This article is for a couple of different people. Those without businesses that want to support their friend or family member that does have a business. And those with businesses that want an easy way to share with their friends and family how they can support them.
This is a pretty nuanced topic and can have a ton of variation depending on what type of business someone owns, so I’ll primarily be talking about (B2B) business-to-business… businesses, lol. So businesses who sell their products or services to other businesses, not to everyday consumers. I think this will be a fun discussion so let’s get started!
There are countless ways you can make your friends feel supported, not just in business, but in life. You can send them a text to let them know you were thinking of them, make plans with them even if they continuously fall through, give them a call and just actually talk for a while about everything and nothing. Most of us know how to be a good friend in general, but it’s a little more difficult when your career paths are vastly different and don’t really overlap.
Working from home as an entrepreneur can be exciting and freeing, but it can also feel overwhelming and lonely. You often end up working more than a typical 9-5 on things that don’t even make you money. You don’t have a boss to complain about because you are your own boss and you chose this life, so why should you complain? It can feel uncomfortable to share these things with friends that work for someone else outside the home simply because your work-related struggles are so different.
So I would say the number one thing you can do to support your business-owning friends is to genuinely be interested in what they do. Listen to them, encourage them, and don’t dismiss their struggles just because it seems like they have a better work situation than you. All work is hard in some way so don’t make them feel less than just because their hard is different from yours.
Remember I’m primarily talking about B2B businesses here, so you won’t hear tips like “buy their products” because you most likely don’t need their products or services if you don’t also own a business. I’ll go into more detail in a minute, but just to overview, here are 5 ways you can support your friend’s small business without spending any money:
Let’s flesh those out.
This kind of falls under the same umbrella of being genuinely interested in what they do. You can’t be interested or conversate with them about their business if you don’t know what they do. And you might say, well Stephanie, I know my best friend is a copywriter. Okay, but do you know what a copywriter does? Who are her clients? Who are her dream clients?
If you know the answers to these questions, you might realize you personally know someone that is her dream client and you can connect them. This costs you nothing more than your time and attention, which is something you give as a friend anyway but could mean astronomical growth and opportunities for your friend’s business.
It’s hard to recommend someone if you don’t know what they do. I don’t believe you have to be a walking brochure of their business, but knowing the basics of what they do, who they serve, or who they WANT to serve will allow you to organically share about their business with the right people.
We all recommend things to other people All. The. Time. Someone makes a Facebook post asking for recommendations for a local Mexican restaurant or pediatrician or a mystery novel or kid-friendly weekend events and we’ll start typing away with all of our random knowledge, happy to contribute to the conversation.
But what about those posts asking for recommendations for a brand photographer, website designer, business coach, or online marketing course? Do you have a name readily available in your mind? Or do you even acknowledge those posts when you see them? These opportunities show up outside of social media often too.
Train your ear to listen for those opportunities the way you’ve been trained to volunteer your favorite movie to a stranger in line at Walmart and you just might land your friend a life-changing client or customer.
Now #3 is probably the easiest thing to do to support your friend’s small business. Follow them on social media and actively, the key word here is actively, engage with their content. And by content, I literally mean anything they’re posting on social media. Be it short-form videos like Reels and TikToks, Instagram or Facebook stories, live streams, static photo posts, etc, etc. They aren’t just posting this stuff for the heck of it.
This is called organic marketing, and it is how small businesses get found online by potential clients or customers. Depending on the social platform, there are many ways you can engage with their content. But before I explain how to engage with their content, let’s explore why that’s even necessary.
I know you’ve heard of the algorithm, but what is it? According to Hootsuite.com, “a social media algorithm is a set of rules and signals that automatically ranks content on a social platform based on how likely each user is to enjoy it and interact with it.”
Basically, the more “engagement” a post gets the more it will be pushed to new viewers.
It’s way more complex than I can possibly explain in a single article, but know this: your engagement with your friend’s business posts DOES help them. And this is the entire goal of social media marketing in general. The more their work gets seen, the more likely it is to get seen by the right people that will actually make a purchase.
