“You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Whenever someone would ask me what the most difficult aspect of being self-employed or running a business is, this used to be my answer.
From creating your legal foundation to not just setting aside your taxes, but actually paying them quarterly, to creating on-boarding processes for new clients…I could easily rattle off 50 things I had no clue not just how to do, but had no idea that needed to be done when I first started.
Of course, the myriad of solutions to these areas of business are all easily accessible via Google, online courses, YouTube videos, blogs, but if you don’t know what to search for, it’s not unlikely that you’ll find yourself up a creek without a paddle in one way or another.
(Hi, Danielle here, and I’m speaking from experience. That quarterly tax situation stung, and definitely left me with lingering tax anxiety despite the fact that I’m now 5+ years into business.)
But once I got a better grip on self-employment and running a solo business, I found that the best solution to overcome my biggest roadblock isn’t a search engine, but a community.
Crowdsourced Solutions from Community Conversations
Two of our greatest teachers in life are observation and participation, and as it turns out, they also serve up our biggest lessons in leading a business as well.
When we invest in joining a community of like-minded people who share a common goal, pathway, or experience, we not only find ourselves in an environment with people we can relate to, but we now also have a forum where we can observe the questions other people have asked as well as the lessons members in the community have shared in response. Being honest and open allows others to reciprocate, and from that, everyone benefits.
Suddenly, simply by surrounding ourselves with people who share a common interest, we glean insights we never knew could be helpful because we didn’t know they were lessons we needed to learn.
When you don’t know what answers you need to know, a community can help you understand the questions you should be asking.
Support From People on a Similar Trajectory
In today’s digital world, the population of self-employed professionals and business owners is no longer limited to your immediate geographical location and is rapidly expanding (a beautiful thing we’re grateful is possible and becoming more possible with every passing year).
However, this ease of jumping into entrepreneurship makes focusing on finding micro-communities that fit the various aspects of your business that much more vital so that you can connect with the most helpful insights, resources, and conversations from people who have a common understanding of your goal or are walking a similar journey.
With the pervasive conversation around business growth often being centered on building more revenue streams, adding more team members, and having higher benchmarks/bigger launches/[insert your example of “more” here], we’ve found that it’s been crucial to have our own community to turn to that doesn’t necessarily jive with that conversation.
When we became One Woman Shop members, we finally felt like there was a place to turn to with the solutions and support that uniquely fit what we needed in order to better navigate the journey of solopreneurship, especially as it relates to our identities as women in business and our life values.
Thus, it’s not just vital to find community, but to find a community with the right fit.
Reaping Your Return on Investment
Finally, if the two primary ways we learn are through observation and participation, and if the ability to observe and soak up knowledge from a community is where we can find it’s value, then participating is where we gain our return on investment (in time, energy, or money) in being a part of the community.
Whether it’s strategically utilizing the resources you have access to at the time when you need them most, or sharing your experiential wisdom with someone who’s a couple paces behind you in their journey to fuel community engagement, or leaning into the community for feedback and support, operating in a silo doesn’t afford you those opportunities.
What investing in being a part of a community has taught us and what we’ve received from it in return has radically changed the way we approach decision-making, goal-setting, and action-taking in our solopreneur ventures, which has thus, transformed the way work intersects our lives.
So now when someone asks, “what’s the hardest part about running your own business?” my answer is “doing it 100% on your own, but I don’t do that.”