When you’re a work-at-home woman, it can be really difficult to meet real people in your industry. People who work in offices have it easy in this respect because they get to build professional relationships with others every day. When you’re a freelance blogger, copywriter, editor, etc., it’s not quite that easy.
I know firsthand how difficult it can be to actually meet and network with real professionals in your industry. I’ve been working from home for quite some time now, and some days I just feel completely isolated from everyone else like me. I know there are many other people who blog about the same things as me, and sure, I can share their posts on Twitter, but it can be very difficult to form productive, professional relationships when you work from home.
Below, you’ll find my top pieces of advice for meeting and networking with the people who can help advance your career. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.
1. Go to a Conference
Conferences offer a great opportunity to meet people who are interested in the same things as you. Industry-specific conferences offer insider advice that easily provides many topics to talk about with other professionals attending the event.
Conferences also isolate the group of people with whom you want to connect. For example, a conference on new WordPress updates and plugins is likely going to attract a lot of bloggers, copywriters, and webmasters – all of whom could become meaningful professional contacts for you.
Some conferences do charge a fee per person who attends. It’s up to you if such a fee is within your budget or not. However, keep in mind that industry-specific events that charge a fee are also more likely to attract well-known people in your field. Higher budget = higher-ranking professionals. On the other hand, if you’re just looking to exchange business cards with several dozen bloggers or editors, attending a free event is probably just as beneficial.
2. Attend Networking Events
Another good way to meet new people is to go to events set up specifically for networking. There are several benefits of attending such a gathering. For instance, you’ll increase your visibility and get your name out amongst your peers. To that end, you might make connections and meaningful relationships on which you can rely for occasional online promotions and inbound links. Networking events are also helpful because they keep you up-to-date with industry news and standards; a chat with someone else at a networking event might give you a whole new perspective on your field of work.
Some potential ways to find networking events are to look on job sites or job site blogs, to join a work-at-home group on Meetup.com (or create your own), and simply keep an ear out on the web for events in your area that would allow you to meet people in your industry.
3. Reconnect with Past Acquaintances
It’s not a good idea to call an old acquaintance out of the blue and ask him or her for a reference letter or advice on your professional career. If you’ve met people in the past who you want to maintain a relationship with, but haven’t spoken to in a while, it’s well worth your time to reconnect with them on LinkedIn or a similar professional social site.
Don’t reach out to professional associates via Facebook. Facebook is more for maintaining connections with people whom you know on a personal level. LinkedIn offers a professional atmosphere from the get-go and is easy to use for networking with people in your industry. Reach out to someone by endorsing their skills, complementing a recent project, or sending them an invitation to add you to their network. This will allow you to stay connected to your old acquaintances without invading their virtual personal space.
4. Join a New Group or Activity
I understand that many people avoid networking events because they’re not fans of the formal atmosphere. If you shine in more casual settings, it might be advisable for you to check out other ways to socialize with your peers.
Perhaps you could join a team sport, volunteer in your community or attend a charity event. Potential connections will see you out doing something positive in your area, which will reflect well on you when you need to form professional relationships with local people. At the very least, you’ll be able to get out of the house and engage in real conversations with others – something I find myself skimping on now and again.
Establishing connections in your field can seem a daunting challenge when you work from home all the time, but it can be done! Build connections with professionals like you and you’ll reap the benefits in the future.
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Katie Elizabeth is a work-at-home woman who does freelance blogging and content coordination. She enjoys networking with others who, like her, write about the sales tax matrix, the complexities of working from home, and a love of social media. Follow her @katiegelizabeth to see her latest posts!