Alright, so what “engagement” actually helps their content? Simply liking their post doesn’t do much. The algorithm considers “liking” a post to be a passive action, therefore doesn’t give the post much merit. So let’s think of social media like a game. Each post is playing against all the other posts out there and the way they “win” the game is by getting the most points. These points come from engagement. Types of engagement include:
Depending on the social platform, there are other types of engagement, but these are consistent across pretty much all platforms. If we’re ranking engagement in terms of how many points they give a post, commenting, sharing, and saving would tie for first place, #2 would be DMing, and #3 would be liking.
There’s some argument to be had about whether commenting, sharing, or saving is more beneficial, but honestly, they’re all important and tell the algorithm “hey, this piece of content is valuable and worth engaging with.”
We all spend too much time casually scrolling through social media, so take 20 seconds of that time to like, save, share, and possibly comment on your friend’s post. Doing this as a regular practice will not only encourage your friend as they see their metrics grow but will actively help their account reach more people.
The fourth thing you can do to support your friend’s small business is to sign up for their newsletter. A newsletter is simply their email list. This doesn’t directly help them the way your social media engagement does, but it does a couple of things.
One, it shows them you’re supporting their efforts.
Two, it makes it easy for you to share about their business with someone that may be interested in their offer.
And three, it’s simply another way to keep up with your friend. Newsletters often have exclusive content not shared with the broader public, so you may learn something new about your friend or their business.
If you see a need your friend has, offer to help. This could simply be giving your sage advice on a situation they’re having difficulty with, taking their kids for an afternoon so they can have some quiet time to work, or offering to pick up dinner when they’re working a late night.
Maybe you don’t live close to each other, but you could offer to print some flyers to put up around your town advertising their business for them. If you have the extra time, they may even like your help as a VA (virtual assistant) for a couple of hours a week. There are countless ways to help a small business owner.
Just ask, and be willing to actually do it.
Lastly, I wanted to mention just a few ways you can support your small business friends with money if you so desire.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Everybody buys stuff from Amazon and most people have a favorite coffee shop. Online small business owners particularly love coffee shops for the creative atmosphere to work in outside of their homes.
I know personally, I have a hard time ever justifying buying something I WANT but don’t necessarily need for my home office so if you go the Amazon gift card route, encourage them to buy something they want, not need.
I don’t mean like a life advice tip, but an actual monetary tip. There are lots of ways you can do this. If you’re really into gift giving, you could write them an encouraging card with a few bucks inside. Or they may have an online tip system already set up!
There’s a cool website called Buy Me a Coffee where business owners and creators can add a button to their website for visitors to give them a tip or “buy them a coffee”. You can see an example at the bottom of my own website.
Another option they might have is Patreon. Patreon allows creators to create a totally customizable subscription service, meaning you pay them on a monthly basis. Creators often have exclusive content, services, or products at different pay levels. Really the options with Patreon are endless.
But for you as the supportive friend, the point here is that you’re supporting them with your money whether or not you need the content from them. There’s often a super cheap tier, like $1-$3 a month. That would be a great option for you if you want to support your friend’s business monetarily, but don’t need their service or product. You can also cancel your subscription at any time, so don’t feel like you have to be subscribed forever.
And finally, you can gift your friend something useful for their business. This comes back to just being a good friend and listening to what they say. If they often complain about their cords being in the way, get them something to help with cord management. There are tons of ideas on Amazon.
If they’re an avid note taker, get them a fun notepad or planner. Gosh, even super simple things like copy paper, packs of pens, calendars, or a book bag would be great gifts. And before you ask, yes those things still get used even if their business is technically fully online.
To give an example, anytime I design something that’s going to be printed like a brochure or packaging, I have to print samples in my home office before sending it off to the actual printer so I can check for errors. You can also just simply ask your friend what they need. There’s always something, believe me!
I really do hope this was helpful to you whether you are a friend looking to support your business-owning friends or you’re a business owner looking for ways your people can support you. I’ll wrap this up by recapping those ways once more:
And if you’re looking to support them monetarily you can:
I see folks asking how they can support their friends with small businesses all the time, so hopefully, this article will be a great resource for everyone to get some ideas.
You can find me on my website stephanieduke.co and on Instagram and Facebook with the same handle, @stephanieduke.co. Thank you so much for reading.
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