Many businesses work from home, sometimes simply from a kitchen table. Owners refer to themselves as “we”, even if they’re the only person in the company. Small businesses often feel that they can’t compete with the bigger companies, often because they see themselves as “the little guys.”
I’ll tell you a secret, a secret that may just change your life.
It’s all about appearance, about image. It doesn’t matter how many people you have working for you, or even if you alone are the company. It doesn’t really matter how much you have in your account. If you look professional and act professional there is no real reason another company won’t hire you just because your business is small.
It starts with a good website. I know, that’s obviously what I’m going to say. It’s true though. Your website is usually the first thing people will see about your business. Potential customers don’t initially use the telephone, or look for ads in the Yellow Pages. They use the web. What they see on your website reflects your professionalism. Investing in your website shows that you care about yoour business, and by association you’ll care about their business too.
Having a nice website isn’t only for those with large budgets. Small businesses can get a great site for only a few hundred pounds, rather than the thousands it used to cost. Of course, you still can spend thousands, but it’s usually not necessary. If you have the time and are prepared to learn then you can even build your own site. I think your time is better spent working at your business rather than trying to build a website, but then I would say that!
Another way to look more professional than you feel is through your proposal and quote processes. Potential clients like to have things written down so that they can review your offer and share it with others who may be involved in the decision making process. A verbal or email quote will often lack the degree of professionalism you need to show to be taken seriously. You need to briefly talk about your company, to outline the client’s needs or problems, and how you will address these issues. Your proposal or quote should include prices, with a breakdown so the client knows what costs are incuded and where the costs lie.
The proposal should be easy to read, only be as long as necessary, and should include the next steps. Clients should know how to proceed. Should they call? Email? Provide a deposit?
What should you do if a client wants a face-to-face meeting, and you can’t meet at their business premises? You certainly don’t want them at your kitchen table, surrounded by the remains of yesterday’s pizza, being sniffed at by your incontinent bloodhound! Take advantag of your local hospitality businesses. Hotels and lounge-bars usually welcome business meets. They provide quite, comfortable and often well-equipped locations for entertaining clients. Get to know a few locations around the town. Some will be better for entertaining your clients than others. If your client suggests a meet in such a place, don’t worry. They may be keeping up appearances too!
Remember this: you’re the only one who knows what your kitchen table company looks like behind the scenes. The image you portray to clients, actual and potential, is what they see. Your image should be consistent across the web, across social media, email, and across the business cards and paperwork you use. If you maintain a consistent image across all channels as you market your business you’ll certainly see more customers coming your way.