When you work in a service-oriented business, such as independent consulting or freelancing, your professional image is vital to your career. When a potential client meets you, they’re not thinking about how great your company is. Instead, they’re trying to guess how great you are.
Whether we like it or not, every potential client is looking for that one reason not to hire us. We need to break through that barrier with our very first impression. And our professional image, or lack thereof, will often make or break a deal.
Your professional image will give a client or prospect an idea of both your credentials and your personality: the two things that will help them decide whether or not to hire you. To make sure you’re always putting your best foot forward, use these tips to improve your professional image.
- Always dress appropriately for your audience, the type of work you do, and the location where you’ll hold a meeting with your potential client. A legal consultant, for example, would likely want to wear a full business suit, whereas a graphic designer might be able to get away with more of a business casual look.
- Always use proper grammar when you write or speak. Also make sure that you speak coherently and without rushing.
- Always listen to your potential clients. Don’t dismiss their concerns, but rather take the time to show them that you can offer a real solution.
- Always keep your office tidy and organized. Even if you work from home, a client may be able to find your address, and show up unexpectedly. Also, if you work at home, you need to keep your entire home neat and clutter-free. Anything a client can see will reflect upon you. Even if a client won’t ever see your office, you need to be able to find things on a moment’s notice if they call you, and you don’t want them to hear you digging through piles of papers.
Following these simple, but important, tips will not only improve your general professional image, but will help to improve how you feel in your work.
By maintaining a professional image wherever you are, you’ll build confidence in your work that will shine through when you meet with potential clients, making them more comfortable and confident in their decision to hire you.
Note: This article was originally published on March 11, 2007. It was updated and re-published on the currently-listed publication date.