The silence was deafening.
I’d spent the best part of the week crying about everything. From TV shows to client emails, and the fact that I’d need to go to the supermarket in the next two days.
So – the serious stuff.
It was in the canned food aisle at Auchan that the reason for my exaggerated emotion hit me – I hadn’t had a face-to-face conversation with another human being for five days straight.
I missed being hugged. Eye contact. Discussions. It was like my ability to communicate had been stripped to nothing. After leaving my job in a busy corporate environment, I started my copywriting business in Paris and decided to go it alone.
I‘d gone from a busy social day, to having nobody but myself to talk to. That’s right– I’d started talking to myself. Times were rough.
Fast forward 12 months and the environment couldn’t be more different. Plenty of business friends to co-work with, solid entrepreneurial groups to share experiences with, and a social working environment that I didn’t think was possible 12 months prior.
How did I do it? And as a business owner going it alone, how can you create an environment where you have people around you to stop you going insane?
Let’s dive in:
Find your people
The beauty of Paris is that it’s an entrepreneurial hub. From tech start-ups to creatives and smart service providers, there’s support for all interests. And by support, I mean groups that will help you with developing your business idea, finding clients, sourcing material or improving your skills.
When you’re a lonely entrepreneur, they can also help you find co-working partners. So your first task is to start joining group events to integrate with the business community. Target meeting with groups once a week, and go back to meet ups with those groups you clicked with.
If you’re stuck for ideas, give these groups a try:
Expats Paris: speak to one of the organisers, who would be happy to connect you with other business owners they know
Anglopreneurs: an incredibly helpful and giving group of Anglophone entrepreneurs
Paris Women of Success: especially useful if you’re a coach or therapist
Paris New Tech: perfect if your business is a tech start-up and you’re not only looking for an investor
It’s easy to set the intention of attending a group event once a week, but will you actually do it? Advocate your success by acknowledging that there will never be a “perfect” week for you to fit a meet up into. Look up the dates and times for group meetings and mark them in your calendar.
Once you’re there, keep an open mind about who you’ll meet. Some people will be ready to have a co-working buddy, and others won’t. Turning up with the intention of meeting the one (or a number of the ones – I can see how this sounds like dating) can put a lot of pressure on you. So, challenge yourself to simply meet people and see who you connect with.
For those that you do connect with, be brave and ask them if they ever co-work with others (replace co-work with “are you single?” and this really is sounding like dating advice). They may not usually, but perhaps they’ll consider it if you offer. So offer! If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?
Take their number and email address, and agree to keep in touch.
Don’t wait. Initiate.
Most people wait. For a client to find them. For their luck to change. And for the other person to make the first move.
Don’t wait. Be the one to initiate.
If the people you asked to co-work with at the meetups haven’t been in touch first, be proactive and call them.
Before you do, arm yourself with potential dates, times and places you could meet to co-work. Then when they say yes, you can make a few suggestions and, um, seal the deal.
Here are some of my favourite places in Paris to co-work:
Numa: a large co-working space with plenty of natural light. Show up early though, as seats are taken very quickly.
La Cafeotheque: central location, good wifi, and excellent gluten-free options
Loustic: good if you want to work for a couple of hours – their coffee is phenomenal!
Anti-Café: there’s a small fee to pay, but this is a traditional co-working space, where people show up to work rather than socialize
Costa: I’m not joking! It may be a chain, but it certainly has good wifi!
Just like you won’t find a solid relationship after just one date, you won’t find your co-working tribe after one co-working session.
Before you part ways, ask your new buddy if they’d like to meet again (ooh! A second date!). Perhaps ask them to invite someone else, or you could invite someone too.
Over time, you’ll find a group of co-working buddies to call on whenever you’re working and lonely.