I work from home and I love it. I never feel lonely and am rarely 'alone' in this virtual world. - but I didn't always feel like this.
In a previous incarnation of my freelance career, I used to work from home a lot. Generally I enjoyed it. But now and again I'd find myself in the supermarket queue striking up desperate conversations with my fellow shoppers. It was always at that point I realized I'd gone past my alone time tipping point.
At the time I was a single mum, working as a freelance learning designer. I'd recently moved to a new city so didn't know many people.
I was lonely. And I worked alone. No wonder I had inappropriate supermarket conversations!
It was my memories of that time that put me off starting my own business as a coach for the longest time. Why would I want to go back to that level of loneliness? I'm an introvert so I love alone time - but ALL the time? No thank you.
And then I learned one of the most powerful truths about being a solopreneur - it doesn't have to be that way.
Seriously, you don't have to go it alone.
And I say this as a confirmed introvert:
Stop Trying To Do It All Alone - I Swear It will kill your creativity, joy, passion, fun and income.
We are hardwired to be tribal creatures. For most of our evolution as human beings we've been hunter gathers, living out on the land. We needed our tribe for our very survival.
Now we have buildings and Starbucks, mac books and Skype - we can be lulled into thinking we can do it alone. And maybe we CAN.
But I'm telling you, it's a helluva lot easier, fun and lucrative to do it together.
The biggest jumps I made in my business - both in confidence AND bottom line terms were when I got support or worked in collaboration with others.
This doesn't have to mean compromising your vision or values.
It means leveraging the power of a group and knowing you're part of something bigger than yourself.
Learning from The Wizard Of Oz
Imagine you're a Little Person growing up in a rural community in 30's America. You (or your community) don't know about achondroplasia or any of the other genetic conditions that result in disproportionate shortness of height - all you know is that you're much smaller than everyone else. You've never seen or heard of anyone who looks like you. As far as you know, you're the only one of your kind in existence. You're considered at best an oddity and at worst a freak by the people around you. Imagine how alone you feel. You wonder what's wrong with you. Perhaps you believe the nasty things said about you. There's no getting away from it, in your community you are abnormal.
But someone you know visits the nearest town and sees a new movie called The Wizard Of Oz. Not only is it one of the first pictures they've ever seen in color (can you imagine what that must have been like!?), the really exciting thing they want to tell you is that the picture is full of other people just like you! Well you can't quite believe this to be the case so you make the trip to the movie theater to see for yourself. As you sit there, mesmerized, you realize something fundamental:
You are not alone.
There are other people in the world who look just like you.
And they're Hollywood movie stars no less!
This is a lovely true story about one of the unexpected effects of the release of the movie. Little People across the USA (and probably the world) realized that they were not alone and that there were people who shared a similar experience to them. Can you imagine what that must have felt like that?
We all need that validation - that there is a tribe of fellow travelers out there walking the same path as us.
One of the wonderful things about technology is that your tribe of quirky, unique, gets you in a way that barely anyone else does types, can be all over the world. Literally.
When I first started out I worked with people in my local area - but to be honest the number of coaches in my city is relatively small. Plus there would be the variations in need, personalities, styles and values. So the portion of those who might need or want my help was significantly smaller. And while I was certainly been able to help many coaches who are local to me, the vast majority of the people who really 'get' what I do, love my style, my approach and are in sync with my values are from places much further away from me geographically.
Most of my friends and family are employed or have 'traditional' businesses. The whole idea of having a business based online, working with people all over the place, via the voodoo of Skype no less (C'mon - sometimes Skype does feel like there's some weird magic going on! I can talk to someone in Australia FFS! Lit-er-ally the other side of the world.) is pretty far fetched to most of them.
Most people don't get it. Most people in my 'real' life wonder why I spend so much time online. Wonder how on earth this could be a viable business, wonder if it's healthy to spend so much time interacting 'virtually' and fairly regularly look skeptical when I talk about my business (it's on a par with unicorns for some people I swear.)
And lets face it, most people don't actually 'get' what a coach does.
But my tribe get it. They get why I'm so passionate and committed to it.
Your tribe will get you and your passions too.
My support network, cheering circle, 'accountability partners in crime' get it and what I'm trying to do. They champion me on, call me out and gently hold me accountable to the goals and dreams I've set for myself. they encourage, co-create and occasionally talk me down off the ledge. And they let me do the same for them right back.
They suggest solutions I'd never have thought of myself and ideas for boosting everything that would never have come to light had it not been for the alchemy created within our conversations.
As Danielle Laporte says:
"When you hang with your tribe, you feel invigorated, recognized, and understood - you can't underestimate the powerful effects of being fortified in that way. When you have your tribe on speed dial, you've got all the resources you need to fuel up, fly straight and head back out to face the world at large."
Where To Find Your Tribe
It's honestly not as difficult as you may think - look around!
Join Facebook groups of like minded souls - like my own group The Coaches Collective
Some online programs offer in build mastermind groups (B-School, Leonie Dawson,s biz academy to name but two.) In fact, all of the group programs I run come with a Facebook Mastermind group.
After a while of being in a group setting, you'll want to deepen those relationships on a one on one level. Think about who resonates with you then email them - ask to virtually 'meet' via Skype, explain why and take it from there.
Check out meetup.com for groups in your local area that may include people with similar interests, values, passions and businesses/professions as you.
Scour notice boards and community centers, cafe walls and newsagent windows.
Post your own notice up and ask for a gathering of like minded peeps. Get out there. Connect. Share your passion and your ideas and your desires.
A tribe only works if everyone is on board and willing to participate. It's a two way street. I've seen too many people who only participate in discussions and forums when they've got an issue they want support with themselves, but are no where to be found when it comes to supporting others. Relationships are built on reciprocity - and you will gain far more connection, support and esteem by helping others than you would if you only ask for help yourself.