Talking to a friend at a networking event the other day, I asked what drove her to pay the hefty fee required to join the business group she belongs to. Referrals? Connections? Adding a few business cards to an already teetering pile? None of these. "It's for the social life," she admitted. "I run my own business, and I'm not going to socialise with my employees, and none of my friends want to discuss my work woes. It can get pretty lonely. Belonging to a group of women in the same boat as me means we can share ideas and let off some steam".
Hearing her story I can well believe a recent* study's conclusion that women are nearly twice as likely to feel isolated working alone when starting up a business as men.
Apart from the need for companionship and support, there's the fact that many of these women will have been used to working in sociable offices in their previous professional roles. They will have benefited from being around people with knowledge and experience, enabling them to bounce ideas around.
We do this stuff naturally when we're employees and we need it just as much - if not more - when running our own businesses.
As a self-employed writer I know you don't always feel like prising yourself away from your desk, putting your best smile on and going out to share actual conversation with other human beings. But it's worth the effort if they're the right human beings.
Finding people you can share your plans and challenges with can make all the difference to your survival.
Deepa Bidd is a self-employed massage therapist, who describes the monthly meetings of DrivenWoman, the women's networking group she belongs to, as "like having your own group of cheerleaders". "Working alone you can get caught up in your own issues and challenges to such an extent that you can't see outside of them. When I share these challenges with the group I realise everyone's going through a similar thing, and that helps me get perspective. And what's more we have a laugh - and sometimes a few tears too, but that's fine". Ah the luxury of being up-front - not an option in the ever-positive self-marketing world of social media.
Abigail Eaton-Masters, a therapist who specialises in this field, says low moods and depression are all too common among female entrepreneurs, many of whom feel unable to acknowledge their low points, seeing it as a weakness. "Many of my clients express a basic human need to connect with others, to have a community of like-minded individuals to support a cherished dream and to feel the acceptance of kindred spirits. So my advice is to seek your soul family, talk and connect."
* Research conducted by Entrepreneurial Spark