Being on my own has taught me many things but one thing I've learned is how important it is to have someone you can talk to who is a good listener.
Now maybe you have this already and that's great -- but if you don't seek this person out. They may be a former teacher, or a friend or a banker or??? But it is important to have someone around that you can have that you trust to listen and provide good observations to your current situations. The Small Business Association has retired professionals who will meet with you and give you advice as to how you can build your business. It's a place to get started if you are in search of this person. Think of people you have worked with who you developed a strong relationship with...are any of these people available to brainstorm with? Sometimes people who have built their own business are willing to help others and this would be a great resource on many levels and lets not forget associations that are formed around various industries can be good resources in making contacts that can provide the support, camaraderie and insights into what it's like to build a business.
The point is that you can find hundreds of articles on line that provide information and you can become part of an on-line support group in your industry...but what really makes the difference is the actual one-on-one discussions that allow you to hear yourself talk about what you do and what areas are challenging to a person who can understand what you are going through. Their immediate response to your ideas, their body language often give you clues into your presentation and communications skills. Personal interaction is key to developing strong relationships and in the end what you are really doing with your clients/customers is building those relationships.
Don't be disappointed if this kind of person takes time to find. I've met with so many people recently who were so happy talking about themselves. Yes, they would pose a question or two to me...but then the conversation turned to them. These people are not helpful and probably not the appropriate people you are looking for when it comes to needing your ideas or experiences validated. Sort through and find people who understand what "listening" is all about and are good at it. Unfortunately because there seems to be such a lack of good listeners...many people hire professionals to do the listening. Whether they are therapists, consultants, coaches or the like....these people get paid to listen and help you sort these things out. If money is tight...I suggest being up front with a professional and tell them about your budget constraints and ask if they have the flexibility to work with you. I have found that many people will be flexible and find a way to make their services available to you and a fee that you can afford...but you'll never know unless you ask.
Good listeners are hard to find. If you have one - make sure you show your appreciation and don't take them for granted. They are a rare commodity in a world filled with people trying to get heard. No wonder listening is hard to find. Go out and find your listener. Next become a good listener to them. Learn the skill of listening and reflecting back what you've heard. This skill will bring you more success with your clients and customers. Remember how good you feel when you know you've been heard or understood. Your clients are no different.
Each day make a point of practicing 'good listening' and see how it changes your relationships. Report back on any discoveries you make.