When you’re just starting to build your crochet business, you may feel like an outsider. But community is so important. Building strong relationships with other handmade sellers can have a huge positive impact on your morale, your productivity, and your opportunities to contribute. So when you’re the new kid on the block, how can you make friends with other creative professionals and add value to the online business community? Let’s talk about what to do (and what not to do) to as you build your network.

Photo of Pam Grice smiling and using a laptop, labeled CBA. To her left are four stick figures, one of which looks isolated from the others. Text reads: Handmade sellers: How to Build Community When You're the Outsider. Free Handmade Business Binder.

What Should You Do When You Feel Like an Outsider?

[00:00:00] Have you ever felt like an outsider in the handmade community? One of the hardest parts of starting a business or starting a new job is a feeling like an outsider–not having friends, not having a community, not having the support you need to build your business. And when you start an online business, it’s even harder.

YouTube video

Transcript: Building Community When You’re the New Kid on the Block

[00:00:26] Hi, gang. So it’s Pam from Crochetpreneur.com. I am here to talk to you today about building community, becoming part of the community as a brand new business owner, or as someone who is an existing business owner, just hopping on the internet and trying to build that community and become a part of the larger, in my case, crochet community. But this can be reflected in all parts of the handmade community as well. When you’re the new kid on the block, it’s really hard to fit in and building community is tough. But when you don’t do that, it can have a huge impact on your business as far as your own morale, as far as finding people to collaborate with, as far as feeling supported, all of those things.

[00:01:19] So I’m just looking at my notes because I’m having a hard time getting back in the groove of business after the Summit but we’ll just trek on. If you don’t already know, we held the Crochet Business Summit about a week and half ago. And we have a lot of brand-new crochet business owners who are thinking, “What about me? How do I find friends? How do I fit in? How do I connect with people? How do I collaborate with people? How do I know what I don’t know? How do I break into what look to be cliques in the community?”  

[00:01:57] So I want to talk about how to make that process easier, how to avoid some missteps. I’ll even share some of the mistakes that I made along the way. And I’ll answer your questions as well. So welcome, for those of you who are watching live. I’ll be happy to answer your questions in the comments when I’m finished. Otherwise, if you’re watching on replay, let us know … With #replay, let us know when you started your crochet business. And I would love to know if any of these things that we’re going to talk about feel like your own story as well. So you can let us know that in the comments.

[00:02:42] So if you’re brand new here, my name is Pam Grice. Again from Crochetpreneur.com. I am a crochet business coach and retired psychotherapist. And I am here to help you grow a profitable handmade business and support you in that process.

The Benefits of Building Relationships in the Community

[00:03:01] So let’s get started. So let’s first talk about the benefits of building relationships in the community. Like I said earlier, when you build those relationships, when you make friendships, when you connect with others in the community, your own morale goes up and the morale of the community goes up. Also you increase productivity because of that morale. You get opportunities for collaborations. You have opportunities for support. Your contribution is even more impactful because what you do ripples out into the community. And you also broaden your network. And you get more perspectives also on your business, on the community, and on trends in the industry.

[00:03:54] What do you do when you first enter the community? We’re calling it the community. So whether it’s on Instagram, or it’s on Facebook, or even if you’re doing a craft fair and you’re meeting new people, what are the steps to making new friends? It’s really hard as an adult to make new friends. I think a lot of us have lost that skill over the years.

Six Steps for Making Friends with Handmade Sellers

Take It Slow

[00:04:20] So first thing is to take it slow, observe, and learn the culture of the community that you’re in. Even different Facebook groups have different cultures. Don’t step into a Facebook group, or into a group of people on Instagram, or just onto Instagram itself, TikTok, YouTube, whatever and assume that you understand or know the culture of that platform or the community on that platform. So hang around in the background just a little bit. Of course, introduce yourself.

[00:04:52] But look, and listen, and see how that community relate to one another, how they respond to negativity, how they vent and how they respond to venting, whether it’s a positive uplifting community or whether it’s not–all of those things. What are the community norms? Keep an eye on those things before you start engaging so that you can understand, “What is this culture? Does it feel right to me? Do I feel like I’m going to fit in here?” And if not, you can just move on to a different group of people, if you don’t feel like you fit in. But if you do, then engage away. 

Decide Who You Want to Make Friends With

[00:05:22] As you extend your network, step two … I should’ve put, “Here’s step one.” Step one is take it slow, observe, and learn the culture. Step two is decide who you want to make friends with. So again, when you’re inside a Facebook group or whether you’re on Instagram, you’re going to see people who you think, “Oh my gosh. We could totally be friends,” or, “We are thinking on the same wavelength,” or, “We operate the same way. Our values are the same. I’d like to connect with that person.”

