Be careful who your friends are

The people we hang around with influence us more than we think.

That’s because our perception of  what’s normal comes from the people around us. Hang around with struggling self-employed people who have  clients-from-hell and are working their butts off just to make minimum wage and you’d conclude that’s just the way that self-employed life is. But if you spend time with self employed people who are doing well and have clients who are generally a pleasure to work with, then your perception would be very different.

I believe it’s very easy for us women in particular to get close to our business friends. We get to know and like them, and soon enough they become true friends. That’s great for overcoming the isolation that the self employed life can bring, but as the people around you have such a huge impact on you, it’s good to pay attention to who is in your circle every now and then.

Women’s desire to help others can be a problem here, too. Helping others is usually a really positive thing, but there comes a time when you’re so busy helping others that you neglect yourself. You can only effectively support people in your own business community (possibly any community?) if you’re exposed to positive influences yourself. Otherwise your community becomes a crowd of knackered and frustrated people who are just propping each other up!

Am I suggesting that you drop friends who are not helping you progress? Absolutely not, that would be really selfish. But you aren’t restricted to just the one community. There’s nothing to stop you building a network among people who are going to challenge you just a bit more than where you are now. By ‘challenge’, I mean that they stretch you a little, expose you to new ideas and create a bigger sense of what your world could be.

It’s so easy to slip into spending an hour in an internet forum or in a Facebook group which is, if you’re really honest, doing very little for your business. Instead, why not spend ten minutes there and another twenty in a group that will really help you and your business grow?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: ammgramm

Comments

  1. Really great tips Helen. I agree it’s so easy to get drawn into a group or community of business ‘friends’ who aren’t right for you and can simply drag you down. It’s important to realise when this is happening and to step back.

  2. So true Helen. I try to balance who I spend time with. There are groups which intimidate the hell out of me but I learn so much from and others where there are people I can help which reminds me of how far I have come.

  3. Thanks Jen and Kirralee!

  4. Helen,
    Funny how we seem to be on the same page a lot of the time. I have just started doing that. It also works on Twitter apparently. Start to follow the people you ideally would like to meet, or would like to be with. Start to follow journalists of the papers you would like to be in. And of course keep in touch with your clients and ‘old’ network too.

    • Hi Inge, it’s good to know I’m on the same wavelength as you! And that’s a really good Twitter tip, too many people get hung up on the number of followers they have and what to tweet, whereas it’s the relationships you build that really matter.

  5. Another inciteful post, thank you. I think particularly if you are working by yourself and for yourself it can be easy to seek companionship online / in person via other contacts. In general I think outside stimulation is good, and important, but you do need to make sure it is not a drain on precious time. I come away from some face to face meetings and online interactions with certain people feeling fired up, raring to go and having learnt (and hopefully shared) something new. Others don’t inspire or excite. I have a mentor who is much further on in her business than me and to start with wondered what she got out of our meetings – what could I teach her? I didn’t want to become a drain on her time! She insists this is not the case as we have some interesting, challenging discussions about business in general eg does risk taking get easier as your business progresses and grows? She says she gets just as much out of it as I do. I guess my point is if 2 minds can meet, collaborate and challenge each other then as you say that is time well spent for all concerned

    • I also feel worried that I’m wasting the time of people who are further down the road than I am. But I guess there’s a lot more to that fired-up feeling up than just passing on information. Sometimes just talking to someone who is on the same wavelength as you are and ‘gets’ what you want to achieve is enough. It’s a fine balance between getting enough outside stimulation and wasting time, though isn’t it? Time just seems so valuable if you’re self-employed and even more so if you’re part-time self-employed.

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