Freedom. That is the first feeling that many small business owners get when they strike out on their own to create a home-based business. This new life is going to be great! Finally, a combination of family and work life that works for you. Setting your own work hours; deciding how many projects to take on; maybe in a couple of years, even hiring people to work for you.
You are now a businesswoman. This is heady stuff.
Then, about six months later, reality sets in—and it is harsh. For individuals who have always worked for others—especially in the corporate world—additional work and customers were always available. Managing prospects and sending out proposals was probably someone else’s job. Now it’s yours. Where do the customers/clients come from? How do you get the word out about your business? It’s enough to give you sleepless nights.
Ignore Networking at Your Peril
Working from home definitely has its perks but it also has its challenges and more than its fair share of perils for the unwary. You do not want to become isolated from your peers—even from the competition—and your potential client base needs to be able to reach you at all times. What’s more, you can rest assured that your competitors (and we all have them) are taking advantage of networking to grow their businesses.
You need to connect with the outside world to sell your products and services. Insulating yourself is only going to lead to frustration and poor business results. Networking can lead to income generation, lead generation, and continuing education in your field. It can also bring better marketing and advertising results for your product and services as well as other business opportunities, from referrals to finding more business.
Finally, networking can result in you having the right partnership—this is an important point especially for home-based businesses because forming a partnership is one of the tried-and-tested ways to grow a business and take it to the next level. At the very least, networking can lead you to the people you want to work with or who share the same professional passion with you, whether as a potential investor or as a future employee that will make things easier for you and your business.
Getting Started With Networking
As such, networking is important to your home-based business, and ignoring it could prove detrimental to your business goals. Whether networking face-to-face, participating in online groups or sending messages on social media sites, you need to make sure that you have more than one network that you can tap into to support your business strategy.
You need to let people know you are open for business. Here is a list of suggested networking options you can try out:
Build Your Own Website
Almost every successful business today has a website where clients can connect with their goods and services. In effect, this is a form of networking.
At a minimum, your website should collect visitor email addresses and provide an interface where customers can pose questions and receive answers about your products or services. It doesn’t have to cost a lot in the beginning especially if you use free web-hosting services like Freehostia and Zymic.
Of course, these network opportunities are not limited only to potential clients and customers; you can also build a network of working professionals who can introduce you to other businesswomen who may become partners in your evolving marketing strategy.
Give Presentations and/or Workshops
Think of this as network-building and marketing combined. Public speaking and hosting workshops can introduce you to your customers of tomorrow. It will increase your income (if it’s a paid position) and at the same time build up interest in your product or service. People like to purchase from someone they trust and know. Depending on the type of class you teach, you may even find yourself recruiting and networking with other professionals in your field.
Beef up Your Social Media Presence
The reach of the internet is a boon for home-based businesses. Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram are perfect networking communities for entrepreneurs. Create shareable content on these sites and you will soon grow your network beyond your local geographic area. Showcase your work and build up online buzz on your products and services and you’ll soon realise the potential social media has especially for marketing.
Connect with other home-based business people, make new contacts, and learn from their experiences. Following professionals on these social networks allows you to stay up-to-date in the latest changes in your industry and on business practices. Think of them as free, continuing educational feeds.
And since you’re doing these from the comfort of your own home, you won’t have to worry about huge overhead costs.
Join Organisations That Can Help You Successfully Network
There’s a reason why there are organisations and groups today that help their members connect with like-minded people for the purpose of business and career enhancement. Whether you’re a small business owner starting out at home or the owner of an established firm, networking is important for business growth, a common goal for both novice and experienced entrepreneurs.
You can start your networking efforts by joining Behind Closed Doors (BCD), an organisation of businesswomen who can answer your questions about developing your business skills and your client base. BCD has a mentoring program for those interested in expanding their networking into a more structured program as well as other services that can help and guide you into making better business decisions.
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