Look around you. Ever notice how ingrained competition is in our society?
We are raised in a competition-driven world. If you’re not working on the New York Stock Exchange or running for political office, you might not feel the daily, constant drive to win, win, win.
Think about school, politics, sports, games, promotions. Our innate desire for adoration and approval can even make us feel like rivals to our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and siblings.
We pit ourselves against each other from the get-go. As we grow up and establish ourselves in the world, we lose our instinct to trust others, especially those who do what we do or want what we do.
Community doesn’t always come naturally. It needs to be something we seek out and set as an intention—like taking our vitamins, changing our oil, or saving that extra chunk of our paycheck. Good things aren’t always habits or second nature, and that’s OK.
Whether you’re building a business, creating a freelance career, or doing your day job, community is essential for many reasons.
Before I dive into those reasons, let me tell you a story. This story isn’t pleasant to tell, but I’m going to share it with you because I have a feeling more than one of you have experienced the same thing. Here we go.
I moved to Chicago last August. I only knew a few people, and I wasn’t poised to meet that many more given my work-from-home situation.
The hardest part of my 300-mile move? Not my job or freelance gigs. Not my hard-as-hell workout classes. Not the Chicago winter I’ve encountered so far. No, the hardest part has been making friends and finding community.
I’ve had to sit down and make a list of ways to meet people—and not just for the sole purpose of making friends. Being around others inspires me, challenges me, introduces me to new hobbies and passions, and gets me out of my little mental bubble. (You know, the little bubble in which you talk to yourself more than other, real people.)
What have I been looking for? Community.
Community is exposing ourselves to new ideas, approaches, and inspiration. It’s a place to ask questions, get feedback, and be known.
Community is more than just friendship. It’s where you don’t have to be alone but can feel comfortable enough to act like you are.
Community can look like whatever you want it to. It can be a networking group, soccer team, online book club, or even a Twitter hashtag. It can be professional, athletic, educational, philanthropic or even dietary in nature.
Community is customizable and can be completely up to you.
Community for Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship is lonely. Ask anyone who freelances or owns their own business, and I bet they would say the single hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is the constant isolation or loneliness.
Not only does entrepreneurship take away the built-in community of an office environment and coworkers—unless you work at a startup—but it also removes the social aspects of those, too. No holiday parties, lunch breaks, or coffee runs. And those events provide community.
Those of you who are sick of the above things might be rejoicing at the thought, but I promise, working alone or from home gets old and lonely fast. This was one of the few reasons I accepted a full-time job last year.
I loved writing and owning my own business, but I craved community, and HubSpot gave that to me—it gave me a setting in which I could still write and maintain the freedom of working from home.
I’m not advocating taking a job to be around people. I found a great job that provided the best of both worlds, and I didn’t settle.
So, don’t go running to Indeed or LinkedIn to solve your loneliness crisis. Your business and dreams are more valuable than that! And, thankfully, there are many ways to find community as an entrepreneur.
Here are a couple of reasons why you should seek out community.
Being alone too much is bad for your health.
It can mess with your sleep and make you more stressed. What? say the introverts and socially anxious. I thought the same. But I can attest to this as I’ve been alone 80% of the time since moving here. As uneasy as people and crowds make me, being alone day in and day out makes me feel worse.
Being alone is also bad for the health of your business.
A recent study in the Economist found that, outside of banks and other financial institutions, the most important source of support for entrepreneurs was community. Business or industry associations, incubators, informal activities (like networking events, co-working spaces, or happy hours), and other entrepreneurs met at those events.
What types of support did entrepreneurs find through these events and organizations? Mentoring, referrals, industry knowledge, and advice (on business models, technology, talent, and operations). Intangible, invaluable stuff. Stuff you can’t buy, download, or subscribe to.
Stuff you can only attain through other people—or through community.
Community for Businesses
If you’re already offering—and profiting from—a product or service, why would you consider organizing a community, too?
That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked!
Creating a community alongside your product or service might seem like extra, unnecessary work. I get it. Here’s why you should consider adding it to your docket.
Community adds value beyond a single transaction and a single product or service.
Traditionally, startups and small businesses are being asked, “What problem does your business or brand solve?” And that’s an important question.
But I believe the key to building a resilient, lifetime brand is answering, “What value does your business or brand provide?” Capturing and converting yet another customer is great—but how can you immortalize your business so it stays relevant beyond a single transaction?
Community adds immense value to your brand that reverberates over time, beyond that single purchase or brand impression.
By offering your customers a community to join, participate in, and belong to, they start to associate things like knowledge, authority, fellowship, and friends with your brand. They realize that your brand is valuable.
When offered a community, customers remain up close and personal with your brand. They see it every day or at least a few times a week—however often they interact with your community. Having so many consistent impressions via a community encourages repeat purchases and customer loyalty. And customers who stick around become experts, meaning community creates brand ambassadors.
Community is also essentially a giant focus group and representation of your target audience.
Are you wondering how you can improve your product or marketing? Ask your community members. Curious whether your audience would respond well to a new product feature? You know where to turn.
Community can bring in additional income for your business.
Community for Individuals
“I’ve got a sweet day job,” you’re thinking. “I don’t think I need a community in addition to my coworkers.” If your work environment floats your boat, more power to you—but I’d encourage you to want more.
Community is beautiful because it exposes us to diverse thinking, hobbies, and more. If your community is synonymous with where you work and spend almost all your time, how will you ever be challenged and grow?
How will you be challenged to approach your work with a different perspective if you surround yourself with people who all think the same?
Work is a community, and you should feel lucky to have that community. But to let community make our lives as colorful as possible, we should at least mix up the minds we hang out with.
There are many ways to find community. Some people find communities through their hobby or health and wellness habits. Others choose to establish community through education or developmental classes.
I’m adding flavor to my community by joining a stand-up comedy class this spring. Not only will it help me socially and with my writing, but it’ll also introduce me to a whole host of funny, different people.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert on community.
I mean, the person I talk to most these days is myself. But I don’t think an expert on community is who you need writing this post. You need someone like you, who is craving and seeking community for herself and her business.
And that’s me.
More on Community:
- Building and Growing a Community
- Nurturing and Sustaining Your Community
- Monetizing Your Community
- Where to Find Your Own Community
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