Working from home is ideal for many people with disabilities, making it easier to work around the effects of a disabling condition. Transportation barriers, for example, disappear when the commute is across the hall rather than across town. A home-based entrepreneur has added flexibility to take sensible rests, manage medical routines, and coordinate personal attendant care services. The benefits of working at home are irrefutable, but beware–its isolating effects can be detrimental to you and your business.
Feelings of isolation are not uncommon for home-based business owners, and people with disabilities are particularly susceptible to the isolating effects of working at home. The same logistical concerns that make working from home a convenient arrangement–transportation and accessibility, to name a few–also make it easy for some entrepreneurs with disabilities to become hermits. Don’t let being home-based make you home bound.
Get out and network–it’s not only good for the soul, it’s good for business.
Here are some networking suggestions:
- Volunteer with a local civic organization. Volunteerism gives you and your business a chance to shine. Your community involvement will lend credibility to you and your business, and it might even lead you to customers.
- Join a trade association, professional organization, Chamber of Commerce, or business group and don’t just read the monthly newsletter – get involved. Remember, networking only works if you show up, so attend meetings and volunteer to serve on committees.
- Take advantage of public speaking opportunities. Position yourself as an expert in your field by giving presentations at association meetings, trade shows, conferences, meetings of civic organizations, and other events.
- Attend conferences and trade shows in your industry. You’ll not only meet people who share your interest, but you’ll also learn about cutting edge trends and practices.
- Build-in water cooler input by establishing a business advisory group. The advisory group can function as a sounding board for your ideas, offer advice, and serve as a source of referrals. For best results, seek out advisors with varied experience and expertise.
- Seek out other home-based business owners. Informal groups of home-based business owners are sprouting up in communities all over the country. One such group started when two home-based business owners struck up a conversation at a local coffee shop. The pair began meeting for coffee regularly, and others joined in their conversation. Before they knew it, there was a group of four to eight people meeting regularly, exchanging ideas, and trading services.
- Find out if a home-based business group has been established in your community by calling the Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Development Center. If there isn’t already a group, start your own. Set a meeting date, time, and location and publicize it through the Chamber and by posting flyers at the local coffee shop or copy center. As Ray Kinsella said in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”
- Talk to other entrepreneurs with disabilities. Not sure where to find them? Try contacting your local vocational rehabilitation office or center for independent living.