then it’s ok to leave the house.
I’ll admit, there are still times when I have to stop myself picking up the phone to tell a friend or family member some gossip. These days, I just store it all up until the next time I see them. Then they really don’t know what’s hit them!
And don’t worry, I still have work friends, they’re just found in many different places and guises these days.