Self employed workers have their hands full juggling multiple roles every day, so keeping a professional appearance can be challenging at times. Freelancers and so-called “one man bands” already struggle when it comes to competing with large corporations. It is hard to answer the phones, take out the trash and still create awesome presentations and competitive proposals. To win contracts and jobs from corporations that are accustomed to dealing with other large companies, solo workers need all the help they can get. Here are 8 subtle ways to make yourself look more professional when selling yourself and your business to corporate customers.
1. Take the initiative by shaking hands first: By seizing the opportunity you exude confidence and the energy that only big players have.
2. Dress for the seasons: You may be working on your own and operating on a shoestring, but you can look professional by showing an awareness of appropriate attire. Keep your accessories to appropriate levels and wear appropriate colors. By showing that you have fashion sense you will silently communicate that you have the class and sophistication to compete with the big players in your field.
3. Create brand definition: As a freelancer or contractor you need to learn from your corporate competitors: let your brand drive everything you do. Create a succinct mission statement; keep your fonts and images consistent in everything from your correspondence to your website. Develop your brand this way and you will shed the “Mom and Pop” look and level the playing field in a dramatic way.
4. Get the fax: The online age has left many small players with IP and mobile phones that make it difficult to use with fax machines. Your corporate competitors have expensive phone systems that keep them sending and receiving faxes at will. Don’t be caught having your faxes sent to or from the local office store: subscribe to an online fax service that gives you a toll free fax number that you can use to receive faxes. These services also allow you to upload files to be faxed, so you can avoid the embarrassment of being unable to use fax services.
5. Alternative PDFs: Many freelancers lack the resources to purchase luxuries such as Adobe PDF software. Don’t let that stop you from sending professional grade PDF documents. Free alternatives such as PrimoPDF let you compile everything from invoices to proposals just like your larger competitors do.
6. Video conferencing: A subtle way to make yourself look more professional is doing business by video. Large corporations have cut back on travel to save money and to be environmentally conscious: you can do the same even if you’re low on cash. Dimdim offers a great free service that allows you to set up meetings with up to twenty people using a browser-based application. Show that you have a green company too.
7. Get your brand online: Small players like you can really look bad if a potential customer searches for you online and you cannot be found. Get to work on your online brand. Hire a professional to build your site. Create a blog that supports your niche and get on LinkedIn and other social sites. Let yourself shine online where you can look as professional as you like without much expense.
8. Chit chat: Those who spend most of their time working alone may start slipping in their social skills. Make it a point to develop or maintain the ability to strike up conversations with strangers so you can use small talk to your advantage at your next presentation. Develop an awareness of what potential clients want you to say and do not disappoint them. Focus attention on them: most people love talking about themselves.
These 8 subtle ways to make yourself look more professional only touch the tip of the iceberg. Literally, there are hundreds of small things you can do to make yourself appear professional, capable, and ready to compete. Don’t let the fact that you work on your own hold you back. Get a more professional appearance starting today.
This is a guest post from James Adams, a UK-based writer for a leading ink supplies specialist where he covers developments in tech, analyses and reviews products such as the T0715 and, when time permits, occasionally manages to post their blog.