Being self-employed, running a small business, being your own boss, the master of your own destiny and all you survey (however you describe it) is blooming marvellous. What we don’t talk about quite so much is how bloody hard it is too. How lonely it can be, how stressful, how guilty you feel for taking any time off, how your relationships can suffer, how your health can suffer. These are all very real possibilities when you run your own business. But that doesn’t mean they have to be that way.
When I joined the world of the self-employed a year ago, I hadn’t really thought about the possible negative elements to remote working. Don’t get me wrong, I do get out and about, visiting clients, networking, going to events etc, but it’s also very easy to let all of this slip when you’re busy delivering your client work. And it’s easy to find yourself (particularly in winter) going for days without really getting outside, speaking to your peers or taking a break at all.
‘Take a walk’
I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful park with ancient woodland nearby (nature is my happy place). And following lessons learnt from previous employment where working from home was an option, I made sure that ‘take a walk’ was on my to do list from the off.
when you’re busy and trying to get a new business off the ground, trying to be all things for the business, it’s really easy to let self-care slip and before you know it, and as one person said, “it was Thursday and I realised I hadn’t left the house all week”.
This is obviously not good at all. We all know that exercise is not only good for the body, but for the mind. We also know that nature is proven to be beneficial to our mental well-being just by being near it – how amazing is that!?
Acorns & Oaks is all about people in small business – helping them to look after their people and themselves – lessening the burden of managing a team and trying to run a business. I talk a lot about flexible working and well-being at work, so I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I didn’t practice what I preach wouldn’t I?
And then there’s the networking
Love it or hate it, networking is necessary for all small businesses and fitting that around running your business and life (should you still have one) isn’t easy. Finding ones that suits you in terms of time, format and budget; and following up with any contacts you might make becomes a part-time job in itself. When are you supposed to find the time to go outside and exercise?
An idea started to develop. Why not combine the two? I’m far more likely to go for that walk if I’ve committed myself to meeting others. I prefer an informal networking meeting style and being in my first year, I really don’t have much of a budget to spend on costly networking events. So, I floated the idea with a couple of small business groups that I’d joined and found that other people felt the same and loved the idea.
And so, NetWalking was born.
NetWalking is exactly what it sounds like. I organise free sessions in the local park for any local small business owner or freelancer. We take a leisurely walk around the park and woodland for about 45 mins chatting as we go and then for those that wish to have a cuppa and continue chatting, we head to the park’s café at the end.
As with all networking, it’s not just about winning new business each time (although business has been done) but about sharing stories, tips, sometimes just having a bit of a download. It’s all about building a small business community who can support each other, as well as getting outside and stretching your legs.
This has now been running since spring 2018, but as I started to look into it more, it would seem that NetWalking has been a thing for quite some time and I didn’t invent a new way of networking at all. But who cares if I didn’t reinvent the wheel, the point is to get outside and talk to like-minded people and that’s what counts.
Don’t just take my word for it, here’s what a couple of NetWalkers have to say:
“I run a business locally, I also have a dog. So, this is perfect for me. Working on your own can be incredibly isolating. It’s great to be able to take in some fresh air, exercise and meet like-minded business owners all at the same time. I’ve been on the majority of the NetWalks now and in that time, I have found out more about some of the business owners than I had by meeting them at more formal networking events. There’s no hard sell, it’s just getting to know each other on a very authentic level. I’ve also discovered new bits of my local park, so it’s perfect for me, and for the pooch!” – Carol-Ann Walters, Marketing & PR Consultant
I’ve only been along to NetWalking once, but I really enjoyed being outdoors and getting some exercise all in the name of work! And because you’re walking along chatting to people, rather than standing around holding a coffee cup, it feels much more relaxed and natural than more traditional networking groups.” – Michelle Richards, Headshot & Commercial Photographer
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