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 for how 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!
- Get a professional business card. Don’t get a free card from Vista Print; I mean have one designed by a professional, with up-to-date information and nice card stock. (I still receive cards where I can feel the perforations along the edge, which is a clear sign they printed it from home on their own 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.
- 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 (email@example.com). It’s worth the little bit of extra effort to demonstrate that you’re serious. Please leave firstname.lastname@example.org behind!
- Get a professional head shot. This should be retaken every couple of years and used on your website, your LinkedIn profile, your bio, etc. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be done by a pro in a professional setting.
- Get a consistent look. 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. Use consistent fonts and colors, as well as consistent wording in the way you describe who you are and what you do.
- 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 not only to do your work, but to 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!