How To Use Your Friend Group As Your Personal Board of Advisors
One of the biggest gaps of being self-employed is that you're siloed out from coworkers and touch points that help you see where you're going. I've tapped into my friends often to run ideas by them and get feedback. There are certain ways to do this so that you're not overextending your friendship.
Whether you’ve only known a world of self-employment or are just taking the jump after years in a more traditional work setting, the one thing you learn quickly is how isolating working for yourself can be. Like Amber Smith said in her post "5 Nonprofit Workplace Trends — And What They Mean For Freelancers," "freelancing by nature is often a solo operation. Though you’re performing for an organization, you might never get the sense that you’re truly “part of the team” Wethos is already creating a solution to change that with collaborative freelance.
Co-working spaces help to give you a home base where you can leave your laptop unattended while you use the bathroom, but what those spaces sometimes come up short on is a community of people to bounce ideas off of or collaborate with. Being a solopreneur doesn’t mean you stop craving having someone to whiteboard through ideas with, it means you have to be more intentional with who (and how) you go about that creative time.
After four years of working for myself I’ve learned that the key to not feeling lonely when ideating is to tap into my own braintrust. Most of my friends have acted as sounding boards for my ideas and have offered the kind of feedback I would normally get during a team work session.
The benefits of leaning on our friendships in this way have been that I can trust they will not sugarcoat anything. Their honesty is expected, encouraged, and instrumental in how I continue to build out my career. That being said, it’s also taught me about how important it is to be respectful of their time and our friendships.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind if you’ll be turning to your friends for work support!
Set clear boundaries.
Step number one, without a doubt, is to make sure you’re respecting friend time. Be sure that your friends don’t have to guess the difference between when you’re asking them to hang out over guac versus when you’re asking them to meet you at a Breather so you can run business ideas by them. These boundaries will make sure that your friendship stays healthy and that your friends don’t feel like you’re only turning to them for business advice, all while making the time that they do offer advice even more productive.
Turn to all your friends, not just some.
Don’t stretch one friendship too thin. If you’re going to use your friends as your sounding board, decide to diversify the feedback you receive by tapping into all your friends and not just one. Making this decision will also make it easier for you to cycle through your friends without them feeling overextended.
Offer yourself as a sounding board too.
Whether your friends are solopreneurs too or intrapreneurs within their corporate jobs, from time to time, they’ll also need a sounding board — make sure they know you are that go-to person for them whenever they need you. This creates a win-win for you both. When it comes to you, it’ll help you step outside of yourself and your own ideas long enough to be refreshed by someone else’s.
Creating an agenda will help.
Don’t go into your meetings with your friends without any direction. Set up an agenda for your time with them the same way that you would for any other meeting. Creating this loose checklist will ensure that you walk out of your time spent with them with actual insight on what you needed feedback on. When creating your list make sure that you’re prioritizing items that will help you move forward when you’re working on your favorite coffee shop’s couch the following day.
The ultimate goal when meeting with friends and bouncing ideas off them as if they are your coworkers is to help create momentum for you and your next career steps. You don’t want to have a stale career and that means reaching outside of yourself from time to time. Don’t fret that being self-employed is a disadvantage or will forever lack a sense of community. Being self-employed only means that you have to be incredibly intentional with how you do invest your community building time and with whom.