Groups: How to Join, How to Act, How to Leave

If you’re a solopreneur, there’s a good chance your opportunities are not maximized and your time not optimally invested. Believe it or not, some solo professionals eschew active marketing activities, opting instead for the “Field of Dreams” marketing plan. You know, build it and they will come.

The stark reality for most professionals, however, is the constant nagging thought of what else can I be doing to further promote myself, my expertise, and my business?

Individual professionals often bear the full burden of doing this and marketing their particular skills, services, and products. Whether you’re a tattoo artist, a musician, a real estate professional, or a wedding planner, you know how time consuming self-promoting can be. Social networking for the dedicated solopreneur is a good place to promote products or services, but it is still time consuming.

Professional Groups

Google+ and LinkedIn have become welcome territory for solo professionals, providing useful marketing and outreach tools, a home to millions of other professionals, and countless groups one can generally join with no more effort than sending a request. But this doesn’t mean you should be part of every group or post incessantly in any of them.

Choose Groups Wisely

If you’re a freelance photographer, for example, there’s no question you’ll find value joining a group of other freelance photographers. You can always learn by being surrounded by similar professionals, which includes staying informed about current industry standards and requirements. While learning from each other, keep in mind that you’re all competition for each other.

  • Consider Potential for Generating Business

  • Be an active group member

  • Share your portfolio, if you have one

  • Create professional relationships with other group members

  • Offer advice and tips

  • Share leads for other service professionals when possible

  • Make yourself memorable

  • Keep your presence professional, and genuine.

Group Etiquette

The last thing a committed solopreneur needs is for new group of potentially great resources to think of him or her as a know-it-all who never shuts up, who always has a one-up story, and is overly fond of having the last word.

Perception is reality when it comes to online groups, and while you may get a second chance to make a first impression, wasting those valuable business cycles redeeming your good name is costly and comes with no guarantee of redemption. Here are things you should do:

  • Play it smart out of the gate. Look around, listen, and take it slow.

  • Join in conversations in which you share interest or expertise.

  • Let other group members warm to you and recognize your presence.

  • Observe the style of banter taking place.

  • Learn which group members are the real movers and shakers.

In short, be the type of group member you’d like to have in a group you might start.

Knowing When to Leave

It’s easy to start out joining groups, being certain each one you join will be rich with wisdom and opportunity. Sooner or later, however, you’ll discover eight of the ten groups you joined don’t meet your expectations.

There’s no reason to continue this unproductive use of your time, particularly if your other groups are stimulating and useful. Leave, if for no reason other than to clear the clutter in your browser. Make it a rule to not belong to unproductive groups. Instead, continue seeking other groups that will suit you, increase your activity in the groups that do work for you, and even consider starting your own group. Join, explore, then winnow down to what’s working for you.

Starting Your Own Group

It’s natural for solopreneurs to want to start an online group. After all, the solo professional typically possesses a clear vision, is assertive and self-assured, and wants to continually grow his or her business.

Starting an online group is an excellent way to promote your services. It’s also a great way to belong to something that works in the way you’ve envisioned it to work. You’re in control of who gets to join, who’s invited, and how you’ll market yourself to attract an ever-growing membership of quality participants.

There’s about a million don’ts, but they’re easy to avoid because they’re all rooted in common sense.

  • Setting group rules and expectations is a savvy approach.

  • Keep it simple, though. Not too many strictures.

  • Always consider yourself a participant like every other group member.

  • Let the group police itself most of the time. Less is better. If a member needs direction, do it tactfully.

  • Build something truly valuable by measuring against your original group goals. Are you accomplishing what you set out to do?

Networking is the lifeblood of the solo professional. Participating in online groups with your industry peers and potential clients is mandatory to the survival of any solo business. It’s impossible to know where the lead will come from or how it will even be discovered, which is the reason solopreneurs must be their own best promoters.

Elli Bishop is a writer for BusinessBee, the place to go for all of your small business needs — from startup advice to learning about  Software as a Service. Follow us on Twitter at @BusinessBeeCom and Facebook.