In his song immortalized in the musical Rent, Jonathan Larsen asks, “How do you measure a year?”
”In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?"
(Seasons of Love, Jonathan Larsen - click song title for video of movie version)
I watched a film of the final Broadway performance of Rent last week, and the cast sings this song immediately following the intermission. Facing the audience side by side, there’s no movement, dancing, or drama accompanying the song. The action breaks while the cast ponders in song the meaning and value of a year.
Perhaps not coincidentally, I noticed last week that I had completed my first year in Biznik. So I took my own intermission; a short break in the action to step back and ponder how I might "measure" my first year in Biznik.
Measured in people, 220 people joined my personal network. Of these people, over 80% were brand new contacts, and most of them I “know” on some level, at least through a conversation at an event or through Biztalk. (I.e., they’re not like random Twitter followers.) Many, I met at one of the 54 events I attended.
This year I also created three “Groups,” which now have 441 members (with overlap). Although under-utilized, I’m starting to see some great connections there, too.
Seattle music producer Loren Weisman met me through Biznik and now holds events linking those in the Seattle Musicians and Performers group with others in the music community at large. A woman posted an opportunity for “Seattle Cold Readers,” (actors reading scripts for an audience) in the same group, I messaged it out, and the next week another group member (who didn’t even know the first gal) was inspired to audition – and was cast!
The week I joined Biznik, I read dozens of articles full of helpful ideas and useful strategies. In the past months, many inspiring and insightful entrepreneurs have taught me through their events, articles, and mentoring. They’ve made a difference through their wisdom and by being role models. A few I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Others I’ve been able to refer and recommend.
Measured in clients, over half of my new clients this year came from my Biznik community, either directly or indirectly! Some were members, some were introduced to me by members. Some discovered me through an article or other Biznik link. Some met me at events I hosted or attended. One found me in a group. Another I had known years ago, but Biznik provided our reconnection.
Measured in articles, I've written nine of them (this one included), and have outlines or drafts for more. Measured in views, those articles have been seen a combined total of over 10,650 times! Measured in comments, the articles have received about 300 comments total, with "Why Entrepreneurs Rule the World" receiving over 100 comments alone.
What has been immeasurable to me is the value of the personal comments, feedback, visibility, and the kick in the pants to write articles worthy of people’s time. Simply put, I've become a better writer. And like little ambassadors, my articles have gone out into the world and brought back inquiries, appointments, and best of all, friends.
Thirteen months ago, only my mother and two best friends were reading my new blog. As I tracked my blog traffic over the next months, I couldn’t help but notice that on most days, Biznik had become my main source of traffic. If I had a featured article, I could get many dozens of new “hits” to my blog in one day. (That clickable link at the bottom of a VIP profile is magic… but only if you are participating!)
Online Visibility and Press.
Thanks to Biznik, Google can’t miss me now. I discovered one article alone had aquired over 30 URL’s through Tweets and blog mentions. And my Biznik profile gets 50 -100 or more "hits" every week!
With the increased web presence, I’ve had press opportunities sometimes dropping from the sky. Reporters don’t seem to know how they found me (“my boss saw you online and asked me to check you out”). Newsweek called to get a quote for an article (“THE Newsweek!?” I asked). Daily Candy ran a feature online, which then led to an interview on KIRO/KONG news (NBC affiliate).
Other opportunities are directly traceable to Biznik. Tara Joyce from Toronto featured me in her Rise of the Innerpreneur blog. Biznik articles have been reprinted online by Mark Combs in Florida and a publisher in India, and I've received invitations to write articles for other websites.
All that buzz (and more) from a computer keyboard, a website on free Wordpress.org software, and my $24 a month Biznik membership!
From invitations to sing (I’m a musician as well as a coach) to collaborations with event co-hosts and new business partners, the folks I meet on Biznik present an abundance of opportunities, to the point where I honestly can’t say yes to everything!
I’ve belonged to “business networking organizations” before, but Biznik is more of a business playground! And now that I know my way around the playground, so to speak, I’ve been able to coach others how to play strategically.
I hosted 22 workshops or events my first year and learned a lot in the trenches about what works and what doesn’t. What moves people, bores them, inspires them to want more or to leave early. I gained invaluable skills and experience speaking and facilitating, thanks to Bizniks who have participated and given thoughtful feedback. Biznik has made me a better trainer, speaker and presenter.
I've also honed curriculum for new classes and have found the "testing ground" of Biznik members a valuable tool. Best yet, while I'm practicing, I'm also connecting, contributing, and - as a side benefit - marketing!
A Chance to Shine.
When I joined Biznik in August of 2008, it was a scary time in my business. I had transitioned from real estate to full-time coaching, and my resources were shrinking with the market while my business was still getting off the runway. I was losing speed just when I needed to build it.
I belonged to a weekly networking group that I loved, but it wasn’t monetizing. And aside from that hour each week, I felt isolated, discouraged, maybe even a bit depressed. I had gone so far as to send an email to friends saying that maybe it was time to (“gasp!”) get a job. Then, I joined Biznik and decided to "get busy."
Eight months later, I had a chance to have coffee with Biznik co-founder Lara Feltin. Trying to describe what Biznik had done for me and my business, I found the word:
Biznik gave me and my business the momentum I needed.
It wasn't a magic bullet that changed my business overnight. Biznik simply gave me a toolset that, when used strategically, helped me leverage my efforts.
Through my profile, article and events, I expanded my online presence and traffic significantly. It gave me endless opportunities to meet potential collaborators, referral partners, even clients. And most significantly, Biznik gave me a place to grow and learn in the company of other like-minded entrepreneurs.
Partners. Mentors. Friends.
Last but not least, Biznik gave me a community. A conversation to join. New friends who live in my tiny town. New friends who live across the country.
If I’m collaborating on a project or event with another entrepreneur, chances are, they’re a Biznik. If I’m brainstorming business ideas, chances are, it's with a Biznik. If I'm having a great time with people who "get" what it means to be self-employed, yep, I'm hanging out with Bizniks.
Now, this shocked me. I just looked at my last page of sent emails in my Yahoo browser. Half of the people I’ve emailed in the last two days are active Biznik members! Half of those, I met through Biznik and would not otherwise have met. Of those I met elsewhere, our relationship is richer because of this network and the opportunities it has provided.
All of those people, I consider friends. We joke with each other online, give each other encouragement, ideas and swift kicks when necessary. We follow each other on Facebook or Twitter. However you measure it, Biznik has expanded the relationships in my life. Biznik has increased the support, the encouragement, and the love in my life.
"525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? How about love? Measure in love."
(Seasons of Love, Jonathan Larsen)
I’m still on the journey called “building a business,” but I’m far, far past the point of no return. When asked if I ever “got that job” I was looking for, I laugh. Giving up is no longer an option that enters my mind. This is who I am, this is what I do, and my life is not for sale to the highest bidder with a benefits package.
I’m proud to be a self-employed entrepreneur. I’m glad to be “Going it alone… together.”