Start your own business, and you're likely to get all sorts of warnings. People will tell you how hard it is for a new business to survive, or that you're giving up stability. They may worry about your 401(k). But chances are, no one will warn you about one of the toughest parts of entrepreneurship--that working for yourself can be very, very lonely.
It's been many years, but I still remember my first week as a solopreneur. I had left my job and a bustling office to work at home as an independent contractor. I was thrilled to be my own boss. But as I sat in my apartment staring at my computer, it just seemed so very... quiet.
It took me a long time and a lot of experimentation to learn that being on your own as an entrepreneur doesn't have to mean being isolated. In fact, you and your business will both be much better off if you make certain that you aren't. Here's how:
1. Don't let your business eat your social life.
When you're running your own business, especially in the early days, it may seem like you have no choice but to work nearly all the time. That kind of push may be necessary occasionally, if you're trying to make a tight deadline or launch a product, for example. But if you're routinely turning down invitations because you work every evening and weekend, you must make an adjustment. That kind of schedule is not sustainable. I know--I've tried it.
2. Reach out to other entrepreneurs.
Sometimes you may be lonely not because you're actually alone, but because that's the nature of your role as a company founder. Everyone in your company relies on you to solve the problems they can't. And you rely on no one but yourself.
You may not have anyone in your organization who understands what that's like, but outside your company there are plenty of people who do. So make a point of connecting with individual entrepreneurs in your community. Attend events for entrepreneurs. Nothing kills loneliness faster than talking to someone else who feels exactly the same way you do.
3. Get out in your industry.
Whatever industry you're in, I guarantee it has a trade association. Join that association, show up at conferences and trade shows, volunteer if you can, and look for chances to meet other industry people at luncheons or dinners. This will not only make you feel less isolated, it will directly help your business because you'll gain visibility and credibility in your field.
4. Look for chances to do business in person.
I used to hand deliver articles to my editors. You don't have to go that far, but look for every opportunity to meet your partners, customers, and anyone who's important to your business, face to face. This is another anti-loneliness tactic that will directly benefit your business. The more often you meet people face to face, the likelier they are to remember you when they need to make a new purchase.
If you know enough to start your own business, then you have useful knowledge to share. Look around for adult education schools, high schools, colleges, mentoring programs, and other opportunities to teach others what you've learned. You'll be helping your students with information they can put right to use, and doing something that will make you feel really good, as well.