A job in internal comms can be lonely. You might be working as a team of one or you may be reporting to someone in HR or Marketing who doesn’t really understand your work.
I’ve been in internal communication for 12+ years and the biggest piece of advice I could give you is this: build your network. Whether you’re working in-house, working as a freelancer or running your own business, you 100% need to build a supportive network of people who can help you on your journey.
Kaz, Sharon, Advita, Trudi, Craig and I sharing IC lessons and laughs in London
I am now running my own business and the biggest thing driving my success and my growth are the people in my network supporting me and helping me. I could not figure everything out by myself (nor would I want to try) and my network of people are there when I need advice, guidance or direction.
I get a surprisingly high number of messages from people asking what it’s like leaving the corporate world to fly solo and how I have the courage to do it, so today I’m going to outline what my support network looks like and give you some practical advice on building your own. This is, in my view, totally essential if you want to strike out on your own and build your own consulting practice.
Here’s what my support network looks like, some of it is paid and some is unpaid.
1:1 coaching every month
I have a coach I meet with 1:1 on a monthly basis. He helps me with strategy, big picture thinking and getting really laser focused what I want to achieve. He asks me challenging questions and helps me think about things in a new way. I have known him for a couple of years and trust him completely. He has seen me frustrated, he has seen me happy, he has seen me cry – I can totally open up to him and this is important for me in order to get the most out of this coaching relationship. I trust him and I don’t hold back in our conversations. He has already helped me nail down a clear purpose for my business, the pillars of my business strategy and talk through which parts of the job I'm really enjoying and want to lean into more.
Group coaching every quarter
I have also invested in business coaching which takes place online once a quarter for a half-day. In these high-energy group coaching sessions, we get a mini-lesson from the coach, we commit to goals and targets for the next quarter, we help each other directly in small groups. It also includes access to a members FB group and on-demand resources to learn more about running your own business. I am finding it extremely valuable and am really pleased to access this level of business expertise so early in my Solopreneur journey.
(As an aside, I’ve had some people approach me about setting up a group like this – not for business coaching, but for internal comms practitioners to hone their skills and learn from each other. Like a small community that comes together quarterly for a mini-teaching directly with me and then focused group learning and sharing together. I'll be launching this in the coming months so get in touch if you're interested.)
I’ve found some incredible people through LinkedIn who help me directly. They’re at the end of a text when I feel out of my depth, they answer my questions on pricing, products and services. We chat on Zoom and we trade ideas and the important thing here is that these are two-way, reciprocal relationships. We help each other and we cheer each other on and we offer support in any way that we can. I have found all of these people through LinkedIn so I really recommend building up your LinkedIn network, connecting with people in our industry and finding the network of people who can be your support on your own journey.
I’ve joined a WhatsApp accountability group comprised of entrepreneurs in Ireland. We post about our goals and commit to giving updates on whether we’re hitting our goals or finding excuses to miss them. It’s a really friendly, helpful group where people cheer each other on and you can also ask for help and advice. I’ve already made plans to meet up with one of the other women in the group to spend a day co-working together in Dublin. I’m also aiming to team up with someone in this group to do an annual day-long retreat where we review our businesses, reflect on what’s working and what’s not and put together plans for the next 1, 3 and 5 years. Full accountability and full focus for a full day. [I found this group through listening to Gary Fox's podcast, The Entrepreneur Experiement. The podcast is excellent and I recommend listening to it if you've any inclination towards the Solopreneur path.]
Here’s a couple of books I’ve been reading which have helped immensely on my Solopreneur journey:
“The business of expertise” by David Baker
“Secret tradecraft of elite advisors” also by David Baker
“The win without pitching manifesto” by Blair Enns
“Rise of the Younpreneur” by Chris Ducker
“The chimp paradox” by Steve Peters
The question I get the most is this: do I have any regrets? This question is also the easiest to answer: absolutely not. I'm enjoying doing my own thing and being my own boss. I haven't a clue about how to run my own business and I think that's why I'm enjoying it so much - it's hard and it's complicated and my brain is super engaged. I'm learning every day and that makes me happy.
My most popular painkiller
Internal communication roles can be painful. You get asked to do a zillion different things but often with no resources, help or budget. Here's how I can give you some pain relief: my internal comms cheat sheets.
These are my own collection of practical, tried-and-tested templates and how-to guides to use in your role as an internal communicator. They will save you time and energy and help you accomplish critical tasks, quickly.
My Internal Comms Cheat Sheets give you step-by-step instructions that are clear, simple and easy to follow on many of the processes that you need to excel in your role.