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Talk Amongst Yourselves

Discussion time, here to help, life lines

There's a sneaky disease that strikes the best of homebased entrepreneurs: loneliness. It sounds almost trivial compared to cash-flow or customer-service concerns--that is, until you catch yourself staring out the window, fantasizing about hanging out by those long-lost water coolers and kvetching with colleagues. Chatting on the Web is certainly one solution to this dilemma, but less time-consuming are e-mail discussion lists.

Delivered conveniently to your e-mail inbox, discussion lists provide a new network of colleagues, prospects, advisors, partners and friends. "You can still `rub shoulders' with your colleagues, but with e-mail discussion groups, you're doing it virtually," explains Doug Hudiburg, 33, who started an e-mail discussion group when he needed to find freelance professionals for Flatiron Resource Group, his Louisville, Colorado, virtual team-management company that assembles freelance teams to help clients with marketing projects. "The groups can help you get immediate answers to questions, find other homebased entrepreneurs to collaborate with, market your services or products and keep current with what's happening in your industry."

To find a list to join, search http://www.onelist.com or http://www.lsoft.com/lists/listref.html. If you can't find a suitable list, create your own--for free--at ONElist or eGroups (http://www.egroups.com). "Building a strong e-mail community is about adding value," advises Hudiburg, who spends two to three hours per week on his list. "If you see your [list] as providing a service, [your list] community will grow and prosper."

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