Anyone who has survived their first year of business knows “you don’t know what you don’t know”. When I first launched into freelancing, I knew I needed a support network. I didn’t know anyone in freelancing to bounce ideas off, and, of course, I had no idea what I was doing.

I’d heard about Mastermind groups online: a regular, weekly confidential group where you meet and share your collective wisdom to help solve  business problems. I asked around if anyone knew of any Mastermind groups  I could join and was encouraged to start my own. So I did.

I would not have survived my first year of business without the wonderful supportive women in my Mastermind group, who have given encouraging, supportive and practical advice the whole way through. The group not only has such helpful advice on running a business, but has helped me personally grow and challenge myself. On top of that, though we started out as strangers and only met via Zoom calls, I believe we’ve all become real genuine friends (which, as anyone who is older than 30 looking for new friends can attest, is a pretty amazing feat in itself).

So – here’s what I found helpful setting up a Mastermind group if you would like to set up your own:

The right structure

We have a structure to our calls so we keep focused:

  • Round Robin – We start out taking turns briefly summarising wins and challenges for the week, supporting each other and providing suggestions for some of the fiddly challenges that pop up.
  • Hot Seat – One person brings a meaty challenge to their business and we workshop it in depth with our collective wisdom. This is usually around 30 mins.
  • Goal Setting – Finally, we focus on goals and accountability – what are some practical goals we want to achieve before the next fortnight?

It’s a simple structure, but it covers a lot. It’s always handy to have someone keep an eye on the time to move to the next segment, or to hear from the next person, because it is easy to get caught up and go overtime.

Balance

We take turns in being in the “hot seat”, giving us all a change to workshop each others’ ideas. We rotate over every 6 weeks, and evenly take turns.

We also keen our numbers to fewer than 6 people, ensuring we can all have our opinions heard.  We don’t charge a fee for our group, because we are all sharing our time, experience and expertise.

Building trust

One of the most important things in a group like this is trust. On our first session, we collaboratively made some rules: keep it confidential, be open, be supportive. We endeavour to attend every session and we suggest a 6-month commitment for newbies. If it’s not their bag, that’s totally cool. We also understand that life happens, so if anyone cannot make a session, they need to let everyone know in advance.

We don’t record our sessions – this is to ensure everyone feels safe to express their opinion without being worried a phrase might be misconstrued and become the next viral hit.

When you’re setting up your Mastermind group, make sure everyone is across the rules, your commitment to meetings and has access to the software.

Set a consistent time

If you’re interested in setting up a mastermind group, I’d suggest you set a day and time each week, see who is available at that time, and lock it in. You will always have some people who can’t make that time, which is the nature of organising groups of people (but perhaps encourage them to form their own group!).

It might be a group who is all freelance who can easily meet at 10am on a Thursday, or perhaps you’re a 9pm Tuesday night kind of group. And, of course, you will want to see if you want your group to meet weekly or fortnightly.

Be open to new ideas

While most of our sessions are the regular catch-ups, every few months we have themed weeks where we deep-dive in a topic we all want to workshop, whether its sales funnels, finding new clients or newsletters.

Around once a year, we also add new people to the group as the natural ebb and flow of life means some people cannot attend as much as they used to.

If we were too closely tied to the weekly structure, we would have lost out on some awesome opportunities to learn new skills, have amazing new members to join and learn from.

Tech talk

We use software called Zoom to facilitate our group calls. Its free, and having virtual calls means we can be located all over Australia and still run the group. I recommend the host has a paid Zoom account so you can have hour-long calls, otherwise you’re limited to 30-minute sessions on the free version. But every attendee can have the free version of Zoom and attend your meeting.

We have calls every two weeks, with calendar appointments (because we’re all in different time zones!) and reminder emails a few days out to remind the person in the hot seat that it is their turn (because let’s face it – life is hectic and it can be hard to keep track of everything!).

We also have a shared Google Doc which we use to track who is in the hot seat each week, our goals for the year and our weekly goals.

Your Mastermind group Starter Kit set:

You need:

  • people – find 5 or 6 people in a similar stage of business to you (ask your fellow Jungle members!)
  • time and day – set up a time and day
  • a structure – how will the sessions be structured?
  • house rules – what rules are important for your group?
  • Zoom /Hangouts/Skype – to call
  • Google Drive – for your shared agenda and for documenting goals

Ready to start your own group? Go for it!

Digital content strategistRachel Beaney is a freelance social media specialist. From Sydney, Rachel is spending 2018 in snowy Montreal. When Rachel isn’t on deadline, she’s a fan of future tech, dogs and creating clay animation. Find her online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or check out her regular articles over at rachelbeaney.com.