I first took the leap into self-employment more than ten years ago. While it is a decision I have never regretted, especially now as a parent, it has not been without its challenges.
Apart from the need to very quickly master new skills in marketing, social media, accounting etc, grappling with worries about cash flow, and the danger that you can get sucked into spending too much time working in your business rather than on it, two of the biggest adjustments for me were isolation and accountability.
Some of my early consultancy contracts as a freelancer gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in an organisation and become part of its senior and functional teams, but in more recent years I have been working in a much more autonomous way. As someone with an innate preference for extroverted thinking, working on my own for large chunks of time, isolated from other humans, was a drain on my energy and a huge adjustment.
Although I clearly have accountability to my clients to deliver work on time and of the right quality, working for yourself doesn’t naturally come with the same accountability structures that I had in place when I worked on the board of organisations. No one was needing me to report on how many networking events I had attended, new products I had developed, or how actively I was engaging on social media. Whether I succeeded or not was largely of interest to just myself (and my daughter) which meant the capacity to procrastinate, lose focus and drift can be high.
Thankfully I found a solution and it is one I am actively involved in supporting others with.
So here are my top six reasons why Mastermind Groups are so invaluable to freelancers and small business owners…
Regardless of how much technical expertise you have, whether you are a freelancer, contractor or business owner, making a success of being self-employed is a tough ask.
Even though you may have good personal support networks from family and friends, they are unlikely to be able to fully understand the challenges you are going through.
A Mastermind Group is a facilitated peer group, giving you access to support from people in a similar position to you, that “get” what you are going through and what you are trying to accomplish. Being part of the group, you can help each other conquer fears and overcome obstacles. It can help you remain motivated and focused, and by providing reciprocal support to others in the group, you may more easily identify and overcome your own barriers, much better than you would in isolation.
As an existing, or budding entrepreneur, seeking out the community of other entrepreneurs should be a must.
Forming deep and lasting connections
Good networking is about building relationships, rather than trying to quickly pitch your services to someone you are unfamiliar with at an isolated event. Mastermind Groups take this to the next level.
Through regular contact with others through the Mastermind Group, the knowledge of each other’s businesses grows. You start to build trust, familiarity, and with that a growing investment in helping each other succeed. You also grow your network – spreading out further via your new connections. Any referrals are more likely to convert into genuine business, as they are genuinely made by people who understand what you deliver and can see the value you offer.
Coupled with this is the chance for promotion opportunities. You can offer, and benefit from, cross-promotion with members of your group, by providing publicity, commentary and social sharing to your respective networks. You will also be seen as a source of information, boosting your reputation and demonstrating your ability as a contributor.
I run a business networking group, and at our most recent event we had an events manager, a florist, a photographer and a hotel present (not to mention all the amazing support businesses). The potential for them to collaborate on projects such as weddings was obvious and exciting. While there may not always be such an instant and tangible fit of businesses in every Mastermind Group, there is still likely to be enormous opportunities for really positive collaboration.
Businesses, particularly small ones, can’t be good at everything and shouldn’t try to. If social media is an area you struggle with, or you are wasting time on processes and administration that isn’t your area of expertise, then you may find a trusted partner in your Mastermind Group that can take that headache away from you, and hopefully vice versa.
You may also find the opportunity to join forces on premises, events, training, purchasing and many other business useful elements.
We all know the old saying that “a problem shared is a problem halved”.
As well as getting an outside perspective to an issue you are facing, you may find members of the group introducing you to a new idea, tool, process, person, or sharing information about a failure that they have experienced that you can learn from and avoid.
It is almost certain that someone in the group will have a different, but complimentary set of skills to you, and be able to offer a solution, connection or tactic, as will you to them.
Mastermind Groups often use a ‘spotlight’ process, allowing each member the chance to highlight their most pressing or persistent problems; with the whole group brainstorming solutions and actions, that can help unblock the problem and transform your business.
It can create a fantastic opportunity to think bigger, strategise and stretch your thinking and plans for your business (and yourself) when surrounded by other amazing people doing amazing things.
Last, but by no means least, and possibly my personal favourite, is the ability to create some real accountability through the group.
Working in isolation, as I have already said, can make it all too easy for you to allow goals and deadlines to drift. If no one knows what you have committed to achieve, then it doesn’t matter so much if you don’t complete on time or at all.
Most Mastermind Groups create time for each member to share their key short-term goals or ‘to do’ list. If you have shared within the group that you plan to do or achieve certain things, then knowing they are going to be interested in getting an update on how you have progressed, can be that last bit of motivation needed to follow through on your stated plans.
I never want to let people down (and can be quite personally competitive) so when I publicly commit to doing something, I pretty much always wind up doing it, and want to share that in the group next time we meet or connect.