[00:06:21] So rather than just saying, “Oh, that person’s making a lot of money,” or, “That person’s really popular. I want to be friends with them.” Really be intentional about saying, “Who do I feel like I’ll connect with?” You don’t want to go hopping into groups where you will then not be happy or making friends with people who then you find out maybe are not people that you would actually want to be friends with in real life. So again, take it slow. Decide, “Oh, this person looks like someone I would really connect with,” and then you can reach out to them.

[00:07:03] You’re going to want to connect with new kids on the block like you and also veteran community members, so that you expand your community– both people that you can relate to because they’re new like you and then people who can be more in a mentor role or someone you can look up to role, someone who’s been around for a while.

Who to Avoid

[00:07:27] Just keep an eye out for cliques. As with any community, there are cliques and people who are definitely in a locked-down community and aren’t really looking for other people to join their community. And keep an eye out for toxic environments. Always, I try to stay away from negativity. I try and stick with people who are good vibes–not toxic good vibes, but definitely empowered people because empowered people empower people and disempowered people seek to disempower others. So if there’s people who are constantly complaining, constantly helpless, constantly operating in a victim mentality, then if you’re going to attach yourself to those people, they’re going to drag you down with them because that’s just the natural order of things. So look for people who are empowered.

[00:08:23] And also look for individuals and groups. There are groups that are open groups that say, “We welcome new people. We’d love to connect with you. How can we help you?” Those kinds of things.

Find the Right Time to Connect

[00:08:36] Step three is find the right time to connect. Oftentimes–and this is just my experience–when I am the busiest in my business is when people send me messages and reach out. I think it’s because the busier you are, the more exposure you’re having or the more people see you. And so then people reach out and I just don’t have time to respond. I don’t have time to connect. I’m really stressed out. And so those messages just go unanswered because I just don’t have the capacity.

[00:09:12] So if there’s someone that you really want to reach out to, watch what their life looks like. People share their life or they share their business. And you can see, “Oh gosh. They’re really stressed. They’re in the middle of a launch. They’re in the middle of a new design. They’re in the middle of writing a book,” whatever. So when you reach out, recognize where that person is in their life, that they’re not just sitting around waiting for your message. Yeah, check in with that.

[00:09:44] And even you can just reach out to give an encouraging word rather than seeking feedback or seeking to get on a coffee chat or something. That is a really great way to connect is to just send an encouraging word and say, “Hey, I’d love to connect some time. I know you’re really busy right now. But I’m going to check back with you when things slow down. I’d love to connect.” That can just give them a heads up but not put pressure on them to respond.

Ways To Connect

[00:10:12] But different ways that you can connect are, again, an encouraging message. Coffee chats–this is something that if I had capacity, which I don’t right now, I would love to institute coffee chats where people could just schedule 20 minutes to or 15 minutes to get on a Zoom call and just say, “Hey, how can we work together? How can I support you? How can we support each other? Can we collaborate on something?” I would love to do that. And some people do have the time for that. So if that’s you, and if you’re an extrovert and you love people, maybe get onto Calendly or Acuity Scheduling, or something like that, where you could just give people a link, and they could schedule a call, and they could connect with you that way.

[00:10:58] You could schedule a Zoom lunches where you could connect with one or more people to just chat. Another thing you could do is attend networking events and coworking opportunities so that you can just get to know people and chat with them. In CBA, we have a monthly networking event where people can just connect and make friends.

[00:11:20] Remember to give before taking. So if you’re writing to someone saying, “Hey, can you tell me who your connection is at whatever yarn company,” which I don’t recommend doing that. People work hard for their connections and you’re like skipping the process when you reach out and say, “Hey, give me your connections.”

[00:11:40] Instead, you could say, “Hey, I see you’re working on this thing. I have a connection that I’d love to connect you with this person. I think you guys could work really well together.” So giving rather than taking is so important. So when you’re looking for people to connect with, say, “What do I have to offer in this relationship? Or am I just trying to take from this person, and take from this person, and take from this person?” That’s not how you build friendships. So again, be mindful of other people’s time, energy, experience and give before taking.

[00:12:19] Always say thank you and be memorable. Be different. Something I like to do with my Summit is I always send gifts to all of my speakers and they’re like, “Oh my gosh. This has never happened before. People just don’t send gifts. And I do this in my community as well. When someone is particularly really helpful in my community or they do something really special,  I send them a little gift in the mail. And in that way, you become different. You become memorable. So think about, “How can I connect with people that’s different, and memorable, and makes them feel seen?”And in that way, you just automatically build rapport.

Let it Progress Organically

[00:13:02] Next is to let it progress organically. So once you reach out and you connect with someone or you connect in a group, let it progress organically. Don’t try to push it because anytime you try to push friendships or you try and push connection, there’s that element of perhaps desperation that creeps into that connection and it just feels weird. So opening the door without being pushy. Don’t push open the door and be like, “I’m here and we’re going to be friends.” Instead say, “Hey, I’d love to connect.” And you connect and you then let that grow organically into a deeper friendship. And the people who you don’t connect with will fall away. And the people who you do connect with will connect back with you.

