When Beverley Williams began working from home more than a decade ago, she was literally quite alone. Very few people were working from home-or at least telling others about their chosen work styles-and no associations existed to bring homebased entrepreneurs together.
Today, it's much different, says Williams, president of the American Association of Home-Based Businesses (AAHBB). Some 3,700 at-home workers belong to her free, nonprofit group, reaping advice, information and networking opportunities that Williams didn't have a decade ago.
By being a resource for news media, the AAHBB, for one, helps to educate outsiders and enhance the professional image of homebased businesses in the eyes of the nonhomebased community. "It's been a long haul," says Williams, who launched the group in 1991, took it national in 1994 and took it online-and made it free-in 2000. "We feel we have really helped people grow their businesses in a much more positive climate."
Another association that's had staying power is the Home Office Association of America. When it debuted in 1994, its charge was to help at-home workers become more productive and organized, says membership director Eileen Jaffe. Today, the group continues to help its members, adding lobbying services, resources and networking opportunities, she says.
"We're still trying to help people find new ways to boost business and keep up with technology," says Jaffe. Membership costs $49 a year, which includes a monthly electronic newsletter and the services of a national administrator for health, life and business insurance coverage.
Newer to the scene is the Home-based Business Owners Association (HBOA), a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, group that provides information, tax insights, low long-distance and Internet access rates, and some health-related benefits to its 10,000 members. The cost: $149 a year. One of the greatest benefits of HBOA is its online collaboration service, says Lori Fratilla, director of marketing for the group. Members can e-mail each other and keep their calendars and contact databases online, all from a Web-based browser.
Indeed, working from home doesn't have to be such a lonely pursuit anymore. Between chat rooms and forums and membership associations that bring networking, services and bonding to the homebased community, at-home work can be a connected experience.
Care to check out
some other homebased business organizations? Try these:
Journalist and author Jeffery D. Zbar has worked from home since the 1980s. He writes about home business, teleworking, marketing, communications and other SOHO issues.