In recent decades the debate over telecommuting and working from home has become increasingly heated. On one side of the quarrel are those who feel productivity suffers when professionals are allowed to work from home; and on the other- those who believe the quality of work done at home is, if anything, likely to be of a higher quality because of the more relaxed environment telecommuters enjoy.
I assume that if you’re even reading this article, then you are a ‘telecommuter’, either in a freelance or business-affiliated capacity. However, the focus of this content isn’t to affirm what you surely already know, but to issue advice on how to go about expanding your professional network from the lonely, barren confines of your home office! So without further ado, you should…
Recognise your Obstacles, and use them
It’s far too easy to overlook the obvious as a professional who is detached from the everyday going-ons at the office. Regardless of your field of specialisation, whether you’re a writer, a graphic designer or a website architect, it’s very likely that you’ll spend your first few months working from home merely channelling hostility towards your competition (should you be a sole trader) or colleagues (should you be on the permanent payroll with a business)- instead of recognising them as the legitimate source of work/motivation they can be.
As a sole-trader, you’re in a perfect position to scoop up any overspill secured by the typically gluttonous agencies which (I assume) dominate your field. Not only will making your presence known to the big dogs prove beneficial for your jobs list, but will greatly improve your contacts list.
Why not write to some of your industry peers (individuals or company's) in order to introduce yourself and to stake your eligibility as a companion through these tough times. It'll only take a small part of your day, and you never know- it might just see you clocking a few extra hours by months-end!
As a stay at home employee, the greatest challenge at first is often getting to grips with the drastic change in lifestyle. Maintaining a high level of contact with colleagues is necessary not only for retaining your existing network, but growing it in the long run.
An inescapable snippet of advice forced upon many telecommuters on this fair planet. There really is no end to the positive things an active and relevant blog can do for your position within our hugely competitive and often rather cliquely world of work.
Becoming a known ‘name’ on blogs relevant to your specialism is as simple as contributing positively to the discussions held there, and transferring the network of likeminded groups and individuals you encounter into partakers in the discussions you initiate on your own blog. By first determining which sites are relevant, leaving constructive comments that contribute to the discussion and possess your professional information- you'll soon build a bread-trail all the way back to your own hub of activity.
Embrace the Power of Social Media
Another rather common tip, the immense power and spread of modern social media should never be underestimated if you’re hoping to make your telecommuting business network grow. Whatever your site of choice (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn…) they’re all called social ‘networks’ for a reason.
Providing you can separate the time for brainless procrastination from the time for level-headed business activity, which admittedly can be rather hard, you’ll be fine. The key is to keep past clients (not to mention current clients/employees!) updated with your goings-on, as well as using the networks as a platform to propsect for completely new ones. Connect to clients past and present and stay in regular communication- not only will this keep you fresh in their minds for their own projects, but make you visible to their colleagues, or even their competition!
Unplug Once in a While
The prospect of leaving your desk and heading out in the real world to take in a little action may seem a) impossible and b) unnecessary as a freelance or telecommuting professional, however rest assured- it is neither! In fact, the ability to do this is one of the very best perks to this lifestyle as a whole.
If you live in an urban area, there’s likely to be an active professional group which you can join. These groups provide mutual support, advice and even job leads- should you be prospecting for work in the freelance world. Forging professional relationships with those ‘in the same boat’ as you should not be avoided, but rather embraced on the grounds of mutual development. A simple Google search is usually enough to get you started with these types of things, though delving into the mass of network-oriented information that is LinkedIn may prove the more effective method.
Don’t be a Bridge Burner
Connections are connections. As a freelance professional or remote service provider, they’re really all you have in the form of assurance of future work. Whilst I’d never actively advocate maintaining a working relationship with someone who has treated you unprofessionally, you must be thick skinned at all cost. Perseverance is of the utmost importance. It’s a shame really, but the whole ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ really is true!
Building and sustaining a solid professional network is a process which, if tackled correctly, should never really end. The methods listed above are just a handful of many which can be of use for a telecommuter seeking to tighten their grip on any given industry.