How to network when you work from home…

Let’s face it, getting to and from work every day isn’t much fun: dragging yourself out of bed on dark mornings, wrestling your way into crowded carriages, getting stuck in tailback traffic – all while paying a fortune in petrol or tickets for the privilege. And then at the end of the day you have to do it all over again to get home!
It’s no surprise then, that increasing numbers of us are turning to remote working. After all, if you have a laptop, a phone and a decent broadband connection, why can’t you tackle your to-do list from the kitchen table? What else do you need really? You avoid the crowds, cut your stress levels and can save a boatload of money. It’s an attractive work equation and one that works for many people. No less than 1.5 million in the UK now clock on at  home according to a recent analysis of government figures by the TUC: that’s 241,000 more than a decade ago.
But as attractive an option as working from home may seem, of course there are drawbacks too. Working at home makes it much harder to maintain clear boundaries between your personal and professional lives. Domestic distractions are everywhere, from your kids demanding attention to the washing machine repairman due at three. It’s all too easy to find your work slipping its moorings and drifting into the evening.
You may also have to contend with a creeping sense of isolation, with no colleagues to talk to or buzzy office atmosphere. That can a big issue for some people who move into self-employment at home after more conventional jobs. They miss the camaraderie of the workspace. Working at home can also be isolating for a different reason – it becomes harder to form professional relationships and network because you are less likely to meet people face to face.
Networking is especially important if you’re self-employed. You need to bring that work in to pay the bills and make a living. You have become your own boss so all the responsibility falls on you. But you need not start completely from scratch: there are many professional associations and local business clubs set up to help freelancers and work-at-homers meet potential clients, make new friends and forge professional connections. Plus, their get-togethers get you out of the house! Breakfast meetings are a popular format for such clubs. Head along, catch up with the people you know, enjoy coffee and a croissant while you listen to a guest speaker, and leave energised and ready for the day ahead.
In the age of the internet, it’s eminently sensible also take advantage of online resources. LinkedIn is the archetypal business-focused social networking service. Some roll their eyes when its name comes up, but it is a widely-used and respected way to make connections, meet new professionals and even apply for jobs.
Meanwhile, even the more general social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can be useful ways to connect, raise awareness and advertise your business. Depending on the line of work you’re in, you may want to focus your promotional efforts on your home town or local area – or the whole world may be full of potential. It is the age of the Internet after all!