This is a guest post by the lovely conscious business coach Caroline Leon. This essay originally appeared as part of the Redefining Community project which ran throughout April 2019. You can find out more about the project and download the ebook here.
I’ve built several communities over the years. My online life began back in 2011 with the birth of a personal growth blog, with which I learned to share my most intimate personal stories and life lessons with the world. It catapulted me into the online world faster than I could say world wide web.
Several years later I went on to build a business as a Life Coach, which seemed to grow pretty fast, something, I now realise was down to the fact that I had, unwittingly, been growing an audience and a community around my blog for years. An audience that had grown to trust me because I hadn’t been using my content or my community as a ruse to sell and instead had been putting out content with the sole intention of sharing what I had learned in the hopes that it could help others. When the time eventually came to start offering my paid for services, my community, which had grown some by then, was open and willing to invest.
A deep desire to serve my community
And so it has been over my entire career as a solopreneur. At the heart of everything I do is a deep desire to serve my community and in return they offer me their trust and a deeper and more meaningful relationship is formed.
I’ve never had a huge community because I tend not to put my attention on numbers and rather on the depth of connection. But what I have always had is a loyal and engaged community of people, many of whom have stayed with me for years. Women who have quite literally signed up for everything I have ever created, woman (and some men) who have been and continue to be my biggest cheerleaders.
Because none of this was intentional, I certainly had no strategy in place to cultivate trust and loyalty, I’ve had to do some thinking as to how this happened. I’ve come to see that there are a number of fundamental principles I naturally abide by, which I’d like to share with you.
1) Be of service
This is something that guides everything I do. Whenever I show up for my community, whether that’s in the creation of a newsletter, blog post, video or product, my intention is to serve. I hold in my heart the best interests of my community and try my best to deliver something that is truly impactful whether it’s for a free resource or a paid for offering.
2) Be Generous
Closely related to the former point, since being in business for myself, I’ve always believed in generosity. There are some who will tell you to hold your best work back for your premium clients but I call BS on that. Because of my spiritual beliefs, I know that a) nothing I create is truly mine and b) I can give freely because I’m always being looked after. It’s why I don’t copyright my content or use lengthy contracts with my clients. Because I trust. And when we trust our community they trust us. If you want to go deeper on the idea of generosity, I recommend a wonderful book called The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.
3) Be transparent
I’ll admit that when I started out on my entrepreneurial journey, I was clumsy about transitioning between serving and selling. There have been times which I’ve focused so heavily on serving that I went broke for a month or two and there have been times when I’ve swung so far the other way that I now cringe with regret to recall.
What I’ve learned through all of this is that transparency is the only way to sell. If we can show up in our community with honest intentions and be clear when we’re sharing something that has a price attached and when we’re sharing something for free, we build greater trust. So often these days, people use the promise of free content as a ruse to sell and I believe this is a sure fire way to erode trust.
4) Prioritize Connection (the meaningful sort)
I love my community. Having lived a nomadic lifestyle since leaving the UK in 2012 and now living in a small town in the mountains in Spain (where I don’t really speak the language), I don’t have a big in-person community. I have my family, who I adore but practically all of my dearest friends are scattered across the world. Because of this and because connection is everything, the community I have online has always been incredibly important to me. I’d much rather get on a call with one person for an hour than spend that hour writing comments on Facebook.
That could be the introvert in me too, never a fan of small talk and always a lover of more meaningful conversations. Because of this, I have wonderfully deep relationships with so many of the members of my online community and I love it. It’s special and fulfilling for me and I think they might like it too!
5) Have Integrity
Integrity is my #1 value. Does that mean I never mess up, hell no? I’m in no way saying that I operate in full integrity all of the time, but in my business (and my personal life) what it tends to mean is that I can’t lie or deceive.
Some might even say I’m too honest for my own good. In the context of my work and my community, an example of how this shows up is the fact that I will always put the person in front of me before the sale. Which has even meant turning people away who were ready and willing to invest in a coaching program with me but I didn’t think it was in their best interests to do so. Of course, I try to help them in other ways, but if I think it’s the wrong point in their business journey to invest in a pricey program, regardless of how much I could use the money, I just won’t let it happen.
This really cultivates trust, because when your community knows that you prize their best interests over your own financial gain, it really means something.
What I think all of these principles have in common is that they cultivate a deeper trust and the bedrock of community is trust.
Caroline Leon is a Conscious Business Coach (and Founder of the Female Business Academy) and helps change makers to build and grow sustainable businesses rooted in integrity.
She firmly believes that when we change the way we do business, we change the world and it’s her mission to support compassionate business owners to do just that in order to create a world where business can be a force for good rather than greed.
She supports business owners to do away with the gross and manipulative tactics so prevalent these days online and instead to adopt growth strategies that put people before profits.
To receive the best of what she knows about building a business with integrity, sign up to her weekly Soulful Strategies e-letter here.