How to find your tribe
Running your own buisness as a solopreneur can be very solitary activities. Even if you go to co-working space or share a workspace you may have people around you, but it's still missing something.
Working alone often involves collaboration with clients, but the thing it lacks is a feedback loop. There are no annual reviews or regular check-ins. You do the work, and, if you're lucky clients will say "thank you". In a busy world, even if a client is very happy with the work you provide, you may not always hear it. And if a full-time employee has never been a freelancer themselves, nurturing that relationship is probably not in their DNA.
It's a strange phenomenon to experience, especially as someone who prides yourself in quality work. But here's the thing I've come to learn over time: it's far better to find your "tribe" that can cheer you on, because you won't always need to get the boost and validation you need from clients. And then there’s the case when work is slow, it always helps to know there’s someone there who has your back no matter what. (And they’ll likely check in with you without even asking.)
What is a tribe?
A tribe is a group of people you can turn to who will always have your back and are a key to your support system.
A tribe may be composed of dear old friends you've known for years, or more likely they'll be newer encounters with people who understand the latest iteration of your work. You may not always know each other super well but you know there's something where you just clicked. These parings are mutually beneficial, and both stand to gain a lot from the relationship.
My tribe is for me and all tribe members don't (and won't) know each other. The people I can call on are not the same as those someone else would call on. It's essential that tribe members bring you up, which can mean different things for different people.
I'd describe my tribe as:
connective and eager to recommend each other for certain projects
definitely NOT energy depleting
happy to bounce around ideas even if there's nothing in it for them
eager to hop on a call to talk things out
open to sharing their experiences (maybe even pricing)
love to share and promote each other without being asked
makes an effort year round, not just when they need something.
the list goes on....
I often think of my tribe as made up of mentors and peers. We are driven by a spirit of giving and sharing to raise each other up. (It's Shine Theory at work.) Instead of being just like me or doing the same kind of work, I find that each tribe member brings something new and different to my support system.
How to find your tribe?
From my experience your tribe finds you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be proactive. It more means that I don't go out to meet someone with the intention to let them into my tribe. It's a natural occurrence, with an official guest list. It just happens.
I can tell you that finding your tribe does not happen from sitting around waiting for it. Nor does it does not involve sending an email that says "Hi, I'm [name]. Will you be in my tribe?"
It takes building and fostering relationships. Sometimes tribe members will be people you interact with regularly: friends and colleagues. They may be members of the same group or association you're in who share a similar world view. Other times they will come from further afield. I've even had internet friends I've never met connect me with people who became tribe members.
Most of my tribe are people I've met in real life. Some started as exchanges on the internet. A natural and mutually beneficial relationship forms. There is no formal ask.
Places I've found my tribe:
Mentor figures at former jobs
Shared experiences (school, workshops, etc.)
Events I've attended (for alumni groups or a shared vision)
Personalized outreach emails which turned into a call which turned into more
Hopping on informal calls with fellow business owners whose work I respect
Starting a Mastermind group
Facebook groups (industry specific)
Keep in mind that it's best to go into these encounters with an open mind. You never know where they may lead. If you put too much pressure on it, perhaps it's not the right fit. Also, some relationships will take more time to develop, and those often can be even more meaningful as they're built on a strong foundation.
It's nice to have tribe members who live in the same city, or a least the same timezone so you can easily call on them. But I'm equally a proponent of having a wider tribe too. Mine spans the world and is made up of people far older, and far younger than me. There is no set number. For now, my tribe is only growing. It's like my potential, it doesn't have to end.
If you're looking for rules on having a tribe, you're thinking about it wrong. The thing to keep in mind is that no two tribes are the same. What works for me would not necessarily work for you. A tribe should be built as a support system that helps ensure that you grow and thrive. We all respond differently to different people and forces.
You'll know a tribe member has officially joined the ranks from how you feel through your interactions with that person. I feel open and understood when I talk to "my people". There are no dumb questions, and no judgement.
Why build a tribe?
To be honest, most people in "my tribe" probably don't officially know that they're in it. I've recently started keeping a list. This list serves as a reminder of people I can call when I encounter certain roadblocks or start to question my choices.
Society sometimes makes us believe that we're weak if we can't do it alone. There is no validity to this. Strength comes from knowing when and where to ask for help.
The tribe is there to help you celebrate your wins, but also to help you navigate the struggles or failures. They're not just in it for the good times, they're in it because they get it, and they've likely been there too.
Building your tribe takes time. Don't build it today because you need it tomorrow. Build it now so it's always with you whenever you need it. Building a tribe shouldn't be seen as work. It should be seen as fun.
Whenever I look at the people in my tribe it gives me a warm feeling of feeling appreciated and adored. It's something I'll rarely get from clients no matter how amazing the work I do is. My tribe makes me feel seen and heard. Nothing brings me more joy than being able to support others on their journey as I'm on mine.
A tribe is there to lift you up.
Chances are that someone in your life has reached out to help you, or you've met someone who has offered to jump on a call. Ask yourself if you've taken this person up on their offer? You feel like too much time has passed? Get over that. Send them a message. You never know what may come from it until you try. The strange thing about a tribe too is that you don’t have to have known them for a long time for you to life each other up.
How to Find a UX Mentor (Step 1: Don’t Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor) – this applies to any industry
How to start a Mastermind – don’t wait to find a group, start your own
Shine Theory – raise each other up