As a solopreneur working from home you no doubt enjoy your independence. One of the main reasons you decided to start your own business was so you could choose when you work, how you work and where you work. You make the rules, you are the boss.
Business is going really well. You have clients, work to do and feel that you have made the right decision by starting up your own enterprise. The future is bright. You find yourself waking up excited, checking emails, working on your computer all day for weeks and weeks, charging towards your goal of self-governed financial freedom and independence.
Then one day your energy dissipates and you feel as if you are missing something. You can’t quite put your finger on it so you knuckle down and get some more work done knowing that the satisfaction of completing a task usually makes you feel better.
Then one day it all falls apart. You wake up and nothing feels right. You can’t work properly. You dread turning on your computer to Ã¢â‚¬Å“dealÃ¢â‚¬Â with all the annoying emails. Making a sale doesn’t give you a buzz like it used to. Your work ethic drops and you know your baby — your business — will suffer if you stay solemn and unmotivated, but you just don’t care anymore. Nothing matters because you are not the happy home based business entrepreneur you once were.
So what happened?
I have experienced this de-motivated state before and I can tell you why it happens – the computer can’t hold a conversation with you. There is only so much solo-enterprising you can handle before you require contact with other people. Humans, by nature, need contact with other humans. That goes for entrepreneurs too.
How to Beat the Home Business Blues
The solution to this problem is simple Ã¢â‚¬â€œ get some friends, communicate with humans and make plans to get away from your business on a regular basis. The real key however is to be proactive and seek out socialization otherwise it is all too easy to spend a night at home alone with your email, web statistics and/or content writing.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But I just have this bunch of email to respond toÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“there is this new software tool I’d like to testÃ¢â‚¬Â are two examples of excuses you might use on yourself to Ã¢â‚¬Å“get outÃ¢â‚¬Â of socializing. Believe me when I say this Ã¢â‚¬â€œ you have to make the effort, even break your comfort zone, to keep things in balance Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and your business will thank you for it when you wake up super-motivated because you are back to being a happy human.
Some people are extroverts, requiring a lot of stimulation from other people and often bursting with energy. Others are introverted and time spent with people burns energy that must be recouped with some time alone. It doesn’t matter what you are (incidentally I’m more introverted so going out takes more energy but I love my time with friends), you still need some time with people and that means more than just the occasional phone call to suppliers or the bank.
I’ll leave the decision on how much people time you require based on your own needs and personality and offer you some examples of what I have done to help alleviate home business loneliness.
Socialising, making friends, especially the right kind of friends, is a process. The first step I have already mentioned Ã¢â‚¬â€œ choosing to be a proactive socializer. The remaining tips I offer below should be used as an ongoing process to slowly meet the right kind of people that you enjoy being with and will even be prepared to leave your business to meet once and a while. Remember this is a slow process, friendship in general takes time and you should never feel rushed or obligated to do anything.
Generally I find there are two types of people I enjoy socializing with; those in a similar situation or with similar ideas and goals as me — in other words entrepreneurs and business types — and just generally good people I click with (this of course is harder to predict but you know when it happens). It’s important to have friends that do not trigger a business conversation all the time because leaving your business to talk about business isn’t a break. Hopefully you can find people that bring a nice mix of business similarities, outlook on life and interests, so that you will be happy to hang out with them.
You probably already make use of online communication, at the least through email and maybe an instant messaging program like MSN or Yahoo! Messenger. With the proliferation of broadband and advances in technology voice and video chat are real options too. If you have read some of my articles or listened to my audio podcasts you will know I’m a big fan of Skype (free voice over Internet software) and I certainly recommend you try it if you haven’t already.
I used IM and voice chat initially to chat to friends I already knew in real life and until I started my blog, Entrepreneurs-Journey.com, I didn’t really leverage this technology to meet new people. When my blog started to get well known people started to contact me, either by leaving comments on the blog or through email and Skype because I made my contact details publicly available (if you want to meet people you have to be Ã¢â‚¬Å“out thereÃ¢â‚¬Â).
Generally my blog readers are people that have very similar interests to my own and I have made a good handful of new contacts thanks to blogging, and I hope to make many more. Most of them are people I have never met in real life because they are located all over the world (future travels may change this Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it’s good to have people to look up when you go travelling) but a couple are located in my hometown and have become people I regularly catch up with.
Web communication isn’t enough on its own and in some ways it’s also cheating because you don’t actually leave the computer, but it’s still a good start and will often lead you to make new friends in person. The best part is that often if you work online you will make friends with other people that spend a lot of time online and hence you already have one very big thing in common, your love for the web.
Leverage Your Friendship Network
Using the words Ã¢â‚¬Å“leverageÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“networkÃ¢â‚¬Â when talking about friends just seems too business-like, nevertheless, your existing friends should be the first point of contact you use to get socializing, because you already know you enjoy spending time with them. If you are the kind of person that waits for others to notify you of a social outing you might need to change things and become the organizer. It does take some effort but if you are always relying on others to get you out and about you might be waiting a while.
Take some initiative and organize a dinner, or drinks, or lawn bowls, or a picnic in the park, or a visit to the zoo, or a festival or a night out at the theatre. The options are endless and chances are your friends will thank you for it. Better still as the organizer you are more likely to be invited to future events and encourage others to organize more events so you won’t always have to be the guy or girl making the plans.
Meeting New People
The trick to meeting new people is to A) take steps to find strangers and B) make sure these strangers are likely to have similar interests to you. There is no better way to go about meeting these two criteria then to attend conventions or events focused on your hobbies, business or interests. Again it does take effort to leave your computer, have a shower, make yourself presentable and worse still, to be proactive by initiating conversation with strangers and Ã¢â‚¬Å“minglingÃ¢â‚¬Â. It will all be over quickly enough and you may even leave with a business card of a new potential friend or two. The key here is to get out there Ã¢â‚¬â€œ remember you can claim some events as a tax deduction and you might even get some new ideas for your business. No excuses!
Business and Pleasure
Just recently I enjoyed a spur of meeting other business owners. Some of it was random, some of it was via the blog but I had managed to collect enough people that were all managing their own businesses and seemed to talk and walk a similar path to me (this is no mean feat, Brisbane is a small city!). I enjoyed my time with them all individually and decided to bring them together for a casual gathering over drinks. It turned out to a great night both for general socializing and also for talking shop. Business cards were swapped and already some of my friends have started to make use of mutual contacts and network amongst each other. I continue to arrange these events every month or two.
Not Working Helps Your Business
Perhaps the most important aspect of socializing and leaving your work behind is how much it can help your business. The ideas generated by outside stimulation are often some of the best you will ever have. Helping others with their business helps you to realise things you could do to improve your own business. Time spent chatting about non-business topics makes you eager to get back to work and indulge in your business (absence makes the heart grow fonder…). I can honestly say that without my friends my business life would not be nearly as much fun as it is. If you can’t say the same, take some initiative, book your mates for some coffee and chess and get out there!