[00:13:59] So it’s just like when you’re a kid. There are people that will automatically be attracted to you and you to them. And there’ll be people that you want to be friends with but they don’t feel connected to you. And that’s okay. You have to just give space for that to happen. Remember that not everybody’s going to like you. And I know that can be hard. Even as an adult, it can be hard to say, “Not everyone’s going to like me.” But stick around and continue to connect with those people who are interested in doing that.

Be a Leader, Be a Light

[00:14:34] And then yeah. Be a leader. Be a light. Be the one who reaches out. People are scared. I know we’re all adults and I know this isn’t high school anymore. But you know how when there’s a new kid in school? Maybe they’re afraid to reach out. So maybe you keep an eye out for new folks and you be the one who reaches out to them and says, “Hey, I see you’re new in the group. Let me know if you need anything. Let me know if you have any questions–if you have questions about how this group operates or how you might connect with–” if you’re a designer– “like with a blog hop, how that operates. How you can offer value to the group. What the group needs that maybe you can help with that.”

[00:15:23] So again, be the positive person who reaches out to the new kid, who sits next to them on the bus. If you remember back to school, there’s the new kid who comes into the cafeteria and is sitting by themselves eating lunch, sitting by themselves on the bus, sitting by themselves in the playground. It’s the same way as adults. The new kids don’t necessarily feel seen or feel comfortable reaching out. So maybe you could reach out to them. So I wrote here, “Create the environment you want to be a part of. Invite others. And of course, always check your vibes.” Make sure that you’re being a light and a positive influence on the community rather than a drain on the community’s energy.

Give it Time

[00:16:15] And give it time. It takes time to make connections. And one of the things I think I did in the beginning, I didn’t realize what I didn’t know. So I was just like, “Why would people not want to be friends with me? I’m nice.” And so I would reach out to people and they were like, “No thanks.” Or they wouldn’t write back. Or they would be condescending, even. Or they would be like, “You’re bothering me,” kind of message.

[00:16:50] And I don’t think I was overly off- putting but maybe I was not understanding the way the community operated and expecting that other people were as excited to make connections as I was. And they weren’t. So just give it time. Your friendships will come. The people that share your values, and share your views on life, and share your views on business, and share your goals and the way that you operate, they will come. It will happen.

Bonus: Find Your People and Be the Friend That You Wish You Had

[00:17:32] So find your people and be the friend that you wish you had. And ultimately, that is where you’re going to find the most joy in your business. And one of the best pieces of advice I had when I was like, “There’s no groups of crochet business owners that I feel a part of, that I feel connected to.” And my business coach was like, “Go create that community. Go do it. Go create what you wish you had. And it will attract people who feel the same and then you’ll be able to make connections with people there.” So I really recommend that you do that and really be open and authentic about, “This is what this group is for. If you’re into this, then join us.

[00:18:18] So those are my little recommendations for making friends in the community. I know maybe it doesn’t feel like it’s the most important topic when you’re starting a crochet business. But really, it will really help you to build morale and to grow your business and network when you do reach out and make those friendships.

Viewer Comments

[00:18:41] So now I’m going to check your comments before we go and get back to work. Let’s see. Oh, hey, someone from Cortez. My son used to sing in a children’s chorale and they went to Cortez and sang a long time ago. Man, it must be almost 25 years ago. That’s crazy to even think about. Good morning, Bonnie. Good morning, Chanel. So great to see you guys. Okay. “Relationship need to be intentional.” Yes.

Make Outsiders Feel Welcome

[00:19:22] “I’ve always instilled in my children. Maybe I should practice what I preach.” Yes, Jane. The things that we teach our kids, we don’t always recognize ourselves. In-person, I have a really hard time making friendships. I really need those extroverted people to approach me because I’m very shy. I have social anxiety. I have a really hard time making friends with people in person. So I really appreciate those people who will reach out.

[00:19:50] On the flip side of that, I am always the person who, if I see someone else is uncomfortable, I’m going to approach them because I know how it feels to be in their position. So I always approach them and I’m like, “Hi. What are you doing here? How can I show you around?” That kind of stuff. And so I appreciate people doing that for me and I do that for other people.

[00:20:00] And that’s what I would always teach my son as well, when he was growing up, is keep an eye out for people who are feeling outside and make them feel a part of the group and make them feel a part of the community. So that’s what I hope I have done for all of you. And I really encourage you to do that as well as you start your business, as you grow in the community. So I hope that helped.


[00:20:39] If you are a brand new crochet business owner, be sure to check out, I think here, this video on how to start a crochet business, if you haven’t already done it. That video will help you. And I look really forward to working together with you all through the coming year as we continue to grow our businesses and make an impact on our community. And I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day. I’ll see you guys later.

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