Nowadays, the brand of the person can be so much stronger than that brand of the business. If you’re looking to function as an entrepreneur, that needs to be the case for you, too. You have to build a personal brand and one that can inspire and instill trust. Otherwise, you won’t be acting on any opportunities or opening any doors. Here’s what you need to do about being and looking like a real professional.
As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So, what’s going to help you make yours? As a professional, you’re missing a huge step if you don’t have something to hand out at a greeting. A business card, for example, containing a bit of great visual branding, your contact details, and a role title. Look into services like Banana Print to see the different styles you might get to represent yourself. Besides having a card to hand out, be polite and firm in your greetings. Commit the names of those you meet to memory. That’s a skill any businessperson needs to learn quickly.
That first impression is naturally going to be largely impacted by the kind of appearance you put on when you’re in public and doing business. For men, there are style guides for every kind of occasion, formal and otherwise. It’s always good to err a bit on the side of business-like. A good suit jacket or shirt can go for all kinds of settings. For women, it can get more complicated. You don’t necessarily have to rely on suits all the time, but it is important to judge the lines of propriety.
It’s about more than appearance, as well. There are certain rules of etiquette that you’re going to need to learn. Not everyone will have as strict an expectation on these, but it pays to be thorough. A lot of business etiquette is common sense. Observe table manners if you’re at a dinner. Make sure you turn off your mobile devices if you’re in a proper conversation with someone. Be grateful and be polite. That’s not to say there’s no wiggle room for a more casual rapport. But you need to judge the right situation for it.
Put it in writing
It’s not all about how you carry yourself and appear when meeting others, too. Those are important starting points for building a good professional image and brand. But what’s really going to inform it is the content of your character. In particular, the content you publish under your character. Blogging is the new frontier. Here, experts and entrepreneurs can share their experiences and expertise. If you have something to offer, it can be a good place to do it. You can build a real reputation as an expert and build a community around yourself.
The content you put out matters, but so does the need to get it read. Nowadays, there are a lot of professionals and people from all walks of life online. All trying to get the audience you want. So you have to put a bit of effort into standing out above the rest. Online, this means taking the time to develop a professional brand as opposed to using stock imagery and designs. It can also mean using search engine optimisation to make you all the easier for people to find.
Professionals follow up
How you bring people in is important. What you do after you’re done communicating with them is perhaps even more important, however. Particularly with face-to-face meetings. If you say you’re going to keep in touch, then make sure you actually do it. Even if you don’t, take the time to drop a phone call or even an email. Even if you don’t think you’ll get anything out of it. It’s a great way to build a good reputation about yourself. There are far too many people, nowadays, who will break promises without ever thinking about them. Treat your word as your bond.
Time is important
Of course, professionals have a busy schedule. You need to make time to meet people, to write content, to follow-up and communicate. It can be difficult, sometimes, to fit all those into one person’s schedule. But it’s of vital importance that you learn how to manage your time. Not just for your own sake but for your reputation. What you do and how you organise yourself ripples to the surface eventually. When it comes to time, it’s easy to notice if someone’s late to a meeting. Never let that be you. Be the person who arrives ten minutes early.
Share yourself as a resource
Just as people are going to notice if you’re late or otherwise act unprofessional, they’re going to notice if you’re on their side. Standing out as a professional that people want to work with means being a force for good, overall. Being forward and enthusiastic in collaborating and helping other businesses and entrepreneurs. Even if it means something as simple as helping to share a social media campaign they’re looking to kick off. There are a lot of ways you can get more collaborative with others. Nothing will build your reputation better and it can easily lead to those connections you make returning the favour.
Defend your reputation
As much work as it can be to build your reputation, it’s easier than you might imagine to tear it right back down again. So you have to be ultra-sensitive to perceptions of you, particularly online. Curate and cull any past publications you have that don’t fit the image you’re going for. Social media comments and photos are a good place to start. When your reputation takes a hit, be proactive in dealing with it. Release a comment as soon as you can and start to counteract.
Appearances matter in professionalism, but so does the action behind it. How people perceive you and your reputation has a large role to play in how easy you find business going ahead. So work on it.