Problems solopreneur speakers face and how to solve them: Part #3: It gets lonely
Being a solopreneur speaker has a lot of perks. There are a hundred and one reasons to become a solopreneur.
From being able to move quickly and efficiently, to earning higher profits, to having the freedom to choose when you work, and getting to be your own boss — there are dozens of reasons many people are changing tack to become solopreneur business owners.
But being a solopreneur speaker can sometimes be challenging.
In this series, we’re looking at the top 3 problems a lot of solopreneur speakers face, and then giving you a detailed how-to on fixing the problems.
But first, are you a solopreneur speaker? Jump to this article to find out.
In this article, we are going to look at one of the major problems many solopreneur speakers face: how do you deal with the loneliness?
Problem: It gets lonely
Being a solopreneur can be isolating.
You may not think you’d miss having employees or co-workers. After all, office politics can be draining, and let’s face it, having to work with others can be downright annoying, time-consuming, and distracting.
But as a solopreneur speaker, you may begin to feel like the only work-related social interactions you have are before, during, and after your presentation.
It turns into a flood and famine situation.
You work alone for days, or even weeks on end, then suddenly, you have dozens, if not hundreds of people clamouring to talk to you. It can feel overwhelming.
Sometimes this can result in post-event blues, where you go from a big emotional high at the event, to feeling really rather low directly after.
This is dangerous for a number of reasons. Being on an emotional roller coaster like this for too long can cause long-term stress and make you wish you never became a solopreneur speaker in the first place.
Also, by definition, solopreneur means you are the sole decision-maker for your business, but this can also be difficult at times when you are lacking any objective feedback on whether what you are doing is helping or harming your business.
Or sometimes you’ll develop blind spots that are impossible for you to get around because you are working solo.
Having a network of people can help you find your blind spots and offer some objective feedback on how you are running your business.
Keeping your interpersonal work-type interactions well balanced can benefit you in a lot of other ways as well.
Humans are social creatures who thrive by having networks, and we’ll instinctively try and build one where one doesn’t already exist.
A network of other speakers, solopreneurs, and people from your industry can help you by:
- Advising you on problems or issues that come up that are specific to your topic, speaking, or the running of your business.
- Highlighting new trends in the industry, or tools or processes that can help you.
- Lifting you up when you are feeling down (like feeling the post-event blues) Potentially, they have been there and can empathize with how you are feeling.
- Helping you make difficult decisions about your business.
- Teaching you (through osmosis) by being around them and seeing what they are doing differently that is working.
But finding a network like this won’t happen by accident. You need to search it out and find it, and if it doesn’t exist, you need to build it.
Investing time and energy into creating this network will keep you more balanced and help keep the loneliness at bay.
Solution: Build a network of other solopreneur speakers. Join a co-working space, and use online communities
It’s one thing to know you need a network and another thing entirely to figure out how to build it.
Where do you even start?
Proactively surround yourself with a team of like-minded people, or those who are in the same situation as you.
Don’t rely on a singular source for your network.
For example, perhaps you’ve met some interesting speakers, and as a group, you decide to go out for coffee every few months.
At first, it is great, you chat about how your business is doing, share tips, and even have a semi-regular cafe hangout.
But then, potentially after a few meetups, people get busy and it gets harder and harder to pull everyone together. Eventually, the coffee dates peter out and you are left where you started.
Building multiple groups, or having back-up social interaction sources can reduce the risk and offer support even when you are on the road.
Build a network
The word network has a pretty broad scope — from “networking events”, which are parties where you promote your business and try and drum up leads, to “social networks”, online platforms that enable you to communicate with people from around the world by posting comments, messages, images, ideas, and links.
In this instance, we aren’t talking about either of those types of networks, but rather, a group of people who you can meet with, or call up, on a semi-regular basis to connect and talk with.
People who you could vent to about work issues you are currently facing, ask for candid advice from, or talk to about your upcoming projects and events.
You can’t really do this on social networks or at a networking event — your brand is too much on the line, and it isn’t really appropriate to let out a stream of frustration you might be feeling about a certain event planner or organization.
You need to create a less formal space where there won’t be negative consequences to doing this, where you can alleviate stress with people who can offer you help with building and maintaining your business.
A network is a group that is work-related, but has a heavy social aspect to it.
A group that will help you step away from the keyboard and spend some quality time with people who are sharing a similar experience to you.
