My first website was a “local” arts & crafts blog. What I did not consider when starting my online business was that people would want to meet me outside the comfortable confines of the online space.
To me, online business was being safe & sound on my couch. Alone. Possibly in my PJs.
Meet? For coffee? In real life?
I’m an introvert, a bit shy, and not particularly socially skilled.
I tried to use my 6 month old infant as an excuse.
“Nope, can’t. I’ve got a baby.”
Of course, that doesn’t work when the people who want to meet up with you are moms themselves looking both to get out of the house and to get ahead with their dreams.
“Bring her along!” they’d say.
Luckily, their persistence forced me out of my comfort zone. Within the first few months of starting my business, I’d met several new friends and even taught my first workshop.
At first, the terror of meeting someone new and battling my idea of her expectations of me was all I could think about. I’d be sick to my stomach days ahead of a simple coffee date. As coffee date after craft show after workshop started to pile up, things became easier.
Practice makes perfect.
I learned that the only expectation I really needed to worry about was the expectation for me to learn about someone new, explore her story, and meet her in the moment. It didn’t matter if I was more or less than she thought I was or if I had strange interests or if I ordered an iced latte in the middle of winter. What was important was meeting then & there with shared purpose.
That took me about 18 months to really understand. But still, it happened!
By the time I started to master meeting new people, I realized that much of the “social networking” that was happening among people online was happening offline. My peers & mentors were meeting up at conferences, workshops, retreats, and just generally traveling around furthering their careers.
Cause & effect.
If I wanted to grow my business by expanding my network, I was going to have to get out of my house. And my state.
I took the leap. Last year, I made it a point to travel to every conference that truly interested me and embrace the strangeness of strangers. I flew to Portland, OR for World Domination Summit & Profit Catalyst. I took the bus to NYC more than a few times. I hopped a plane to LA, St Paul, Chicago, and San Diego. And I sprinkled in plenty of day trips.
I put a priority on surrounding myself with people who “get” what I’m all about. Or people who should. Or people I just desperately wanted to understand myself.
Yes, it’s difficult to leave my child to travel. Yes, it’s difficult to pony up the money. Yes, it’s weird to be in a room with 500 people I don’t know.
But the benefits of meeting my clients, customers, and colleagues far outweighed any downsides.
I now have good friends – a support system – that span this country. Now we schedule Skype chats to stay in touch in between trips.
I have a better understanding of who my customers are and what their needs are. Cause they told me, over drinks.
The people I look up to in my industry know my name, my face, and what my work is all about. Cause they asked.
But best of all, I have the experience of seeing people encounter my work firsthand. I have the confidence that comes with the “aha! moments” that people take away from dinner or drinks. I feel the ease with which my work emanates.
That’s something I’ve not experienced in any other setting in just the same way. And so I keep leaving the house, I keep traveling, I keep meeting people.
In the end, online business is no different from offline business.
We are all in the people business. And if you’re going to be in the people business, you better understand your business in relation to people.
Regularly interacting with your peers & potential customers allows you to consider these questions:
- What is it like to talk about my business with people who care?
- What aspects of what I offer appeal to people outside my current audience?
- What appears most valuable about what I do?
- How do others talk about me & my work?
- What lights me up when I talk about my business with people who get it?
- How is my story different from others stories?
Put away your excuses. Put on a sharp outfit and get out of the house. If you can, get in a plane, a train, or an automobile. Leave home behind — leave online in the dust.
Venture out to find the people who will enable you to make your business sing.
Sound like a plan? It’s not too late to join me for The Art of Earning LIVE. Find your own place in the You Economy with this intensive, intentional, and intimate experience. Take a minute to find out more.