Last week, a publication at the top of my “dream places to be published” list emailed me saying they wanted to run one of my essays.
I freaked out. I hopped around my kitchen and called my boyfriend. No answer.
I called my best friend. No answer.
Determined to share this news with someone immediately, I messaged my friend Rachel Kurzyp, who is also a writer and communications consultant in Australia.
As a fellow writer, Rachel immediately understood how exciting this was, and it was deeply satisfying to share this experience with someone who got it.
A few days after this exchange with Rachel, I attended a get-together with three other women entrepreneurs. Over cheese and eclairs, we discussed the challenges we faced in our businesses and received feedback on how to solve those problems. It was valuable in a way that reading a hundred “how-to” articles for small businesses couldn’t be.
That evening, one of the women said she’s realized how valuable her tribe is. Since then, I’ve been thinking about my tribes, and have realized how important they are to me too.
Seth Godin talks a lot about the importance of tribes, and after setting out on my own as a communications consultant and freelance writer, I understand why. I need a tribe to rely on. So do you.
What does a tribe look like, and how do you nurture it? Here are my examples.
The people in my entrepreneur tribe are who I go to when I want to discuss a new business idea or talk about the day-to-day realities of running the show solo.
This tribe includes entrepreneurs like Rachel, and others such as my father, who owns a few businesses himself (and is an accountant which means he patiently answers my tax questions and also gives unsolicited but welcome tax advice on the things I don’t know I don’t know. Get an accountant in your entrepreneur tribe if you can!). It also includes entrepreneurial people within businesses and charities, who seek creative and innovative ways working within organizations.
This is a vitally important tribe for me, as starting a business is daunting. It requires skills and verve not required in a normal 9-to-5 job, and when I don’t have the particular skills I need or my verve has run out, this tribe provides a well of support and ideas to get the job done, whether the job is launching a new service or figuring out the best invoicing app to use.
Writing is a poor choice. The pay is awful, the competition is fierce, the silence from editors is resounding, and the despair is real.
If you are going to write, you must have a tribe or you will forget what natural light looks like, because you will become addicted to the harsh glare of a computer screen as you alternate between checking your email to see if an editor has responded to you, and writing three sentences you probably hate.
Thank God I have a great writing tribe, to listen to my ideas, provide feedback on drafts, introduce me to editors, commiserate with me on forgetting what natural light is, and celebrate my successes.
Rachel’s also in this tribe, as are other writers, but leading this tribe is my boyfriend. He is a good sounding board for pitch ideas and an excellent reader of first and second drafts, somehow maintaining his objectivity and commitment to improving the piece (even when the topic of the essay is him). If you are a writer, I recommend having a partner who gets this part of you, or not bothering with a partner at all.
An important part of this tribe is the people who read my writing. They are incredible cheerleaders. Tell the writers whose work you like that you like it! They deeply appreciate hearing it.
I have a few other tribes, one that I would describe as a “wanderlust” tribe of people who live or have lived in countries drastically different than their home countries, and a “spirituality” tribe of people with whom I explore ideas of religion, meaning, and morality.
My excellent personal branding coach would point out that these four tribes — entrepreneurship, writing, wanderlust and spirituality — say a lot about who I am and what motivates me, which is why it’s worth reflecting on them.
Who are your tribes?
Who are your tribes? What are their common characteristics and values? What do they say about who you are? How do you nurture them?
While my different tribes include different people, they share a few key characteristics, such as the desire to create something out of the ordinary, which helps me offer my clients and readers something out of the ordinary.
It is incredible how easy it is to connect with your tribes and nurture them. With the internet and social media, you can find your tribe members wherever they are. Thanks to the magic of Twitter, I’ve connected with tribe members I’ve never met in person, and my work is continually enriched by them.
Finding your tribes is incredibly important for getting your ideas out there, whether you’re an independent entrepreneur, or you’re working for an organization. Your tribe desperately wants your ideas, and will buy into them in a way others won’t.
A recent Forbes article assessed the value of different marketing techniques. The upshot: few of them did much good.
For small business and charities with tight marketing budgets, this is good news: finding your tribe is one of the most effective marketing tactics out there, better than billboards or Google AdWords. Your tribe wants more of you and your ideas.
Nurture your tribe and you’ll have more business or more donors — but best of all, you’ll have support in making your ideas reality.
Need help getting your ideas to your tribe? Get in touch.