When you work for someone else, your employer provides you with a computer, a phone, an email address and business cards. The company has a logo, a website and procedures established to get the work done.
But when you work for yourself, you start with none of that. It’s up to you to provide these things for yourself. And even though many solo professionals have come from a corporate past, they don’t bring many of these things into their own businesses. I think that’s a mistake.
Many solo professionals assume that because they are small, they’re under the radar, and they can get by without pulling together all the essential components of their business. But, whether you’re just starting out or already established and sitting pretty, here are five things that let the world know that you’re a professional and that you mean business!
1. Get a professional business card. Don’t get a free card from Vista Print; have one designed by a professional, with up-to-date information and nice cardstock. (I still receive cards where I can feel the perforations along the edge, which is a clear sign they printed it with their home printer!). Your card makes an impression every time you hand it to someone – a small investment in a professional-looking card will make a good one.
2. Get a real email address. I don’t mean using Gmail, AOL, Yahoo! or Hotmail. If you have a registered domain (www.YourCompany.com), it’s just a few more steps to use it for email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please leave email@example.com behind! It’s worth the extra effort to demonstrate that you’re serious.
3. Get a professional headshot. It should be retaken every couple of years and used on your website, LinkedIn profile, bio, etc. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be done by a pro in a professional setting.
4. Get a consistent look. Use consistent fonts and colours and consistent wording in the way you describe who you are and what you do. Presentations, brochures, online materials, etc. Anything you show to clients, prospects and others should feel consistent, instead of reflecting a new expression in creativity in each piece.
5. Don’t skimp on your tools. Make sure you have what you need to run your business well, including a good computer, a reliable printer, and a dedicated place to work without background/home noises. Invest in the software you need to do your work and maintain your business on the back-end, too.
All five of these things are easy to implement and relatively inexpensive. By doing them, not only will you give the world a better impression, you’ll feel like a million bucks!