Generally in life we get used to being given support. When growing up we learn to expect that to come from our parents and from school, and later from our friends or partners or colleagues. We take for granted that it may be. If you work in a large firm there may be an officially integrated system of support through meetings, well-being check-ups and places to go or people to speak to if you are struggling. Even if not in a tricky situation however, we still need support for the day-to-day tasks we face, be there an unusual situation we haven’t experienced before, a difficult client, or even to step up to the next level when we find ourselves coasting. When self-employed however you often don’t have someone working alongside you who can support you, and so you need to find this through other avenues, actively. Sometimes you have to find your own support. Nowadays there are many ways that this can be found, believe it or not not everyone is self-absorbed and uncaring (yes, even in London!)
Firstly, there are those people you already know or knew. Keep in touch with them, half of the effort lies within yourself! Don’t assume that people won’t want to hear from you, or that you’re bothering them – don’t think the worst. Be approachable but don’t be scared to approach others.
Secondly, there are now 1000s of networking groups bringing together willing, like-minded people. I have to admit this is fairly new for me too and so I know that it takes a bit of sifting, planning and a lot of commitment, but it does pay off. Have a look at meetup.com, your local council’s chamber of commerce, and places specific to your interest or industry. Finding a good group takes trial and error, visiting a few different types in different areas or with slightly different specialisms until you find what works, or which contains a solid group of regular and friendly people. Along with this, there are an increased number of mentors out there. Do your research, ask for recommendations, and try to meet informally first with a potential mentor to see if you will get on enough to relax in each other’s company.
Thirdly, there are local seminars, exhibitions or regional meetings and updates. Whilst these might not give for much one-on-one support or conversation, being in a room with those in the same ‘boat’ as you, hosted by people who are on your side, really does give a confidence-boost. I recently attended the ARLA regional meeting (www.arla.co.uk) which was hosted in part by the President Nik Madan, and it was refreshing to hear from him about what is going on behind the scenes to potentially help you and your business – as well of course, as it being beneficial for you to keep updated on your industry.
So if you feel like you need some support – go out there and get it! Ask for it, offer it, be open-minded but keep focused. Don’t say yes to every invitation (that being another, well-worn piece of advice), as your time is precious.