I’ve had a few conversations with freelancers and small business owners in the past week about staying connected. Freelancing or running a sole proprietorship can get lonely sometimes. You don’t always have people to collaborate with or ask advice. But there are ways to manage this problem.
Below are some of the tactics that work best for me.
1. Reach out to others with social media. This one should be obvious. However, if it’s not then here are some tools that you should be using to find the right people to get the feedback and collaboration that you crave:
- Twitter: It has been said that Facebook is for staying connected with the people you know, and Twitter is for finding the people you should know. Get that Twitter profile started and begin searching with tools like search.twitter.com for the people who are Tweeting about topics that are related to your business and to your interests. Start conversations with these people online, but make sure to take these conversations offline as well. Meet for coffee or set-up a quick phone call to get to know them better. After all, that’s why it’s called social media.
- Quora: If a customer calls with a question that you can’t answer, try posing it to the experts on Quora. I’ve found that within a day or two after posting a question, I usually get a very helpful answer. This is a great replacement for those mass e-mails, or wiki posts, that you used to send out to your team at a larger company for an answer.
2. Coffee and lunch meetings are a must. I make an effort to book at least two or three coffee or lunch meetings a week. It’s sometimes tough if you’re on a tight deadline for a project, but staying in touch with other colleagues face-to-face helps to keep your sanity.
3. Pick-up this old-fashioned thing called a telephone. Ok, so smartphones aren’t old-fashioned. But we live in a world where people sometimes get freaked out when you call them rather than texting, e-mailing or instant messaging them. However, it’s amazing how much more you can get accomplished in a quick phone call, rather than a long e-mail or text string of exchanges. Plus, the human voice on the other end is another great way to feel connected to the real world if you’re working alone.
4. Skype-it-up. If you’re on a shoestring budget as a small business owner, and have to call someone long-distance, make sure that you set-up a Skype account. That way, you can choose to also speak to the person face-to-face via webcam and feel even more connected. But this does require that you make yourself presentable – in case you’re one of those people who works in their pajamas every now and then.
5. Co-working spaces and coffee shops. Need a change of scenery, or want to be around people for a day? Why not go to a Starbucks or Second Cup and take advantage of the free wifi? If your local coffee shop is wearing on you, why not look for co-working spaces that you can rent by the day or by the hour? There are always lots of other small business owners there and you never know who you’ll meet. Check out my blog from last week about some of the spaces that are popping up in Toronto.
Have another tactic for staying connected? Please share what has worked for you in the comments section below.
Image source: iStockPhoto.com