By Cheryl Springer
In the changing world of entrepreneurship, more and more businesses are developed and run online. In terms of possibilities and freedom, this is a game-changer. It levels the playing field for people with talent and drive but little in the way of financial resources. Of course, like with all things, there are some downsides to this new, mobile economy. Forging meaningful relationships can be difficult but it isn’t impossible.
One of the keys to being a successful entrepreneur is networking. While this term is one of those super-professional sounding words used by men in three-piece suits that trade on the NASDAQ, really what it’s all about is building meaningful relationships.
In an atmosphere of being able to do just about anything from behind your keyboard, it is especially important, if you want to be successful, to be intentional about connecting with people. And since you are online, and they are online, how do you connect?
You connect online.
I think the idea of making meaningful connections online has gotten a bad rep that it does not really deserve (and I don’t just say that because I met my amazing husband that way). While I won’t deny that communicating from a distance makes it easier to just say whatever, and isolate yourself, it also can make it easier to take a risk and be authentic.
And that is the key. Were you expecting some major revelation? A new idea? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s just the way it goes. Authenticity has always been and will always be the way meaningful relationships are formed. So while I may not be able to give you a new “how” I think I can give you a new “why”.
My art professor in college used to tell us every single day that 90% of success in life is “showing up.” For the longest time I thought this was about just being there, but recently I have discovered it is much more than that. “Showing up” is about being PRESENT, being real, being authentic.
The best connections I have made online were the result of stepping out of my comfort zone and being totally real. I connected with Yvi here because I, as politely as possible, told her I wasn’t thrilled with an idea she had about an article she planned to write. I was worried it might upset her, but then it turned out that she actually likes and respects honest, direct, and real. Well, that’s who I am. So by being myself, I connected with someone that I can CONTINUE to be myself with. This taught me a huge lesson: you can only establish genuine connections by being GENUINE. Otherwise you have to keep faking it. And a person can only do that for so long.
By genuine, I don’t necessarily mean spilling the private details of your life to everyone on the internet. I mean choosing to reply to a comment using your own voice, trusting your own wisdom. Or offering to help someone struggling with a problem that is right up your alley (or in your “zone of genius”). Yes, even especially if you are afraid! Because fear is usually a sign that you are being REAL. Fear is not the sign to stay quiet, but the revelation that you are tapping into who you are. THIS is how you connect.
So, is it worth stepping out of your comfort zone and moving past your fear to create connections?
I have built a successful design agency in just a few months SOLELY by word of mouth, by the reputation I built through meaningful relationships. By being true, honest, and authentic. As of writing this article, I am still working to launch my own website! Client work has occupied so much of my time that developing my own site had to take a back seat. It’s probably the best problem I have ever had.
When it comes to creating meaningful connections online, I recommend you first take notice of people that attract you through who they are. Then when you have a chance to give them some genuine feedback, take a chance, be honest (and kind), and start building that relationship. Then, when you get a chance to know them a little better, take it. Don’t give into your fear. Schedule a coffee chat, offer to do something for them. Finally, follow through. Show up. Be the kind of person that can be relied upon and trusted.(Know, like, trust… sound familiar?)
Establishing meaningful connections isn’t really about making money, or making sales. It’s about being part of a community of like-minded people that can nurture your soul, which will allow you to put more of yourself into your business, and will lead you naturally to a success that is rooted in who you are.
And after all, isn’t that why we chose to do this in the first place?
Cheryl Springer is a freelance graphic designer working with small businesses dedicated to community development and revitalization. Also a mom to a teenage daughter, wife to a southern gentleman, and proud spoiler of three dogs!