Building Business Relationships
Today work-at-home professionals
have a remarkable communications vehicle no matter where they
are located. The "information highway" runs through
all neighborhoods -- enabling at-home workers to develop
business relationships that transcend geographical boundaries.
by Lisa M. Roberts
In the "olden days," the geographical
location of your home business played a large part in its success.
Cities or large suburban areas were fertile ground for both monetary
and social exchanges, while the more remote areas posed a greater
challenge. Today home-based professionals have a remarkable communications
vehicle no matter where they are located. The "information
highway" runs through all neighborhoods -- enabling
loners and social butterflies to unite and at-home workers to
develop business relationships that transcend geographical boundaries.
It's no wonder that the most
talked about emerging professional communities today are by far
the ones found right here in cyberspace. This powerful communications
tool is revolutionizing the home business field by connecting
the solo, homebound entrepreneur with the world. Such a vital
connection will not only help you develop your clientele or customerbase,
but the critical business relationships you need to sharpen your
professional profile and provide maximum exposure for you and
So how do you get started? Here's
a step-by-step approach to propel you and your business into
1. Use your
e-mail address to connect with colleagues in your field. An e-mail address alone is a phenomenal development
for work-at-home professionals, because business contacts on
all levels seem to be much more accessible this way than via
phone or fax. It takes a bit of time to adjust to this evolving
form of business communication, but once you do your business
relationships will flourish. Become an active e-mail correspondent
and use this medium whenever appropriate to your services and
a "sig" that promotes your business. A "sig" is the signature at
the end of your e-mail. Novice cyberspace communicators might
just sign their first or last name at the end of a message, but
they're missing a chance to promote their business. As a business
owner, you need to always keep an eye on marketing opportunities,
and every business-related e-mail is a chance to advertise your
services. Take notice of other sigs before developing one of
your own. Include the kind of information you'd have on a business
card -- your address (if it's a POB), phone number, and a tag
line or two that describes your products or services. Keep it
concise and to the point (four lines is norm) so you don't bog
down your correspondent's e-mail retrievals.
4. Find your
industry's bulletin board "hang-outs." Once you find the message boards specific
to your industry, follow the discussions (or "threads")
a week or two to see if they are of interest. Then join in when
you have something to say. These bbs are like mini associations
-- a terrific place to meet colleagues and develop business friendships.
(Check out the EP Message Boards
while you're at it!)
5. Join an
industry listserv or newsgroup. Another
way to ease into this new medium is to join an industry listserv,
which is an electronic mailing list of professionals in your
field who connect daily to share whatever business problems/solutions
are on their minds. These lists are powerful business resources
for home-based professionals, as members tend to be generous
with information and support. Newsgroups also explore topics
of common interest, but messages stay in one place instead of
being distributed to each individual's e-mail box. By being an
active contributor yourself, you may find connections that will
turn your work-at-home goals around and expose you to opportunities
you never thought possible.
6. Use the
"mask" of cyberspace to sharpen your networking skills. Since communication in cyberspace is
more "voice-to-voice" than face-to-face, you may feel
a bit more brave networking with leaders in your field. And perhaps
because it's so new or perhaps because it's so easy, you'll find
those leading experts to be much more accessible through electronic
communication than they are in more traditional formats. Your
letter sent by postal mail has a good chance of being buried
in a pro's slush pile; in contrast, your e-mail message with
a targeted subject line has a good chance of being "opened"
and read. If you come across an expert's e-mail address and want
to introduce yourself or your service, remember to be considerate
of their time by developing carefully-written, coherent and cogent
Whatever product or service you
offer, your aim is to develop business relationships that will
help promote it. You'll find that business relationships founded
through cyberspace are kindred to those based in the conventional
workplace in that they will vary from reserved to cordial to
personal. Just remember that even though you sit in the privacy
of your own home, cyberspace is a public forum--so proceed with
caution before you post messages on bbs or "clear your throat"
to introduce yourself on a listserv.
But by all means, go for it!
You never know who you're going to "meet"--and how
that meeting might turn you -- and your business -- around.
- © 1997 Lisa M. Roberts, all rights reserved. The above article
is an excerpt from How
to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide
to Home Business, a title highly recommended by La Leche
League, Home Office Computing and the Family Christian
your own copy today!