I have to say that I feel very fortunate that I work from home building my SEVEN Networking empire. I can work in my pajamas, work when I travel, work from my couch and I don’t have to spend time in traffic while driving to an office.
But there are times where I feel like I need to get out and be with other like-minded entrepreneurs. I crave the face to face connections and if I am in the house for too many days I get a case of cabin fever.
Building your own professional network is important for your business as well as your sanity. You should be that person that everyone wants to know so how do you do that if you work from home?
Here are some ideas to build a professional network:
Join a business networking organization
Look for one that matches your mission and your beliefs. I couldn’t find one years ago so I started my own group that now happens to be national- SEVEN Networking. I suggest that you look on meetup.com to find networking groups. Most groups will let you attend 1-2 times to see if it is a good fit for you.
In joining a local organization, you will be connected to members of the community, which opens the door to their network. You will also make friends who will encourage and support you along the journey of entrepreneurship.
Volunteer your time and give back
There are many non-profits that need help and they are always appreciative of getting volunteers. If you’re a photographer, why not do photos for an animal shelter? If you’re a marketing expert, why not volunteer your skills for a cause you care about? Or find a non-profit that “speaks” to you.
I recently started doing some work for a local non-profit, The Aris Foundation, that helps the homeless teens in our area. Many of them are from foster care and are thrown out on the streets when they turn 18. Being a mom to a 16 and 21 year old this breaks my heart.
Find an organization that interests you. Whatever good you do in the world will come back around.
Go to a Co-Working Site
Working from home doesn’t mean that you always have to work from home. Many cities have co-working spaces where you can rent an office or just stop in for a few hours to work. Many will typically have a cost associated with them for you to reserve a desk or space on certain days or weeks, so it is up to you how much you’d like to invest in having an actual office to go to. The big perk is that there will be other people there to chat with and build relationships with.
You never know who you might meet, what ideas you might come up with together, or who they might know! Get out there and be social!
Make the effort to set up coffee chats in person or virtually
I set aside Tuesdays for my in-person coffee chats. I schedule them back to back at the same location to not waste time driving to different locations.
You can also stay connected with people through setting up ZOOM calls, Skype, Go To Meeting and other online video conferencing systems.
Be social. Meet for coffee or a drink. Talk business and bucket lists while taking a walk in a greenbelt.. Peel back a layer of your professional persona to reveal the person behind the website or social media profile. Always follow up with contacts you’ve made and nurture those relationships over the years.
Stay connected with your Alma Mater
It is easy to find others who went to your school through doing a search on LinkedIn. Even though you have graduated from college you still have that common connection so it will be easier to get the conversation going.
You might be surprised at how comforting meeting with fellow alumni can be. That established camaraderie is strong, and you might even make a few friends along the way.
Find a Hobby
If you love gardening then join a gardening group. If you love to read then join a book group. The best networks are built organically. Spend time doing what you love and the relationships will be formed.
I love swimming so I go to a local pool and meet lots of people. It’s a great non-structured way of meeting new people!
Technology can be used as your advantage when you work from home. Join a LinkedIn group or Facebook group of other like minded people. Don’t let yourself feel lonely. It may be fun to be able to work in your pajamas one day a week but remember your network is your net worth.