This group could include other speakers, other solopreneurs, mentors, business advisors, or people from your industry.
Schedule calls with them, and more importantly, meet them in person at regular intervals.
If you are just starting out, find one or two people with whom you have a particular affinity, and zero in on building a more substantial working relationship with them.
Imagine them kind of like partners who you regularly bounce ideas off and help each other by advising on current projects and content.
Once you’ve met with them a handful of times, build the network out.
Start inviting more people, and encourage them to invite other people as well.
Don’t rely indefinitely on one-on-ones but get a bigger group of 5–10 people going.
This way if some people can’t make it, you’ll always have at least a few people who will be able to show up and hang out.
Find a coworking space
As more and more people move out of offices and adopt more non-traditional ways of working, coworking spaces have been cropping up everywhere.
There will be an estimated 30,000+ coworking spaces worldwide by the end of 2023, according to a report by the Global Coworking Unconference Conference.
And it’s no wonder they are increasing ten fold — they can increase your productivity, help you network with new and different people, and teach you new things by osmosis.
But how do you choose one? Do you undertake a week-long trial at each one in your city until you find the right place? You could try that, but here are a few tips to help you narrow down your choices.
You can use Coworker to find spaces and read user reviews.
Once you have a list of potential places, check the following: location, people, and cost.
1. The space
When it comes to choosing the right coworking office, the space is one of the most important factors.
Here is what you should be looking for.
- Location, location, location
The location of the coworking space is a big factor in determining how much value you will get out of your membership.
If it is a long commute, and you will only go once a week (or less) it might not be worth the membership.
Whereas, if it is within walking distance, with a bunch of conveniences en route, you will probably get more value out of it.
- Flexible working hours
There is a big difference between a coworking space that is open 24/7 and one that is only open 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.
While a smaller, boutique-style space might seem initially charming and comfortable, will it actually meet your schedule and needs?
Maybe a larger chain with multiple locations (for example, WeWork has 460 offices in 30 countries in 90 different cities) would be better for a speaker who works internationally or is on the road often?
Consider what you will need and whether flexibility is important to you.
First and foremost, the office should have clean bathrooms, readily available meeting rooms, and high-quality desks and chairs.
Also check the reliability of the internet. Nothing is worse than signing a year contract and then finding out the internet is painfully slow because you’re sharing it with 50 people.
You’ll probably want to find a space that has restaurants, shops, and parks nearby and is in a safe neighborhood. Some co-working spaces have backyards, a gym, and a place to park your car or bike. But be careful — some facilities can jack up the price a fair bit, so make sure you know what you are signing up for and what is included.
The main reason you would be signing up for a coworking space wouldn’t be for the gym or the coffee, but for the people, so making sure its a good fit is paramount.
- The people
When you join a coworking space you are also joining its community. Each co-working space will have a unique blend of solopreneurs, consultants, digital nomads, freelancers, independent contractors and professionals from all sorts of industries.
The most important thing to look for is like-minded individuals — people who you can connect with who will help you, both grow your business and give you the benefits of a new social network.
When scoping out the place, do the people look like they are engaged and chatting with one another, or is everyone glued to their screens with headsets on?
Also, ask what kind of events they host, and how regularly — a coworking space that hosts many events regularly is more likely to value a strong community than one that doesn’t.
- The environment
We all work differently, and some people who are looking for a co-working space are simply looking for a place to crack on and get their work done.
Maybe they live in a noisy environment which prevents them from being able to work from home and they need a dead-quiet environment where they can be anonymous and power through their work.
Likewise, many web developers prefer coding in darker areas so they can see their screens more clearly.
If the co-working space is geared to suit those particular needs, you may end up with a space that is a bit grim and stoic.
If you are feeling lonely as a solopreneur, you will probably want to find a place that is more vibrant and social.
Here are some things to look for:
- A bright and airy place, with windows and natural light
- People casually chatting with each other
- Pleasant music being played at a comfortable level
- Options to sit in clusters of couches/seating (more easy to meet people than at a desk)
- Option to have some private quiet places, like breakout rooms, or booths for making calls.
Make sure your co-working space has the right kind of vibe — one that encourages its community to be social.
The cost is a very important factor in choosing a coworking space. If you are just starting as a solopreneur, you are probably looking to keep your costs to a minimum, so choosing a place that fits your budget is essential.
Most coworking spaces allow you to rent on a monthly basis.
