How to Network When You Work From Home
Many people don’t realise how isolating working from home can feel. Many spend days only interacting with those they live with and not getting out the house. I always find I’m more productive if I get out regularly and network with others.
Working from home means you don’t get those daily interactions with others that you would if you went out to work- the conversations round the water cooler or over a coffee in the staff room, so you need to find other methods of networking and growing your circles, which at first can seem daunting, especially if your confidence is low.
I’ve been working from home for nearly 4 years now and the year before that was spent on maternity leave after my second child. At that point I lacked confidence and although I was an expert on Cbeebies, anything work related had slipped off my radar completely. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go back to my job and that awful 3 hour daily commute. It was at the end of maternity leave a friend asked me to go along to her networking group, I declined as I’d never been to a networking meeting before and didn’t really know what to expect. She informed me it was a networking group set up for mums (www.networkingmummies.com) and that I could take the children. I tried to decline but my friend is obviously quite persuasive as I ended up going. I was dreading it, I thought it was going to be like some of the toddler groups I’d attended where everyone has their own ‘cliques’ but I was wrong and I was made to feel very welcome. That was the beginning of my networking and I’ve been hooked ever since.
So how can you network whilst you work from home?
There are 2 types of networking you can do
- Face to face networking
- Online networking
Both have their pros and cons and I would always suggest a mixture of both, never rely on just one source to increase your database, get referrals and network your business.
Face to Face Networking.
This means leaving the house and going to an event, which, if you are a mum working from home might seem impossible but in today’s society it is becoming easier. These networking events used to be all about suited and booted men selling insurance or accountancy over breakfast at 6am but more and more groups are recognising that mums in business need to network also and providing events either during school hours or that you can take children along to. I already mentioned Networking Mummies UK LTD above that offers face to face networking meet-ups within local communities that are child friendly and at least once a month. Mums (and dads) can attend with their children and pitch their business to others in the same situation. If it hadn’t have been for this I wouldn’t have started my business let alone grow it over the last 4 years. I’ve attended lots of groups over the years and personally like the ones that offer both business and social events. People buy people, so face to face networking is by far the quickest way to build both business to business and business to customer relationships.
- It’s important at these events to work the room and introduce yourself to as many people as possible, that way it’s easier to build on those relationships in the future, it’s not about what you can sell them there and then, it’s about finding out about them and their business and what they are looking for and if some way you can help them with your business or refer them to someone that can. In return they will refer you, buy from you, look into your business and help you grow.
- Have a confident ‘sales pitch’ or ‘business story’ ready for the allotted time slot. It should be confidently given, interesting and within the time frame given.
- Have business cards, flyers and other literature to hand if someone should ask you, or you feel it’s appropriate.
Online networking is becoming more widely used and more and more acceptable way to do business, with social media playing a big role in that. Social media is a free marketing portal that should be used by all businesses to increase their audience and business awareness. Whilst I do a lot of face to face networking, I will always take their Facebook business page name and Twitter name away with me where possible, so I can find them later at home and connect with them; it makes it much easier to have follow up conversations and interactions with them. You can also become involved in online groups and forums which are often great for finding people in similar situations or with similar interests as you. Mums forums are another great way to build relationships with people that could then turn into prospects or customers. Online networking is great for those days when you cannot get out, maybe the children are sick or there isn’t an event in your area etc. It’s also a good way to build up your confidence before going to face to face networking meetings.
- It is harder to build up a relationship online and trust can often take longer to build.
- Getting distracted on social media (looking at photos etc.) is not the same as growing your business, use your time effectively.
- Ask your friends what forums they use as chances are they will have similar interests to you and therefore you’ll find like-minded people to yourself.
I hope this has begun to help you realise what is available to you, networking can seem very daunting at first but as with anything the more you do it, the better you become and the more you enjoy it.
If you want more tips on networking or giving a confident sales pitch go to www.staceycalder.co.uk for more blogs, top tips and coaching.