Home Alone

Don Cooper While working at home has many advantages over a traditional office environment, there are a few disadvantages. According to a recent survey by the American Association of Home-Based Businesses, one of the things that home-based entrepreneurs miss most from a corporate environment is interaction with co-workers.

Because most of us are in our houses all day, every day, we do not get as much opportunity to see and talk with people as those in typical offices do. It is easy to feel isolated when the only co-worker you have is a clock ticking away behind you. And while pets can make terrific companions, they aren't particularly good at answering questions or giving you feedback on your ideas (unless, of course, you design pet toys).

Excessive isolation can lead to frustration, anger, and even depression. To prevent feelings of isolation, use these strategies to re-connect with people:

Reach out and touch someone.
If your phone isn't ringing, then make someone else's ring. Call friends and colleagues to share ideas, leads, challenges, and successes. Fax them documents to get their feedback. Wish them happy birthday, happy anniversary, or happy anything else that is going on in their personal or professional lives. (Using a contact manager makes this much easier.)

Call prospects, obviously. But call clients as well. Check up on your own work. Are your customers completely satisfied or could something be improved? Will they have new projects coming up soon? Do they have any other needs that you might be able to fill? An additional benefit to you of calling your customers is a stronger relationship with them. Such outstanding customer service can blow away your competition and keep you first in your clients' minds when they need your product or service again.

Get online.
E-mail in some ways is even better than the telephone. It can be written and read at your convenience, yet still be timely. It is also a lot cheaper to e-mail people across the country or around the world. I use e-mail virtually every day to stay in touch with people who are either hard to reach by phone or need to keep their phone free for clients to call.

Another way to use your modem to fight isolation is to log in to chat rooms or discussion groups. There are on-line forums for any topic you can think of, and they are great ways to make new friends and colleagues. Some interest groups you may want to explore include those for your local geographic area, your particular industry, or home-based business in general.

Do lunch.
As handy as electronic communication is, it is still no substitute for good, old-fashioned human contact. And it is all too easy to fall into the habit of eating every meal in front of the computer screen. For this reason, we home-based entrepreneurs need to make a point of scheduling people into our work-weeks. Arrange to have lunch with a client, prospect, friend, or colleague on a regular basis. By scheduling time with people away from your house, you can break up your routine while giving yourself something to look forward to. If the person you meet is also home-based, you can take advantage of an extra benefit: Since we can eat whenever we want, we can go when the restaurants are less crowded. (Ha!)

Expand your Network.
While networking is an effective marketing strategy for any business, it is particularly important for home-business owners. Networking events give us the opportunity to interact with larger groups of people, creating an opportunity to socialize while building our businesses at the same time. A good friend of mine who works at home with three small children says she has to go to networking events periodically just so she can talk with other adults!

Events are numerous and diverse. There are breakfasts, luncheons, workshops, lectures, trade shows, and evening mixers. They are sponsored by literally thousands of local associations, service clubs, and lead-sharing groups. Choose one-or several-that fit your needs, budget, and schedule. The important thing is to attend regularly and participate actively to get the full benefits of your membership.

By employing these strategies, you can keep feelings of isolation at bay, while keeping your creativity and productivity up. Do them regularly and you'll have one less thing to miss from the corporate world.

© 1998, Don Cooper and Guerrilla Seminars
(703) 250-1677 -- don@doncooper.com -- www.doncooper.com

Category: Customer Care
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