Do you roll your eyes at the thought of participating in networking opportunities and events?
Do you think networking is all fake smiles, listening to people try to sell you a product you would never use?
It doesn’t have to be that way!
Prioritizing networking opportunities as a work from home woman is important. It’s also the simplest way to increases your and your business’s visibility.
Today networking is about more than generating leads.
Networking while working from home is also about finding business colleagues to learn from and grow with.
It’s about finding a community.
And its about nurturing and building relationship.
Still not sure about networking? Check out my article The Secret to Networking: Identify Your Relationship Goals.
And if you are lucky networking while working at home can also lead you to your Business Best Friend.
The Challenge to Creating New Relationships When you Work at Home
Lets be honest, somehow you never scheduled all those “lets catch up soon” catch ups with colleagues that you had planned to do with your work from home flexible schedule.
Because f you are anything like me, you can get into a pretty good work at home routine.
And that routine doesn’t include leaving the house or keeping up with your professional network.
Even going for a walk or jog takes extra effort once the stay at home routine sets in.
Trust me, I understand.
It takes effort it takes to get dressed for real and you want to look presentable when networking even from home!
But speaking as someone who works from home, networking and in real life (IRL) interactions are worth the effort it takes.
So how can you nurture and create meaningful business relationships and enjoy networking when you work from home?
7 Ways to Create Networking Opportunities as a Work at Home Woman
1. Invite a Mentor or Colleague to Virtual Coffee
The simplest way to create networking opportunities as a work at home woman is to send an email to a colleague or mentor asking how they are doing and if they are available to catch up virtually for coffee on Friday.
Don’t offer “let’s catch up sometime soon” but pick specific day or two.
If they can’t make it work send a similar email to another colleague or mentor and ask the same thing.
Challenge yourself to meet with colleagues or mentors on Zoom, or your favorite video conference call technology, least twice a month.
2. Seek out Speaking Opportunities
Virtual conferences are all the rage and a great way to add speaking opportunities to your networking plan especially if lead generation is your priority.
Do a quick google search of upcoming conferences about topics you are qualified to speak about.
You might need to get a little creative, women’s leadership conferences also have great audience to speak too.
Send the organizer an email asking if their agenda is full or if they are still seeking speakers.
If their agenda has slots available make a great pitch.
You may have to do this a few times to find a yes, but its worth the effort to get in front of a group of people looking to learn what you have to share.
If you prefer small in person speaking opportunities, think about where your perfect client hangs out or what events they attend.
Ask the organizer or location if you can give a half hour talk about your topic or services.
This one takes a little more effort so I have a couple of examples.
- Let’s say you are a wardrobe consultant. Your target client is a Soccer Mom who doesn’t have time shop for herself and isn’t sure what fits her any more.
- Ask the soccer team organizer if you can invite the moms to a 20-minute talk before or during soccer practice to introduce them to your services.
- If your services are B2B reach out to an industry organization whose members use your services.
- Offer to be a guest speaker at one of their events to talk about your services or industry.
Take a few minutes and brainstorm a list of where your perfect client spends time, what virtual events they attend and reach out and ask to speak.
You’ve got nothing to loose!
3. Create a Local Mastermind or Accountability Group
I love participating in online Mastermind Groups with women across the country and around the world.
But the goal of this tip is to build local relationships.
Reach out to a couple people you know and set up a monthly virtual or in-person coffee meeting to talk about your business goals for the month.
Even if you are a remote worker working at home for a company that’s not yours, meeting with other women can serve to keep you accountable to your personal and professional development goals.
In addition to the relationships you will create, these women are likely to recommend you and your service to others in you local community – the same way you would of them.
If you only know one person to invite that’s okay. Ask that person to invite someone as too.
A group of three to six people works great.
4. Start a Book Club
Do you need accountability to get through that book that you know you really should read? Ask colleagues, friends on Facebook, at church or even your neighbors if they want to join you in a book club.
The books don’t have to be businesses, time management or personal development related.
They can be any topic.
Your goal here is to connect with others and to build, nurture and deepen relationships.
Your book club can meet using Zoom a Facebook room or even in someone’s drive way. The location isn’t important – developing connection with other is.
5. Attend a Speaker Series and Follow Up
Seek out a speaker series at your local college or an industry association meeting to attend virtually or in person.
Challenge yourself to ask a thoughtful question if its in a virtual format.
Then follow up with the speaker after the event. Send a thank you email, connect on LinkedIn and/or ask a follow up question. If their presentation was meaningful to you consider asking them to join you for a virtual coffee to learn more.
If you attend an in-person event, introduce yourself to at least 3 people in attendance.
You don’t have to have deep meaningful conversations but the more often you introduce yourself the more likely you are to find someone you can connect with.
When they introduce themselves repeat their name “Hello Karen, nice to see you.” Give yourself the chance to remember their name and create a connection.
This is also a great time to practice your elevator speech. Strangers make great test subjects!
Another key way to network at speaker series events is to introduce yourself to the speaker, follow-up with a thank you note and an invitation to meet for virtual coffee if their presentation was meaningful to you.
Or, seek out virtual or in-person classes at your Small Business Development Center. The attendees are likely to be other business growth-minded people.
SBDCs can be a great way to meet entrepreneurs who are at the same stage of their business journey as you.
Again, challenge yourself to introduce yourself and your business to other people in attendance and follow up. Sending a LinkedIn connection invite is a simple way to start a conversation.
6. Invite People to Your Home in a Safe Way
Inviting people to your home can be a little scary for some people but the most fun way I have found to grow relationships is in small groups at someone’s home.
Your home doesn’t have to be big or beautifully decorated. And you don’t even have to have people inside your home.
My neighbor and her wife host couples for drive way happy hours a couple times a week. They set up two pairs of lawn chairs properly socially distanced and catch up with colleagues and friend for about an hour before dinner time.
You could also invite 4-6 people over for bbq in your backyard.
Or invite over them for beer and pizza around the fire pit in your front yard.
Set a TV up outside and invite people over to watch an awards show, movie or a sporting event.
Maybe you are a great cook and there is a recipe you have been wanting to try. Invite 2-3 people over for a picnic dinner to help you eat it.
The options are endless.
Pick an easy entertaining option and create your own networking event.
7. Find a Co-Work Space
I tried a co-working space and fell in love with it. Many also offer virtual programming to help connect their local work at home community.
The co-workspace in my community is a collaboration with the local college and University.
It offers a number of fantastic opportunities to grow relationship including lunch and learns and free meetings with business mentors.
To gain a return from the time and/or money you spend to work from a co-work space challenge yourself to meet someone new each time you are there or attend one of their events.
Co-work spaces were created to induce collaboration and relationship building.
It is the perfect place to gain visibility for your business and expand your network of people who know, like and trust you.
When the time is right, give co-working a try few days a month.
If you aren’t sure co-working is for you ask if they have a free trial day or if you can buy a drop in pass.
Working from home affords fantastic freedom and flexibility. But also requires more effort to create networking opportunities as a work from home woman.
Networking is about more than lead generation and sales. It’s as much about building business relationships that will make you more successful.
Invite mentors or colleagues to meet for virtual lunch or coffee, put together a mastermind or accountability group or start a book club.
You can also seek out more traditional opportunities including speaker series at your local College, University or SBDCs. Ask questions and follow up with an invitation to the speaker to meet for virtual coffee.
And don’t forget to send LinkedIn connection invites!
Or think out of the box and try a co-works space or host small groups of people outside your home.
The options to network as a work at home woman are endless and sometimes the more creative outside the box ideas have the best results.