Q: Help! I’m drowning in
micro-business isolation. This is my first winter in business for myself. I work at
home and deal with my clients mostly by email and fax. So I’m
climbing the walls with cabin fever.
A: The year I invited my
accountant to my New Year’s Eve party was the year I realized I had
a problem with isolation! Now I lead such a public life that I long
for those good old days, but I can still empathize with anyone who
is feeling isolated in their home business. And believe me, the
problem is bigger than just personal loneliness. You need
opportunities to “talk shop” so that your business doesn’t stagnate.
First of all, try to re-create for yourself that
emotionally supportive network of coworkers and colleagues that you
left behind in the corporate world.
Schedule a few social encounters each week.
Arrange to meet an employed friend for lunch. Attend a professional
association meeting or a Chamber of Commerce networking event. Join
the Y or sign up for a night school class. Volunteer with one of the
many community organizations that could use your help.
Some home business owners fight isolation by
pursuing projects that require collaboration. Virtual corporations
are becoming common, whereby independent entrepreneurs come together
on a project-by-project basis. This is a great way to expand your
business, while creating opportunities for stimulating contact with
One group of home-based business owners I once
knew arranged to meet in a neighborhood park each morning at 7 AM.
They went for a power walk together, discussing business issues
while getting some much needed exercise.
Here's another strategy: At one point in the early
days of my self-employment, I created a personal board of advisors. This
group of people included a woman business owner who acted as a
mentor, my accountant, and a retired local business owner. In return
for feeding this group dinner once a month, I received a great deal
of advice and motivation. These dinners also made me feel connected
to the business community, in spite of the fact that most days I was
cloistered at home with two little kids and my computer.