Join the online business owner community! Here’s how to make friends and feel less alone

By Brittany Taylor

Running a business feels very isolating. When you take yourself out of a corporate environment, with its cube farms and break rooms and coworker gossip, and put yourself in a home office or a bedroom or a coffee shop, it feels like you’ve lost something.

And you know what? It’s not just the boss or the 9-to-5 hours you’re missing. It’s the camaraderie. It’s having someone to turn to when you have a question or a problem. It’s having someone to tell you what to do when you’re lost.

Running a business is hard, but don’t think for a second that you are in it alone. The truth is, there are thousands of us standing there with you, terrified and isolated and wondering if we’ve made a huge mistake.

The first thing you need to know about running a business is that you might feel alone, but you aren’t. We bosses are everywhere, and we want to share. That’s what this post is all about: stepping out of isolation and into the online business owner community—and mining the collective knowledge of your peers to run your business better.

This is me, sending you hugs. No matter how long you’ve been in the game, it’s tough. I know. But it’s about to get easier.

action plan

Find a community of business owners you click with

The turning point for me between when I was “just freelancing” and when I began to buckle down and take my business seriously was the moment I stumbled into my first creative entrepreneur Facebook group.

Seeing people with different backgrounds and ambitions in the same place of know-nothingness that I inhabited was…freeing. Encouraging. Uplifting. It made me realize that we were in it together and that, unlike the corporate environments I’d experienced so far in my life, we could work together to build incredible things without cattiness and competition.

I’m a solopreneur running a business of one, but I couldn’t do it without my boss friends on the internet. They save me and push me every single day. I want that for you, too. Here’s where to find your own community of business owners:

My favorite online boss communities

I’ve joined (and left) a bunch of online groups. There are a handful I’ve stuck with over the years, and I’m so grateful to their creators and administrators for making them the vibrant, encouraging places they are today.

  • #theimperfectboss on Instagram is where Ashley Beaudin’s incredible, emotional movement got its start. The confessions you'll find here are heart-wrenching and inspiring.
  • The Savvy Business Owners Group is a new one for me, but I’m digging the Savvies. It’s a group run by Heather Crabtree that focuses on the totality of owning your own business. The spirit is lighthearted, sincere, and encouraging.
  • Think Creative Collective is one I’ve been a part of since it was just a few thousand strong. Now, there are over 16,000 members in the TCC Facebook group, and founders Emylee Williams and Abagail Pumphrey have managed to keep the intimacy and engagement I remember from the very beginning.

Even more (free) Facebook groups for you to check out

New Facebook groups for online business owners are cropping up every day. If you’re not happy with the groups you’re a part of, join a new one. Stick around for a few weeks, take note of the types of conversations that are occurring and the people who are active. See if it’s a place that makes sense for where you are and what you need. If it is, start contributing. If it’s not, find something new.

  • Kimra Luna is the most generous boss I know. Her Facebook group, Freedom Hackers Mastermind, is the first Facebook group for business owners that I joined, and it’s the community that opened my eyes to the possibilities of online business.
  • The Lemonade Stand Society is a new one to me. Creator Courtney Foster-Donahue is a breath of fresh air. She is bright and bubble but  entirely honest and present. Her personality is infectious; I’ve yet to encounter a member in the group that isn’t giving and kind.
  • Sometimes, you just need to smile. Allison Marshall, the crazy creative behind Creative Superheroes, is just the person to give you the giggles. This is a smaller, less active group, which makes it less overwhelming than the larger ones. Bonus: In smaller groups, your posts stand out more.
  • #SOCIALBOSS with Caitlin Bacher is the ultimate Facebook community for people who want to bring their businesses to the world wide web…and, ideally, build a community around their work. Caitlin pushes her followers to be the best they can be and she’s always got a challenge or freebie in her back pocket. 
  • Humans of Online Business is a group I’m smacking myself over not joining sooner. It was created by one of my favorite creative entrepreneurs, Regina of ByRegina.com, whose content is epic and extraordinary. The group is far less spammy than most groups, making it a true Facebook haven for people like us.

Instagram communities by hashtag

What I love about Instagram is how so many bosses are turning to the platform to take their followers behind-the-scenes of their businesses. They’re opening up, sharing emotional low-points and mistakes they’ve made. You know I love a story, and this is the place for storytelling. Often, interactions here can feel more one-on-one, which makes it a great place to start if you’re feeling shy about speaking up in larger groups.

  • #communityovercompetition is a hashtag created by The Rising Tide Society. RTS also has a Facebook group, but I find the Instagram community to be a little more diverse in terms of who actively participates.
  • #blogsociety has been in the game since 2013. The community is huge and filled with people who are passionate about what they do. Many of the bosses here are makers who sell their own products and doers who teach others how to improve their lives and work.
  • #fridayintroductions is a must-do every Friday for me. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to other business owners and to find people who think the way you do, live in your area, or work in a similar industry.
  • #thegramgang is a daily Instagram challenge hashtag created by Stephanie Gilbert. If you’re still trying to get your footing on IG, aren’t sure what to post on a particular day, or want to join up with a different tribe, give this one a try.
  • #girlboss is a huge, trending hashtag spawned by Nasty Gal founder and the original Girl Boss, Sophia Amoruso. Following in Sophia’s footsteps, it tends attract edgier bosses and also some newbies to the online business space.
  • #empowerher is a hashtag created by Blavity, one of the leading digital platforms for black millennials and the founder of the EmpowerHer conference. The hashtag is packed with posts from inspiring women bosses of color.

Paid communities to consider

Some people don’t like the idea of “paying for friends.” Truthfully, though, I think that’s hogwash. Whenever I join a paid group, I find the members are more committed to being active in the community because they’ve invested money in order to be there. And often, you get bonuses, whether that’s one-on-one calls with the group facilitator, exclusive content, or early access to new products.

  • If you see the name “Unf*ckwithable Girlfriends” and think to yourself, “hell yeah!” then Ash Ambirge is the chick you want to have leading your online community. And she totally could! Unf*ckwithable Girlfriends is a real thing and it really, really rocks.
  • The Bullish Society is a feminist-first group of lady bosses who don’t put up with bullshit. It welcomes 9-to-5ers and bosses alike, which makes it different from just about every other group I’ve listed here.

In-person groups in your area

Prefer face time to messaging? Depending on where you live, you might just be in luck. Some cities and small towns are meccas for creative entrepreneurs. Even if none of these groups are in your area, you’re not screwed. Get to know local small business owners or search online using location tags to find bosses near you who might be willing to form a community.

  • Create and Cultivate is a snowball movement that keeps gaining momentum. Every quarter or so, C&C hosts a one-day event in a different city. They bring in big-name speakers (think: Gloria Steinem and Jessica Alba) and run a bunch of different panels in places like L.A., Miami, and Atlanta.
  • Tuesdays Together is The Rising Tide Society’s signature local-global event. There are Tuesdays Together groups of small business owners across the U.S. and the rest of the globe. On the second Tuesday of every month, every group meets and discusses the same topic. The discussion continues online, where members of different groups interact and get to know each other.
  • Yellow Collective began as collaborative media platform for bosses who needed some moral support while doing the whole run-your-own-business thing. Recently, it’s expanded to include a membership program with local group chapters.
  • Startup Grind is powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. There are groups in more than 300 cities across the globe, including major cities outside of the United States. Its focus is on business growth and scale, and I love that they emphasize knowledge and community over networking.

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- Brittany Taylor

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