(This post was originally written in November 2015. Groups may have changed or closed since time of writing)
No matter how rewarding or busy your work is, being a full or part-time stay-at-home entrepreneur gets lonely. And lonely is bad for business! It's important to make community a priority, and not just because you can check “networking like a boss!” off your To Do list when its a priority.
Community is crucial to your growth as a business owner. Without it, you're missing out on referrals, collaboration opportunities, and informal learning and development. And that means you're missing out on the income you could gain from referrals and hone your expertise.
Even better? Feeling supported and valued can make a huge positive impact on your state of mind, which makes you better prepared to take on new challenges and risks.
What are Facebook groups, exactly?
If you've taken an online course in the past several years, you may be part of a Facebook group with other students. Those groups are great, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. There are many that are completely free and open for you to join – even if they don't look like that at first.
To help you uncover more free Facebook groups, I've made you a quick video tutorial on how to search for them and how to apply to join them:
17 Facebook groups for entrepreneurs, freelancers and bloggers ready to step up their networking:
- Being Boss – Originally formed around my friend Kathleen Shannon's wonderful Being Boss podcast, the Facebook group has grown to provide community, support and networking opportunities to a wider community.
- Blogging On Your Own Terms – Blog expert Daniela Uslan runs a large, vibrant community for bloggers. This group is especially helpful for building shares and comments of your work, and for new bloggers looking for help.
- Babes Making Things – Easily one of my favourite group on Facebook, Babes Making Things is full of smart women from all walks of life. It's full of top bloggers, artists and newbies alike and has an inclusive, encouraging tone. If you feel like blogging is exclusive and crave some real talk, join up.
- The Rebel Speaker – If you speak as part of your work, or are exploring teaching and speaking as a career, The Rebel Speaker is the place for you to connect, gain confidence and own the stage.
- Femtrepreneur with Mariah Coz – Femtrepreneur is a group for ambitious online entrepreneurs who want to create an income and an impact creating and selling online courses.
- Blog + Biz BFFs – Run by Melyssa Griffon of the popular blog, The Nectar Collective, Blog & Biz BFFs is the community side of her site that's full of bloggers and business owners. This is a great place to add value by helping others and sharing advice.
- Unstoppable Design & Dev Crew – Erin Flynn is our to make designers and developers unstoppable! And she's just the lady for the job. This group is all about advice, input and professional networking for designers and developers of all stripes.
- Blogging Boost – Ready to grow your blog and have almost 10k new friends to bounce ideas off of? Blogging Boost is a large, active group, that can get you answers, input and feedback – fast.
- Creative's Corner – Looking for creative support and to nurture your entrepreneurial spirit? Creative's Corner is all about empowering, inspiring and engagement in its community.
- The Blog Loft – For bloggers who want to grow their blog, The Blog Loft is a great place to start. Aside from weekly participation threads, it also encourages sharing giveaways and discounts, along with guest posting opportunities.
- Freelance to Freedom – Leah Kalamakis' community is all about freelancers (and freelance hopefuls) supporting other freelancers. This is a place for helpful resources, referral opportunities, being of service and helping new friends.
- NiceOps Planathon – This free planning group is most active between October – January, and is packed with value! Amber McCue hosts the annual Planathon where videos are posted every day during the planathon week, and participants are encouraged to spend a bite sized amount of time on planning to prepare for the new year.
- Shelancers – At the time of publishing this group is under 200 members, so if you're looking for a community where you can make personal connections, this could be just the place for you. Shelancers is for freelancing ladies to get support, community, and feedback.
- Freedom Hackers Mastermind – Kimra Luna has made a huge splash over the past year with her business success, and her Facebook group is a vibrant, active community for working through your ideas, getting feedback and networking with other engaged entrepreneurs.
- Simplified Systems – Wish running your business was easier? (Who doesn't?) This group supports business owners in created streamlined systems to run their businesses with more ease and less hassle.
- The Marketing Moxie group for Entrepreneurs – Do you need somewhere to talk about promoting yourself without feeling sales-y, or making your next big thing even bigger? This group helps you bring more attitude to your work and to your marketing.
- The Rising Tide Society – The Rising Tide Society believes in educating and empowering Creatives Entrepreneurs to thrive in the spirit of Community over Competition. The purpose of their group is to give all creatives a daily place to check in with their colleagues, participate in group discussion, ask questions, and seek positive support.
Tips for networking in Facebook Groups
Ive been networking in online communities for bloggers since 2008, and theyve been a big part of my success. They give you a way to build your reputation and deliver value to others.
The power of word-of-mouth and reputation is huge in online business. I know many online business owners whove never advertised and dont offer services through their websites.
This works because after attending a few conferences and investing in online networking, their business runs entirely on referrals. While it might not be the model you want, it's pretty genius, right?
Heres how to stand out from the crowd:
Read the rules
All communities have their own rules and guidelines, and if you dont know them you could get yourself kicked out! Most rules are posted on the first page of a forum, in the group description or are pinned. Read them now! Also, re-read them if youre returning to a group after youve been inactive.
Be profoundly helpful
If youre hanging back because youre worried about how to network without being cheesy, just be yourself! One of the most effective ways to network is to read and respond to questions and suggest ideas to those asking for help. Be friendly and look for ways to help other people instead of opportunities for yourself.
While it might seem subtle at first, for many people it creates more opportunities for while building your reputation all at once.
Act like a star student
Being an enthusiastic student can be a great way to attract positive attention to your brand. By making the group a priority, you send the other members the message that they matter to you.
One of the most important things to remember is that drive by sharing isn't the way to make an impact in any group. Be interactive by asking questions to the group, sharing celebrations, challenges, links and adding to the community. You could even suggest a google hangout work-date or work challenge for like-minded people! Being active in the group is a great way to get the attention of its creator. Quality posts in a group can make your name one they, and the other members, trust and recognize.
Founder Tip: Starting a group? Dont make this rookie mistake!
In one of the last stages of starting a Facebook group, Facebook will ask you to add people to your group. This makes perfect sense, right? And if Facebook suggests that you add people its probably a good next step, right? Wrong!
I didnt know about this until too late because Im not a big Facebook user. Im guilty as charged on this one.
For many people in online networking, bulk additions to a new group is a huge pet peeve and a dead giveaway that a group is being started by someone without experience. While your group might grow slower at first, its worth inviting your friends to join with a link to your group and a quick, thoughtful message. Theyll appreciate that you thought of them and that you gave them a chance to consider if your group is a good match for their life right now.
Just remember – networking is like making friends, but theres a business purpose to the friendship. It's about quality, not quantity. And as with making friends, the right way to do it is what feels right to you!
If you put a little time into this every week, youll discover what works for you in no time.