The Unexpected Benefits of a Digital Business Community

July 18th 2017, 4:48pm

It was a leap of faith for me to set up a business on my own. After more than 10 years in the relatively secure comfort of corporate life, I had lots of concerns about doing it alone. How would I find work? How would I manage my finances? Could I earn enough to live on?

I expected it to be challenging. I expected it to feel a bit lonely at times. I still expect to get things wrong before I figure out the right way for me. But what I didn't expect was to find a group of brilliant people always ready with a smile, to support, encourage and recommend other local businesses. That’s what I’ve found through the #DoDigital Business Community.

I believe in supporting local businesses. I live in a lovely little village with some great independent shops. I can go out and buy last minute essentials, eat tasty food, find a gift, a card or even a new outfit just a short walk from my home.

Through #DoDigital, my local business community has grown massively. I now talk to digital and technology experts and trainers, photographers, artists and craftspeople, career counsellors and therapists, travel agents and jewellery makers and people who do things I never even thought of. 

I spent 10 years working as a copywriter in a marketing department for a large business software company. These were exactly the kind of people I was trying to write for when I created marketing materials, emails, blog posts, brochures and campaigns targeted at small business owners. 

And yet, it was incredibly difficult for me to get real insight and understanding of these businesses, because I had very few opportunities to interact with them unless I was their customer.

It seems all I had to do was start my own business. 

I took a punt and joined the #DoDigital community early on. I thought it would be a good way of networking and raising awareness of my writing, training and brand storytelling services. It is. But it's so much more than that.

Here are just some of the things that have happened since I became part of this brilliant business community:

  • Sharon MacArthur gave me a good pep talk and pointed me in the right direction to get started.
  • Talbot Jones Risk Solutions went above and beyond to find me the right indemnity insurance when one of my clients asked for it.
  • Creative Calligraphy solved the problem of finding the right thank you card by creating a bespoke and beautiful design.
  • Helena Borthwick Hill has reviewed my website usability and given me some great customer targeting advice.
  • Ann English has taken a good look at my brand story and produced a mind map to help me develop and grow my business.
  • John Barkess has shared his experience of being a freelancer working in creative industry.
  • Gavin Forster has offered digital app recommendations and LinkedIn tips that I've used with success.
  • Rachel McClumpha shared photography tips and encouraged me to get more creative with images.
  • I've been for a run with and written a guest post for Kelly Oliver Dougall.
  • And I've talked training with James Lane and Nicola Jayne Little - both giving and receiving it.

I can safely say that I've had more meaningful, impactful and productive conversations with people in business since joining this business community than I did in 10 years working for a large corporate. My only fear in writing that list is that I'll have missed someone out.

Being part of your local business community isn’t always about selling, or always recommending your mates. I've actually done direct, money-changing-hands business with only a few people. But it has other benefits and values.

I often offer a piece of advice to fellow writers - find your tribe. By that I mean the people who understand and will support and encourage you. In the #DoDigital community, I feel like I've found my business tribe.

There is always someone I can turn to for advice, admit when I'm having a wobbly moment or celebrate success with. You will push me to reach my potential and I'll applaud when I see you reach yours. You are sociable, savvy and above all, you sparkle. Thank you for making me feel so very welcome.