It's hard to be objective about our own businesses. I also know that many of you worry, especially when you're just starting, that your business doesn't look like a business. That somehow potential clients will see that it's just you working on your computer at your dining room table. A little bit of imposter syndrome creeping into your thoughts. It's perfectly okay to work from home in your jammies and still be a legit business. Here are some fairly easy things that you can do to make sure that your business looks professional to outsiders.
1. Email address
Still using @yahoo.com or @gmail.com or (perish the thought!) @aol.com? Free email addresses do nothing to help your business look professional. It looks like you got a free one online (because you did) and decided to start up a business. It looks like you're not quite invested in your business. That maybe you're not quite ready to make the commitment, that you aren't sure if it's all going to pan out. I might be a little dramatic, however, having a free email address isn't doing you any favors.
Get an email address with your own domain. Instant credibility with very little cost. Creating an email address with your domain url shows potential clients and existing clients that you're invested in your business and it's not a hobby. This should be fairly easy - you can usually get a email address through your domain host. You can also sign up and use GSuite like me. This should cost less than $50/yr. Very affordable.
2. Cell phone
I know more and more people are using their cell phone for business, but I'm not a fan. I'm not a fan because it mixes business and personal and many of us are already having a hard time with boundaries. Meaning that you see the text or email at 9 pm from a client and have to respond. That you get photos from your client's flea market trip on Sundays in real time. That your family and friends frequently get the finger - not that finger - the pointer finger telling them to "hold a minute" while you deal with some design dilemma.
In addition to causing blurred boundaries, imagine if you got an call from a potential client and your outgoing message was Hey! It's Capella, leave a message. They'll wonder if they called the right number. Or if they reached a business at all. Or if you are serious about your business. All in all, it doesn't look good.
Get a business phone number. Because landlines have gone the way of the CD (seriously, when was the last time you bought one?) there are a lot of companies that provide phone services to small businesses. Check out Grasshopper, Ring Central, or good old (free) Google Voice. There are options for you!
At the very least, if you insist on using your cell phone, have the outgoing message say something along the lines of: You've reached Capella at Capella Kincheloe Interior Design please leave your name and number and I'll return your call shortly.
3. Inconsistent branding
Do you have more than 5 fonts you've been using? Are your colors all over the board? What about the language that you use to communicate to clients and vendors? If you don't have your branding real tight, it doesn't look professional.
Read this post about Developing Your Brand and get clear on who your business is and what it does. If you can't decide or create something for yourself (remember we talked about how hard it is to be objective) then hire someone. But even if you're having a hard time streamlining and pulling together your brand and can't afford to hire someone now, you can still tighten up all your fonts and your font colors - at least. Then start building on the rest of it.
4. Not updated
Is the copyright date on your website still 2013? Is the last post on your blog from 8 months ago? Have you not touched your Facebook profile since Obama was president? All of this looks like you may be out of business. Or not have that many clients. Or just moved on to something else. This doesn't tell potential clients that you have a healthy, functioning, legit business. If what you have going on publicly is outdated or not current, it doesn't look professional.
Delete accounts you don't use anymore. If you don't want to blog regularly take it down or remove the dates. Create a marketing schedule/plan to keep your public sites up-to-date and regular. Invest in a scheduler like Later for Instagram, SmarterQueue for Facebook, and Tailwind for Pinterest. Put a reminder on your calendar to change copyright date in January every year.
Right now, go through your online life and make sure that it doesn't feel abandoned.
5. Bad Photos
Guys, I long for the days when magazine photos looked like this. It was a simpler time, before digital, before photos were scrubbed of all life and exposure raised to supernova levels. When houses had lamps cords, and outlets, and wrinkled bedding. That is what qualified for Architectural Digest-quality in the 1970s. Isn't it glorious?
But the reality of today is that you have to create magazine-worthy images, you can't really get away with crappy shots anymore. They have to look as good as the magazines because that is what everyone expects, anything less and it looks amateur.
Invest in professional photography, invest in a great camera and take photography lessons, learn how to dominate photoshop. Remove the photos that are not GREAT from your website. Have someone who you're not that close to (we need honesty), but has a good eye look at them if you have a hard time being objective (I know I do!) A few great photos - this includes your brand photos, your headshot, and your portfolio images - is better than a whole website full of crappy iPhone pics. Great photography makes your work look great.