Why I Spend $Thousands on Building Community - and what it can do for you as a creative (on any budget).
Last month, I spent two full weekends away from my family to convene with amazing women entrepreneurs, sharing ideas and inspirations for our businesses and supporting each other in our visions and growth.
I take part in two Masterminds where I regularly meet and take weekly or bi-weekly calls with fellow brilliant business owners to serve as sounding boards, ask for feedback and support, and offer accountability and – most importantly, to my mind – witness each other in our growth, our struggles and our triumphs.
My calendar is a collection of coffees, drinks, lunches and dinners with friends who inspire me, invigorate me and draw me out in conversation about meaningful things in my life that impact my business.
I have learned to actively engage my social media, using groups and instant messaging, not as a drain and distraction from my work but as a healthy, invigorating source of community and connection. (Alright, let's be honest, I also mindlessly scroll with the best of us).
These activities represent the deepest investment I make in my business. To the tune of five figures, hundreds of hours each year and more, and lots of energy and attention.
Building community is my # 1 business strategy.
And it is the savviest business decision I could make, netting the highest return of all.
Not to mention, it’s really fun.
Here’s why this awesome investment has so much value:
Whether you are changing careers, job hunting, seeking new clients, or looking for collaborators, connecting with others in meaningful ways, hearing and sharing stories, interests and potential next steps is the most powerful way to move along towards your goals. It’s tempting to stay behind your computer, drafting and re-drafting your resume, culling through job listings, updating your website, or even reading blogs some other person writes about “The single best investment you can make as a creative!” ;)
But when you network to build community, to deepen relationships, to connect deeply with others, you are no longer on your own in your job search/career transition/client connection/collaborator finding mission. You’ve got some pretty awesome people on the task as well.
There’s the obvious kind of collaboration, where you enter into an arrangement where you agree to co-create on a project. But there’s also the spontaneous collaboration that happens when you get into the room with one or more individuals to co-create, right on the spot. One of you comes with a challenge and then everyone works together to create a solution. This is beyond brainstorming or offering advice, this is collective strategic solution-seeking, and from it comes exceptional impact. This kind of collaboration is maximized in powerful Mastermind programs, but you can create one on your own, with a group of colleagues from similar or even different backgrounds (cross-collaboration of different disciplines is where innovation is often born).
Sharing what you’re excited about and hearing about what others are working on has the potential to re-ignite waned energy, increase clarity and focus on your creation, and spark new ideas. We often sit behind our desks waiting for inspiration to strike, but what we really need is a boost from outside of ourselves. Hearing what other people are working on, articulating your own ideas and challenges aloud, and just taking in other information can offer you new perspective, an unconsidered strategy, or a straight up aha! that you would not have received otherwise.
When you are creating solo, it can feel like you're working in a vacuum. Gaining feedback on what you’re working on or thinking about – even if it’s just a cheerleading “That sounds amazing! Keep going!”- can give you that boost of confidence or a redirection of where you want to take your work next. While this is super valuable, my favorite form of feedback is what I call mirroring, where you experience yourself through another person’s eyes. When you surround yourself with enough people you trust who support your work, you begin to embrace that what they are saying about you is indeed true, rather than what that mean voice says when you’re alone.
There is nothing like the power of speaking out what you plan on accomplishing to another person, and being witnessed in that way. You can promise yourself that you’re going to write for 45 minutes, 5 days a week but there’s something about stating it in aloud to another person that makes that goal stick in a deeper way. This goes for day-to-day tasks as well as your broader vision. When you share what you envision for yourself and the world around you to others, it begins to live outside of you and take greater form.
Many creatives feel like they need to do things all by themselves, that they need to understand or complete a creation before they can share it with others, or that asking for help is a burden to others or reflects negatively on who they are as makers.
But the truth is this:
Creativity requires networking, collaboration, inspiration, feedback and accountability.
If you are not building these aspects deliberately into your business and creative process, you are making things way more difficult for yourself.
So create community. Seek out classes and chat with someone who caught your attention (I know, I'm an introvert too. You can do it!) Put together an accountability circle or a writing group. Make a few dates with people who draw you out and go ahead and talk business and art and all the things you are challenged and inspired by. Join groups on social media that speak to you and actively engage. Work with a coach. Find a Mastermind. Attend weekend workshops for entrepreneurs. Go on a retreat with the added intention of meeting new people.
Find your people, support each other and then give yourself a pat on the back for being super biz savvy. Way to go, Creative CEO.
I’d love to hear your favorite ways to build and engage in community! Comment below.