Don’t sign an annual agreement until you have spent a few months at the space and are 100% certain it is worth the cost for you.
Be sure to ask upfront what is included in the cost. Some coworking spaces have a fairly basic starting rate, but then tack on all sorts of additional costs, from using the meeting rooms to coffee machines.
The cost range for coworking spaces can be quite wide which is helpful for finding something within your budget.
At the high end, premium coworking spaces in big cities can cost several thousand dollars a month, and on the low end, some coworking spaces have a nominal drop-in fee — perfect if you are just starting out or only want to use the space a few times a month.
If you are looking for a coworking space on a short-term basis (e.g.. for the day) platforms like Desktime and Desksurfing can be helpful in finding a space. They are also useful for solopreneur speakers who are on the road (and are not inspired to work in their hotel room.)
Utilize online communities
While building your online community is important for branding and business development, there is also the oft overlooked social element — a group of people who can be available around the clock, around the world, to support you when you start feeling a bit lonely.
Maybe you just got into Hong Kong after a gruelling 16 hour flight, your family and friends are asleep back at home and you find yourself in your hotel room feeling very lonely.
You just want someone to chat with and gear yourself up for the next few days at the conference you are booked to speak at — this is where social media could come to the rescue… Twitter never sleeps, and you could probably find a handful of MeetUp or EventBrite networking events where you could get out there and meet some new people.
1. Find and build your tribe online.
Pick your platform thoughtfully.
Understand the differences between platforms, and choose the one that will best suit your needs for building a tribe. This may be a completely different platform from the one that is best for marketing yourself.
Either find a group of solopreneur speakers that already exist on Facebook, Reddit, or LinkedIn, or start creating your own with other solopreneurs and speakers you have met.
Facebook has a variety of groups for solopreneurs of all kinds to share opportunities, thoughts, feelings and newsworthy announcements, and Reddit threads can be a great place to have some intellectual banter. You will most likely find a ton of professionals in the same boat as you on LinkedIn.
You may even want to try a few different groups first, and if none of them suit you — build your own.
Some tips for developing non-marketing relationships on social media
- Be genuine
Sometimes with online marketing material, speakers feel they have to be their best and most professional selves, in a private group you have the ability to let your hair down a bit.
Don’t be forced. Just focus on being yourself — honest, open, and authentic.
- Earn trust
Like any relationship, respect and support take time to grow. If you just pop on to the group once and post about how frustrated and lonely you are feeling, you might get a few sympathetic responses, but it will probably end up feel a bit empty.
Just as with any friendship — no one wants someone to just come in and dump a bunch of negativity on them without balancing it out.
Instead, work on checking in with a group regularly and supporting others. Then, when the time comes where you need a bit of support, the community will be there to help you.
- Be open about what you need
Do not be too scared or embarrassed to say what you need. Instead of just posting that you are feeling lonely and upset, think about what you really need and ask for it.
Maybe you need some empathy? Ask people to tell their stories if they have ever felt the same way or gone through the same issue as you.
Maybe you need some inspiration? Ask if the group has any ideas on what you can do to overcome a particular challenge.
Maybe you just need a bit of encouragement? Don’t be afraid to ask for it, ask them to send you their favourite motivating quote, or just give you a virtual pat on the back.
Or maybe you simply need to vent? Tell the group that you just need to blow off some steam, and let them know how you’d like them to respond (maybe with their favourite FML gif!)
Reaching out and asking for what you need is one of the best ways of ensuring you’ll get it.
Take it offline
You can also use the online platforms to meet up with people in your city.
Online interest groups like Meetup, Facebook, EventBrite and Nextdoor can help you find local people and events geared for solopreneurs and business.
While initially it can feel intimidating to go to one of these events alone, after the first couple, you’ll realize that most people who are attending are likely feeling the same way and are probably there for the same reasons as you.
If you’re feeling particularly uncomfortable about launching yourself out there, reach out to the event coordinator or one or two of the confirmed guests ahead of time to introduce yourself.
Just because you are a solopreneur speaker doesn’t mean you have to be isolated. There are many ways to build a thriving and supportive network, but it might not just fall in your lap. As you are building your business, don’t forget to simultaneously build a network of people who can help pick you up when you are feeling lonely, overwhelmed, or down.
This mini-series is aimed at helping you build your speaking business. We are looking at the main issues that solopreneurs face, including what to do when you feel overwhelmed, how to scale your business, and top strategies to build your speaker business.
This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.