As someone with a home based internet business, you know the siren lure of staying for an extra hour or two at the computer – just one more job, one more email. That next ping might be the big deal that boosts your business, big time. It’s very easy to get wrapped around the spindle of your work and let your home life suffer.
Letting your home life suffer will cause your business to suffer. It’s important to schedule some time away from the computer; it’s even more important to do this for things relevant to your business. Networking is critical in any kind of field, and it’s no less true in Internet derived businesses than it is in more traditional ones.
So, having resolved to do this, it’s time to put resolution into action. First, make a list of old friends and colleagues, and make a point out of talking to them on the phone, or even better, over lunch, to keep up on developments with them, and within your field.
If your friends don’t do the same sort of work you do, think about how you’d explain it to them – this is valuable practice for talking to potential clients. Your old colleagues may know people who need your services, or may be able to cover for you if you want to take a vacation…and if you don’t keep the lines of communications open, you’ll find them less willing to help you out.
While face to face is good, there are other ways to keep in touch, ranging from Instant Messenger programs like AIM or Yahoo Messenger (or even better, a multi-service package, like Pidgin) to social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and MySpace. These are also ways to get client referrals and to promote your own products.
It’s worth noting that internet connected time tends to go ‘faster than expected’ – when dealing with communications at the speed of text, people type at about 60 words per minute, and speak at about twice that rate (and read at about 400 words per minute, all told).
Budget it appropriately, and in spite of the need to keep in touch, keep yourself on a tight budget, including scheduled times when you’re NOT going to be checking emails and instant messenger prompts. This is an important tool set for keeping in touch with your clients and colleagues, but it’s also an incredible way to lose productive time.
Another venue to look into is a place called Meetup. This is a social marketing site that’s geared around making face to face meetings of people with common or related interests happen. It’s a great tool for organizing professional brunches and the like, and a great way to stay in touch with professional organizations dealing with your profession.
Finally, there’s the issue of relating to clients over the internet. The first rule is being timely. The second rule is that typing in SMS “textese”, even if it’s faster, is going to come off as unprofessional. And it’s very important that you maintain a strict discipline about office hours, if you don’t want clients to pester you non-stop about the status of work you’ve got for them.