I don’t think I can overstate this enough: if you’re going to be in business for yourself, you’re going to need a support system.
Having friends and family that believe in you and support you is a fantastic start, but sometimes it’s not enough.
You need to be able to tap into a support group of people who are doing what you’re doing. It’s important to have a group of people you can turn to with questions specific to your niche or industry. You want to find people who you can bounce ideas off of without fear of being judged. This is especially important if you’re still in the beginning stages of forming your ideas about something.
It’s also important to tap into a group of people doing what you do who will help you out when/if they can. I recently had a problem where a client of mine was seeing something on her website that I couldn’t replicate on my computer. It turned out that the problem had to do with the fact that she was looking at it on a Mac with a retina display, and I don’t have a retina display. I reached out to a group that I belong to on Facebook for people who build websites using the Genesis framework, and I asked for help. Within a few minutes of posting my question, 3 or 4 people responded letting me know whether they also saw the problem and suggesting some solutions. In less than 15 minutes I had not only fixed the problem, but I also knew of a new tool that would help me if I ever ran into this problem again.
What was funny was that, thanks to people’s suggestions, I came up with the actual solution all on my own. Just getting into a back and forth conversation with people about the problem got my mind working in a new way. I was suddenly able to see what was wrong and how to fix it. This saved me what could have been hours of time if I had tried to fix it myself. My mind was stuck in a rut. I needed interaction with other people to help me see the problem in a different way and find a solution.
I work from home, and I sometimes joke that I’ve turned into a hermit because I never leave the house. While this isn’t exactly true, there also aren’t a ton of people I know who live near me and do what I do. So, I’ve had to reach out and try finding a work community online.
One of the best places I’ve found for work-related communities is Facebook groups. Once I realized that such groups existed, Facebook’s purpose in my work life completely changed. Before, it was just a way for me to get my message out to, and interact with, potential customers. (Not that that’s insignificant, just that it was the only purpose I saw for the platform.) Now it’s my go-to resource for answering questions about work related topics. You can search the past conversations in each group. It’s a perfect way to find out what other people have asked before and gauge people’s general opinions on topics. Searching Facebook groups is often even more informative than a Google search. You get the back-and-forth conversation and differing points of view all in one place.
LinkedIn also has groups that can be extremely useful for finding a supportive online work community. I don’t use those groups as often as I use the Facebook groups (because there’s only so many groups any one person can follow and stay sane). But if you’re not a huge Facebook fan, I would highly suggest searching LinkedIn’s groups to see if there might be a community that’s right for you.
What about you? Are you a part of any online communities for work? Do you find them helpful?