Professional Image for Your Home-Based Business
Running a successful home-based business requires a great deal of effort. If you are your company’s entire staff, you field phone calls and emails, plan and execute marketing campaigns, deal with vendors, and interact with current and potential customers. You may also be responsible for all tasks related to bookkeeping, inventory, and production. If you have employees, you are responsible for finding, interviewing, and selecting new employees as well as training and supervising them. On top of your business duties, you may be responsible for housekeeping chores, child care, home maintenance tasks, or meal preparation. Some people claim that they “have a lot on their plates,” but owners of home-based businesses often feel that they have dozens of plates that they are trying to juggle simultaneously. With so many demands on your time, you may feel that you simply do not have room in your schedule for one more task. However, if you want your home-based business to succeed, you should make room for one more chore: ensuring that your company projects a professional image.
Why a Professional Image Matters for a Home Business
Although home-based businesses have become more numerous in recent years, there are still many consumers who have a negative perception of a home business. The owner of a home-based business may be viewed as a hobbyist rather than a knowledgeable entrepreneur. Potential buyers may worry that a home-based company might not be around to deal with issues that develop after the initial sale. With the prevalence of online scams, many consumers have started carefully researching companies prior to placing an order, and some of them shy away from home businesses because they are not certain of the quality of the product or service. By projecting a professional image, you can correct misperceptions and allay any doubts that the customer might have about your dependability, integrity, or stability.
What Contributes to a Professional Image for a Home Business?
There are a number of elements that can contribute to making your home-based business appear more professional. Depending on the nature of your business, some of the following tips may not apply. Feel free to choose only those tips that fit the type of services or products you provide, your business goals, or your budget.
1. Have a business address other than your home address. Do you really want to risk having strangers show up at your home? Would you prefer that your address not include your apartment number? A virtual business address protects your privacy, enhances your professional image, and helps in various other ways. For example, some services can receive packages from virtually any shipper, scan your incoming mail, or provide secure shredding. Some services provide a check deposit service or can serve as your registered agent.
2. Maintain a professional personal image. One of the perks of operating a business from home is that you can dress as you wish. However, if you participate in Zoom or Skype meetings, bathrobes, pajamas, sweatshirts bearing sarcastic messages, and similar choices could negatively impact your image, especially if you are an accountant or a financial adviser. Whether you wear a uniform, a suit, or casual clothes to meet with clients at their sites or at your home, always make sure that you appear neatly groomed.
3. Create a logo to help establish your brand as a professional company. If you lack the software or training to create your own logo, there are several sites, including Fiverr, that connect freelancers with businesses needing their services. Once you have a logo, use it on all your marketing materials, letterhead, and shipping labels. A consistent brand image helps enhance recognition, fosters trust, and demonstrates that you plan to be in business for a long time.
4. Have a website. If you do not have a website, you could be missing out on sales. However, you want to make sure that your website conveys the right image. Navigation should be easy and obvious, text should not have any mistakes in spelling or grammar, and videos or images should load quickly. If your budget allows, hire a professional to design your site. Otherwise, you can find companies that offer free templates to create your own site without having to learn how to code. These templates allow a certain amount of customization, so you can make your site more original if not completely unique.
5. Pay attention to your social media accounts. If you have company accounts, you should monitor them closely so that you can react to any negative posts or comments. If you choose to make a response, keep it professional; avoid confrontational statements or insults. Ask the commenter to contact you to discuss how you might be able to resolve the issue, but do not make a commitment until you have all the facts. If you have personal accounts, either make them private or be careful that you do not post anything that could offend potential or current customers who might find you online.
6. Whether you meet with customers in your home or online, make sure that your workspace is clean and inviting. Overflowing trash cans, stacks of dirty dishes, and disorganized piles of papers can distract customers from your message. Before you begin an online conference, verify what other participants will see in the background. Check the pictures hanging on the wall or sitting on a shelf behind you to make sure that you are completely comfortable with them being seen by others. If you feel it wise, conceal any evidence of your other customers or suppliers. Try to schedule online and in-person meetings for times when your privacy can be assured. Being interrupted by a spouse, roommate, barking dog, or unhappy toddler can affect a customer’s perception of your professionalism.
7. Be organized. Whether meeting in your home or online, have the client’s file on your desk or loaded on your computer so that you do not have to shuffle through a stack of files or waste time browsing your computer to find the right account. Even if you are only communicating over the phone, a well-organized home office can help you be respectful of the customer’s time and deliver better service. You may also find that you are more productive, less stressed, and more focused.
8. Prepare professional presentations or proposals. This does not mean that you need to invest in expensive software or learn new skills. It simply means that anything you show, send, or email a client or potential client should be error-free, neat, and relevant. Triple-check everything that others will see. Printed materials should not be smudged, stained, excessively worn, or outdated. Proposals or quotes should normally be itemized and complete so that nothing is left open to interpretation. If you are posting or presenting a slideshow, make sure that you did not accidentally include a slide or picture that does not belong.
9. The vehicle you drive should also present the right image. You do not need to rush out and buy a new car, but your vehicle should be clean and properly maintained. Avoid bumper stickers that some people might find offensive, especially if your company name or logo appears on your vehicle.
Projecting a professional image takes a little time and effort, but a bad image has caused more than one home-based business to fail. The right image can garner respect for you and your business, attract more customers, and enhance your satisfaction with the direction your business is taking.