The idea of working from home can be very appealing for many people, specially for mothers. For me, what’s most appealing is the flexibility to work work around my family’s needs and activity schedule. The most challenging part of it is to meet deadlines when I am easily distracted by my never ending piles of laundry, dishes and chores around the house. It really takes a lot of dedication for me to “tune out” the mess and things that could be done around the house and focus on what needs to be done in my office. What I miss the most about working outside the home is meeting people face-to-face and networking. While face-to-face is necessary at times, I’ve found that thanks to social media, networking has become easier than ever.
When I think about the people that I am connected with at a business level, the truth is that the majority I’ve met on Twitter and other social networks. Have I met them in real life? Some, but the connection was previously established and when meeting people face to face I found that the conversation went to a whole new level (no small talk or introductions and more productivity). People often ask me about how I am able to network from home with two young kids, writing deadlines, and my business to run. Here are my suggestions:
- Stay in touch. You’ve met someone, had a great time and seems like it would be a beneficial relationship. You exchange business cards. Now what?! It’s up to YOU to stay in touch. It’s easier than ever with the help of social media. If you have found someone that you’d like to stay in touch with for later, you need to create the relationship now. My mother used to call me and leave messages when I was in college (ok, she still does) telling me she “just wanted to hear my voice.” The same thing goes for people you meet. Touch base, find out what’s going on in their lives, and figure out what YOU can do for them. You’ll earn your return on the relationship in due time, trust me.
- Use social media, email, and IM. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for a Twitter, Facebook and Skype account. Twitter allows you to grow your network with people world wide who have similar interests, promote their content and share yours. Facebook is more of a “what’s going on in your life” status update that can embed many types of media. On Facebook, you’ll also reach less tech savvy people who use it to find useful content but it doesn’t move as fast as Twitter and it’s not as overwhelming. Skype will allow you to chat face to face with people you’ve met by having online meetings. Sometimes people want to see the real YOU and maintain touch. Finally, email. Why try to squeeze everything in 140 characters or a private message on Facebook? A good old email can go a long way.
- Ask friends for introductions. So… you’ve met people both online and in real life, have been keeping in touch, and you still feel stuck or are still searching for someone to help you with something specific. ASK the people you know who they know that could help you. This is one of the primary business functions of social networks (in my opinion).
- Say yes to invitations. Got invited to a friend’s office happy hour? Go! Holiday party? Go! Recipe swap or football game? Head on over with your best dish! Meeting people face to face is priceless. Getting invitations from home might be trickier but you can get creative and attend a Twitter party, guest post for another blog, provide content for someone else, or give your opinion on a topic you are knowledgeable about. I know a lot about kids food, school lunches, and healthy eating. I am always happy to provide content and information someone else might need for their business; it’s how I’ve sort of become the go-to lunch mom in my network. Share what you know, they will thank you, your business will grow.
- Have your own party. You invite five people you know and ask them to bring two or more friends over. The goal is to expand the network and let people get to know each other that might have something in common. It is true what they say that you never know who you are going to meet! Can’t do it at your house? Meet at a public place (restaurant, bar, Starbucks…etc). Love the comfort of your office? Have young kids and can’t leave the house? Create your own Twitter party. You’ll be surprised what people want to talk about at any time of the day. Pick a hash-tag relevant to the topic being discussed, announce (tweet) the time and hash-tag… and wait for the conversation to take place. Remember to be a good host by initiating questions, welcoming new-comers and re-tweeting useful content.
Like anything else, networking takes time and effort. It doesn’t matter how difficult it might be for you to meet new people and generate new relationships. It is sink or swim out there and with the explosion of social networks the opportunities to meet new people are everywhere and it’s easier than ever.
Remember this: the four people you know, each know four people. Those people know people… and everyone has something to offer! Share what you know and show that you care.