One of the things that I struggle with at times as someone who works from home is that I want to come across professional despite not having a fancy office with state of the art office equipment and a huge marketing budget. This troubled me a lot at first, but I have approached the issue in three ways –
- first by not worrying so much about what others may or may not be thinking;
- second – by coming up with creative solutions for how to portray my business to others;
- third – by making strategic decisions on how to spend limited amounts of money on those little things that make a big impact.
The easiest aspect to address in regards to this is the telephone. I personally only answer my work phone (my cell phone) when my kids are not in the background and I know that I can have a professional conversation. If I can’t, I let my voice mail answer. Be sure to have a voice mail that sounds professional – this way no one will realize they’re not calling an office phone! And make sure not to “pocket dial” any work contacts!
Because I don’t have an office where I can meet with clients, I tell them that “for their own ease and convenience” I offer the service of meeting at the person’s home or at a quiet coffee shop that is close to them. My clients love this, and most of them think that I do this out of the goodness of my heart to make their life easy, not because I’m masking the fact that my office is in my home where my kids are running around! If I need to meet with a client who has higher standards and wants to see a very professional office situation, I make a reservation to meet at a beautifully decorated office space where I can reserve a spot by the hour, or I offer to meet them at their own office “so they don’t have to take time off of work.”
The one area where I am willing to spend some money to look extra-professional is with my business cards and website. This is the first impression that most people have of me and my business, so I want it to be high quality. These days, there are online companies like VistaPrint that print very cheap but good quality business cards. There are also tons of independent bloggers out there who can help you set up a professional looking blog or business website. Spend time making sure that your website is user-friendly and professional – your customers or clients will appreciate it.
For a long time I felt bad that I could not offer credit card services to my clients, but recently I signed up for a Square (or “square card reader”) – a tiny gadget that fits into my iphone or ipad and lets me charge credit cards! There is a tiny fee per transaction and my money is deposited into my bank account each night. Amazingly enough, there is no fee to sign up and they ship you a Square for free! This service will leave a huge impression on your customers who will see you as not just professional, but tech savvy, too!
I don’t mean to imply that there is anything unprofessional about working from home, but if anyone saw me working in my cluttered office surrounded by kids toys, I wonder if they would question my expertise. By creating the illusion of a polished, professional atmosphere, I feel like my clients are more impressed and feel good about the service they are receiving. After all, we want happy clients and customers who will refer our business on to others!!
What are some of your suggestions for maintaining professionalism while working at home?
- – -
Today’s Thought: This upcoming three-day-weekend cannot come soon enough.