Three Dog Night nailed it: One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.
Many who decide to leave employment to fly solo in communication/PR/IMC often find it lonely. One day you have the camaraderie of fellow workers; then you are on your own with no one to talk with or to share ideas and/or approaches.
I believe that the potential loneliness and feelings of isolation among independent consultants, sole proprietors, and/or solo practitioners should be considered before a person decides to pursue entrepreneurship. I have had many conversations over the years with friends and colleagues who feel the same way.
I left corporate America in 1998 to start Les Potter Incorporated, my consulting practice. LP Inc. was chartered in the Commonwealth of Virginia as an S Corporation, or a sole proprietorship. That means I was it. If I did not attend my staff meeting, then 100 percent of my employees were absent.
As many who strike out on their own, I did not want the expense of an office at first. I worked from a well-appointed home office to save money. In so doing, I spent hours and hours alone. I am fine with that, a monk working alone in my cubicle with only classical music from my Bose Wave radio breaking the silence.
But others are not. There are many aspects of running a business successfully that entrepreneurs must deal with. But I believe that potential solo practitioners must take into consideration the lack of interpersonal contact that comes with the territory.
If you decide to go it alone, then allow me to offer some lessons learned to help you cope with the loneliness.
First, examine what you need to be fulfilled in your career. Are you mentally and emotionally prepared to go it alone? Can you truly stand to work alone away from day-to-day collegiality? If so, then proceed.
Some suggestions for those who decide to go it alone:
- If you have not already, join IABC and/or PRSA and attend monthly meetings. That not only gives you regular social interaction with fellow professionals, but also is valuable for networking and business development.
- Volunteer for IABC/PRSA committees, functions, etc., for the same reasons as above. Plus, it builds your credibility and expands your resume.
- Become active in civic groups for the same reasons that it is advisable to be active in professional associations.
- Volunteer for a nonprofit organization, a cause-related entity that is doing good in your community. Not only will you get the satisfaction of helping advance the human condition, but you will have social interaction, valuable networking, and possible business development.
- Find a place away from your home office at which you can work around people. For example, find a wired Starbucks or a pleasant restaurant and hang out there. Make it your remote office. Get to know the barristas, staff, and regular customers. You’ll have a sense of community that rivals any corporate atmosphere. But, coffee shops and restaurants are really in the real estate business — they sell space. If you hang out there taking up valuable space, be fair and support them with meaningful purchases.
- Social media is great for helping with loneliness and feelings of isolation. There are a zillion communication/PR/IMC blogs in which you can be part of a community, learning and giving and sharing all along.
- Social networks like PR Open Mic and MyRagan are ideal for building a sense of community. Plus, these networks are excellent for connecting with other communication/PR/IMC professionals and sharing knowledge for continuous professional development.
- Our little pal Facebook is great for keeping in touch, too. I love it for just that reason.
- And don’t forget email and telephone calls. Reach out to others when you feel lonely or isolated.
Reminds me of another song. Take us home, Carole King.
When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend