An Introvert Finds Co-Workers
As a self defined introvert, the notion of working alone most of the time seemed, at first, to be a gift. Then after reading quite a bit on how working in groups can improve success, I realized I could really use some coworkers.
Now I'm an introvert who realizes that being alone much of the workday is actually a bad thing. Writing alone. Generating ideas alone. Celebrating new ideas alone. Dealing with work questions solo means having to google answers a couple of times a day. I had some online communities I participated in, but nothing like actual coworkers you may find in an office setting.
My work ethic has always been all or nothing, but I had never worked for myself before. I quickly found out I was the worst boss. I can't seem to stop micromanaging myself.
The start of my small business was a rush of solo activity. I was busy looking for clients. When I wasn't busy with finding clients, I was writing content for this blog. With website building, blogging courses and photography lessons, there was a seriously steep learning curve. The rest of my work time was spent with clients, one on one, where I was completely in my groove.
My partner would come home too tired from his own work life to be a sounding board for mine. (Granted, he's the free in-house IT guy, illustrator guy, web design guy, editor guy, so his plate full. Thank you forever and ever John!)
So, how does one find co-workers? I started with friends. A graphic and textile designer and an editor and writer. After about a month, I found the once a week meetings we were having a profound and near magical effect on my productivity and problem solving. I realized a need for a bigger group to keep the momentum going when those two friends couldn't meet.
I had read about coworking spaces that had cropped up all over New York City the past 5 years. Most major cities around the world have them now, but they seemed out of reach for me. The monthly rates at some were exorbitant and I couldn't justify the cost of even the least expensive ones. Also, my problem was not a problem of work space, it was the lack of co-workers.
So, I posted on two Yahoo groups for my neighborhood. I was nervous about this, because I didn't know if anyone would feel the same way I did about working alone. Also, what if people I didn't like answered my query? My inner middle schooler cringes at the thought of no one replying after I call out "Hey, does anyone want to join my co-working team?"
Within a few hours, I had a group of 10 people signed up. Four showed up to the first meeting and we could barely contain our excitement at the prospect of having such a diverse group of talented, kind, smart people to share our work with once a week.
Let me share the kind of people, walking distance away, you can find if you take a risk and ask for it on a neighborhood list serve.
- Wade Trefethen: artist, hand made signs, small business owner.
- Alexandra Neuber: photographer, small business owner.
- Amy Kail: choreographer, teacher, arts education outreach.
- Alexandra Dunbar: classical musician, teacher, small business owner.
- And me, of course!
We consider ourselves the core group so far and are creating neighborhood fliers to invite others at the local coffee shops where people are slogging it out alone. This should relieve the coffee shops of some of the pressure of having to make those cute "no laptops" signs on tables and having to police their patrons.
Social media enthusiasts can claim they've got followers in the thousands on Facebook and Twitter. I can claim a dozen people who will meet weekly and give feedback on projects and contribute to our community. While our disciplines are varied, we are more alike in our small business pursuits than we are different.
Meeting with these coworkers once a week gives me a jolt of working energy and renewed perspective on my work life. They bring fresh eyes to projects I've been working on for a while. And I learn about how they do what they do. Most important, I felt a genuine sense of being part of something bigger. Our group is only 1 month old and we are already richer than we were a month ago by pooling our expertise.
So, even if you're an introvert, when it comes to business it helps to have a group to bounce ideas around in. And starting one may be as easy as asking people right there in your neighborhood.