It’s a tough call to make. How much do you give? How hard do you try? How long are you going to stick it out? What are you willing to do before walking away?
I’m talking specifically about support groups, networking groups, writing groups and such. As creatives and entrepreneurs, we’re often invited to these types of groups. We join hoping to find like-minded people to discuss the trials and tribulations of our passions. We join looking for people to help us through the rough patches and support us in some way.
I’m a part of several writing groups. The ones I like best are groups for writers to just chum around in. We can ask for a bit of help with research or brainstorming, share neat stories and plot bunnies, and talk about the process of writing. These groups have zero focus on sales or promoting. It’s just writers hanging out. And it’s nice.
I’m in more promotion-focused groups too and I quickly lose interest. It devolves into “buy my book” and everyone shouting into the void. Everyone comes to sell and no one is there to buy. I don’t stay in groups long when they become sales groups.
I’m in handmade, craft, and local sell-stuff groups. Sometimes I’ll comment on a “looking for a gift” thread but most times people aren’t looking for books, even locally authored ones. They don’t equate books with crafts or with handmade. They don’t view books as good gifts. I like to hang around these groups anyways because I like to buy, and I like to support other local makers by tagging them in posts that might net them a sale.
The big question for me is how long do I stay in “networking groups”?
I joined a local networking group for local women who ran businesses or worked for themselves. Seemed like a great fit. I’m a writer. Not everyone is a reader, and not every reader enjoys the type of books I write. But I didn’t join the group looking to sell stuff. I went into this hoping to make connections that I needed. I need to connect with locally owned businesses in the small local towns who would be willing to stock some books. I need to connect with business owners who are looking for a proofreader or editor for their various materials. And yeah, I was hoping to connect with other people who understood the pains of marketing who would help me spread the word about some of my events.
I got none of that.
I’ve shown up for events, even events that cost me money to attend. I’ve bought from businesses promoted by the group. I’ve shared and liked posts. I’ve passed contact info back and forth. I held a contest and not a single member of the group entered. I have asked for help in promoting events and had zero shares.
So, when is it time for me to pull up stakes and leave? I mean, this obviously isn’t the community for me. None of the members actually care if I succeed or fail. I’ve done my bit, I gave and gave and tried and participated, but I see no returns. How long do I have to pay in? How much of my time and energy do I have to give to the group before the group will give back to me?
And this isn’t the only group. I’ve dedicated myself to multiple groups, over and over again, giving time and energy to wind up being the only one trying and everyone expecting everything of me. I’ve left critique groups because I was the only one actually reading and critiquing and I could never get a comment on my work. I’ve left promotion groups that were really about promoting the work of one or two people (who were not me) and the rest of us were only there to be the audience.
Maybe it’s time I leave this networking group too. Because I’ve asked for support. I’ve asked members to swing by my friend’s quilt shop but no one ever does. It has become a group run by a few for the benefit of their closest friends, and that’s fine, but then don’t advertise it as a group to help everyone. Because that’s not what you’re trying to do. It’s a group set up to help the in-crowd, and I’m not the in-crowd, I’m the awkward nerdy girl who gets stuck doing all the work for the in-crowd.
I’ve got my own projects that need my energy and if people aren’t going to help me, then I do not have the time and energy to help them either. Giving has to go both ways or givers end up burning out. And I would gladly help promote for these amazing women. I just don’t see anything in it for me except another drain on my time and energy.
It’s almost the end of the year. We all start talking about “next year’s goals”. My goal is to work on my priorities. Maybe it’s selfish, but I’m burning out. You want a piece of me this coming year? You want a piece of my time, my talents, my energy? Show up and help out. Otherwise, I won’t have the time or the energy to spend on you. And I won’t regret it one bit.