One of the things I encourage new freelancers to do is get out and network. Established freelancers, too! Working in a home office can be as lonely as it is liberating. Just as you should spend some time every week on marketing your business, even when you are already busy, you should spend time making contact with others.

This is easier than ever with all the social networks out there: MyRagan, Melcrum, IABC‘s MemberSpeak and local discussion boards, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. (And how did I forget Twitter?) Then there are blogs to visit and comment on, e-mail messages to say “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m bouncing off the walls, want to meet for coffee?” and phone calls doing the same. And what good is being your own boss if you can’t get out and meet a friend, colleague or client for lunch once in a while?

This week I attended a networking session of my local IABC chapter’s Alliance of Independent Practitioners. This is a group of about 100 Toronto-area communicators, all with our own businesses. The group meets monthly, except for a summer break in July and August. AIP’s monthly meetings always address topics of interest to independents, but I would say that we all get just as much out of making a personal connection with other like-minded people.

The session this week was particularly effective. About 20 of us worked on our “elevator speeches,” those short and snappy summaries of what we do to have on hand when meeting someone new. Afterwards, we went to a nearby pub and continued the conversations. I met some terrific new people and connected with several others I already knew but haven’t seen for a while.

It was refreshing, and good practice for two weeks from now when I’ll be attending IABC’s annual international conference in New York. Who else is going? Will I see you there?