When you work remotely, you have access to many perks that office-bound individuals lack: you can perform your major job duties from the comfort of your own home, you have the advantage of not having to deal with coworkers who listen to loud music or eat chips at their desks, and you can sometimes even set your own schedule and prioritize your day without an employer’s input.
If you have decided to work from home in pursuit of a healthier work-life balance, you may be enjoying the benefits of your new location, but there’s a chance you might be wondering how to do something that felt like an obvious part of your job when you worked in an office: Meet new people. Though you will need to use some brainpower and creativity while networking remotely, making connections outside of an office environment can absolutely be accomplished. Here are seven tips for connecting with others while working from home.
1. Use Social Media To Open Doors
Let’s start with the obvious: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok. Because it has become common practice for businesses to have a social media page, you have the option to like, befriend, and message potential clients. If you are a freelance writer, consider reaching out to businesses to see if they need their blogs updated. If you work in marketing, but you’re having trouble attracting clients from home, search out small businesses that you think could benefit from growing their web presence with targeted social media ads.
Don’t forget to keep in touch with friends and coworkers, too. A quick message or post can start a conversation between you and an acquaintance about a mutual career interest or a similar line of work. You may be surprised by how many opportunities arise when you simply have a conversation with somebody you know: Even if your old friends from high school or college may work in different industries, they may know somebody who is just the type of person you’ve wanted to connect with. Be sure to like others’ professional pages, stay in touch with local businesses, and remember to support others who are working remotely as they will be more inclined to do the same for you.
2. Arrange Virtual Networking Meetings
Depending on your industry, it may benefit everyone involved to have a regular “coffee hour” or “chat date”. If you work remotely with others or if you lead a team, it would be a great idea to host weekly meetings that are more informal than your regular work meetings. Talk about TV shows, your kids, or just drink your coffee and discuss the weather in your area (this last one can actually be interesting small talk if you and your colleagues reside on different sides of the country!).
What you are accomplishing with this type of informal meeting is getting everyone together in a space — similar to a water-cooler conversation in the office or a company holiday party — where the topic of work is not the dominant subject. When you get to know your colleagues as people, you have a greater chance of forming real connections with them as professionals. These connections will last for years and open many doors when it comes to finding freelance jobs, being thought of when it comes to managing a project, or consulting for someone else.
3. Talk To Everyone
The connections you make, even if they are career-related, don’t necessarily have to come from your time spent with colleagues. If you work from home, you likely spend at least part of your day outside the home: You may go to a café to get your regular cup of coffee, or maybe you walk your dog at the park down the street. If you are a more introverted personality, striking up with a conversation may be something you normally would have avoided, but even if you just talk to one new person a day, you may be surprised at the doors this can open for you.
If you are self-employed, or if you are starting a small business, have some business cards printed out and kept in your purse or wallet (or even a pocket) for easy access. Don’t assume that a work-related connection will come out of the conversation, but don’t be opposed to it, either. For example, let’s say you are a graphic designer or a freelance website developer: Every person you meet may either provide you with or know of an opportunity for work. Once you get used to having casual conversations while waiting at a stoplight or watching your dogs fetch a Frisbee at the park, it will seem like second nature to approach strangers with a smile.
4. Utilize Alumni Networks
You don’t have to be an Ivy League grad to take advantage of alumni networks. Most colleges and universities have alumni meetings, a speaker series, and career events that will connect you with others and give you tips on how to advance your career. Some hold networking opportunities virtually. Sign up for your alma mater’s alumni newsletter (you can likely find this on their website, and if you have trouble, feel free to call the main office and ask) and start connecting.
If your alumni network doesn’t have many remote events, or if you can’t find anything specific to your line of work, consider starting a group on your own. Use professional networks like LinkedIn to start a group that you feel is relevant to the opportunities you seek. There’s a good chance that if you think there is a need for such a networking group, others will think so as well. Often, it’s just a matter of seeking each other out and starting the conversation!
5. Join Online Forums
You may not think of internet hubs like Reddit as meccas for business networking, but they can be. Consider how many people scroll through subreddits and read strangers’ comments. There are discussion boards for numerous lines of work, from contracting, to software development, to social work. If you are a mother of small children who works from home, consider reaching out to “mommy blogs”, the readers of these blogs, or using forums for moms like babycenter.com to develop a network of like-minded parents who work in the same industry.
If you are working remotely on a temporary basis, consider finding a locally based group online through services like Meetup.com. Stay in touch with these people while you work remotely, and when you start working in person again, take advantage of the network you have built virtually.
6. Take Advantage of the Phone
Using the phone to cold-call a potential client or advertise your services may seem like a ghastly option — especially for those of us who are more comfortable using text or email to communicate! While it may seem old-fashioned to call someone without any preamble, consider that there are situations in which this may be appropriate. Always investigate beforehand to ascertain whether whomever you’re calling might be open to a phone call: Some people, while they may be warm and friendly in an email they’ve had time to respond to in a professional manner, are caught off guard when called by a stranger.
If you are a therapist working remotely in private practice, for example, consider contacting local family doctors and offering your virtual information (a website, or at least a virtual professional profile) for potential referrals. Similarly, if you work in graphic design, consider calling a friend or two to let them know that you’re available for work if they know anybody who needs your skillset. Though the above two are very specific options, think about your line of work and see if a phone call or two may be able to advance your career.
7. Use Email To Connect
Email, like the phone, can seem like an old-fashioned, formal way to make a potential business connection. When done right, however, email can seem thoughtful and even respectful. For those who work in industries like academia, where connecting on the phone may be more difficult due to conflicting teaching schedules, consider sending a colleague or potential research partner an email outlining how you could mutually benefit each others’ work.
If you work in entertainment — say you’re making an independent film, for example, and most of your cast and crew do not live locally — it would be easier to send out a monthly newsletter about your project than it would be to connect individually. Using email largely depends on your industry, your personality, and in which ways you wish to connect with others. The bottom line for professionals working remotely is to connect whenever, and in whatever manner, you are able: You never know when your next opportunity will arise. Working remotely can be an exciting endeavor, but at times it can make you feel isolated. Avoid feeling lonely and out of touch by using the above tips, staying connected whenever you can.