Friday #3: Iron Sharpens Iron
So if you remember, last week was a freebie of sorts; we added another layer to our platform talk by accepting the charge to hire small businesses and freelancers to help build those platforms. You can’t see me, but I’m pointing ferociously at the word “hire.” Remember: what you make happen for others, God will make happen for you.
Today could almost count as an added layer to last week’s tip. So if I were a baker, Week 2 would be the cake, Week 2a was the icing, and today? Today's the big, fierce, Beyonce-shaped cake topper.
So let’s talk.
Far too often, we take pride in holding our vision so close to our chest. We assume everyone’s our competition—they’re out to get us, trying to steal our idea, gossiping about the moves we make. And yes, people do talk, but what I’ve learned along my entrepreneurial journey is that the people whose opinions really matter are often too busy working on their own hustle to try and come for yours.
Believe it or not, there are people who do exactly what you do and have zero interest in competing with you. Instead, they’ve got a wealth of knowledge about the industry, about client acquisition, about perfecting your craft, about what you should really be charging, and they’re eager to share it with people in their network. They’re sitting in private Facebook groups. They’re at meet-ups. They’re a part of mastermind groups. They’re doing exactly what I’m doing here: sharing as I learn.
Today’s challenge is super simple, but requires a bit of vulnerability on your end.
Find the iron that’ll sharpen your iron.
For me, it was “Unfuckwithable Girlfriends" (R.I.P.), a $25/month Facebook group full of entrepreneurs who do client-based work. There were about 450 of us from all over the world, and we'd discuss everything from “Is this client taking advantage of me?” to “I quoted a potential client $1,000 a month; are my rates too low for my industry?” I’ve personally hopped in there to vent about my lack of motivation, and they sprinkled their magic fairy dust and gave me permission to take the rest of the year off. I’ve asked for their recommendations about trademark attorneys, how to respond to difficult clients, how much the going rate for business insurance is, which books about money they prefer…I mean, everything about my business. And it’s so rewarding to have people in there who understand the ins and outs of business (and sometimes my exact industry) who are eager to help out.
The most incredible moment I experienced in the group was a woman writing in about a message she received from her husband’s mistress. In a matter of hours, she learned that not only had he been having an affair, but he was leaving her and she’d have no financial support to run the business he let her quit her job to start. The group banded together to help her run her business and handle client work while she sorts out messy divorce details. I tear up just thinking about it.
Again, most people aren’t concerned with competing; if you build the right relationships, you’ll actually get the help you need…when you need it most.
If Facebook groups aren’t really your thing, another option is a Mastermind group.
Masterminds are essentially small groups who do peer-to-peer mentoring within a specific industry. They’re an excellent tool to build and grow your business through the exchanging and coordination of knowledge and best practices. They're a place where you bring your wealth of knowledge to help someone else out, and they’re coming with their best foot forward as well. Masterminds usually meet once a month either via Skype or face-to-face, depending on where everyone’s based. Some people prefer local groups, while others appreciate the opportunity to connect with the best-of-the-best from around the world. I have a DC-based friend who flies out to Cali for her mastermind group. Dedication, y'all!
So for example, if you own a clothing boutique (hey Vanessa!), you’d join a fashion mastermind group. Photographers…photography mastermind group. Graphic design mastermind group. Dog-walkers mastermind group.
Pine-Apple-Rita mastermind group.
There’s literally one for everything. Find your tribe.
Lastly is an Accountability Buddy.
You know, that friend who texts you in the morning with, “What are your goals for today?” and closes out the day with “So what did you knock off your to-do list?” It’s the friend who knows what you truly want out of your business and will push you, annoy you, and hold you accountable for getting there.
My two accountability buddies are Tiffany Jones of 726sqft.com and Melissa Chanel of MelissaChanel.com. They not only inspire me to be better just by example, but they know what I truly want out of life and my business and hold me accountable for the dreams I’ve voiced out loud. Tiffany has texted me with “Hey, it’s been radio silence about that Funemployed event you’ve been wanting to do…what’s going on?” and forced me to get my mess together and focus. She also leads by example, staying up til the wee hours in the morning working on client work; having her as an accountability buddy encourages me to want to do better.
Melissa is, well…have you seen her lately? She’s been tearing up the natural hair and fashion world with Cantu and her fashion/lifestyle blog. We’ve been accountability buddies since 2013, first on our team at Girl Scouts, and then as entrepreneurs after we quit our jobs together and left NYC to start our own businesses. We set a word of the week—"focus," "productive," "results"—and keep each other on track to make sure the week reflects our word. If I slack off, I have to face the music and talk about how little I’ve done that week, and trust me, it doesn’t feel good.
Accountability buddies, masterminds, and private Facebook groups build your support system, provide free education, and help you develop your business in ways many who insist on doing it all on their own can’t.
Have you ever seen someone with poor business etiquette? Someone who can’t craft a professional email to save their life? Someone whose business practices are so backwards that you don’t want to touch their business with a 10-foot pole? This is all a result of having no one to sharpen their iron. No one to learn from, no one helping them grow, no one saying, “Um, I love you, but delete this post; you’re representing your brand all wrong.”
The last perk of having groups that help you sharpen your iron?
Here’s a quick fun fact about me: I’ve been full-time Funemployed for two years now, and 2018 was the first year that I’ve put together a comprehensive digital marketing plan for myself. Yep, I’ll admit that it’s kinda embarrassing. I run a digital marketing agency, and just started marketing my services?
Correct, my friends.
Prior to 2018, I hadn’t made many efforts to advertise my social media management, my brand development, my consulting, or coaching services. And really, I didn’t have to.
Because of my network.
Every single client of mine has sprouted from a great rapport I’ve built with loose connections. Someone in that Facebook group recommended me to a UK company to handle social media management. My accountability buddy recommended my services to Cantu when they were in the market for a writer. A friend I worked with at Girl Scouts recommended me as a consultant for Voss Foundation. People I’ve interviewed for the local paper have later hired me to write for them. Or speak on a panel with them. Or contract retainer work with them. People who know what I do but don't have a direct need for my services have passed my name along to someone who does. At every turn, someone in my network is bringing business to my door. And that’s because I nurture the connections I make. I build fruitful relationships that become organic opportunities to grow my business.
So that’s what I’m encouraging you to do today, good friend. (We’re friends now, right?)
Stop pretending that everyone’s out to get you, and start building coalitions of people who want to grow. They’re out there. Be discerning and choose wisely, but choose. And flourish.
Iron sharpens iron.
Find a Facebook group, a mastermind group, and at least 2 accountability buddies. You’re not just looking for groups that’ll help you perfect your craft, but you want to look for groups that’ll help you hone important business skills (negotiating, professionalism, setting rates, etc.), and will keep you accountable for achieving the growth you truly want. Take time, do your research, get vulnerable, and let’s make magic happen.
-Janna M. Hall