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Present a Professional Image

A Professional Image is Especially Important for Home-Based Businesses

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I operate my business via my home office and website. I have taken strict measures to ensure that I present a professional image at all times. Here are a few strategies that I have implemented to continually present a professional image while operating a home-based business.

The phone is the most important feature. It is usually the initial form of contact between you and a client. Answer your phone in a professional, clear tone. Never say, "Yeah, hold on. I’ll check my appointment book."

Also, to present a professional image, make sure there are no noisy kids playing, or TV or radio playing too loudly in the background. Don’t let your kids answer the phone (unless they are trained to do so properly). Any credibility you have may quickly diminish if a child shouts, "MOM! PHONE!", and then drops the receiver to go and play.

I’ll harp about the phone and your professional image one last time. Take the time to prepare a new voice mail message daily. It demonstrates that you take your business seriously by preparing a new message daily, indicating today’s date.

Mention that your business is by appointment only. This indicates that you are busy with other commitments and clients – a good impression for your professional image. Nobody would just show up at his or her lawyer’s or accountant’s office. The same applies to your home-based business. Mention this somehow during the initial contact. People may assume otherwise unless they are told.

Also, when clients book, mention that you have reserved the time and date of the appointment for them. If they cannot make it, you require 24 hours notice. You do not want clients thinking that your time can be taken for granted. Get their name, address and phone number and call them if they are “no shows”. Some of my colleagues bill for “no shows”. I do not because I rarely have any. Say, “Mr. Smith, I have reserved 2:00 p.m. on Thursday for you. If you cannot make it, I require a minimum of 24 hours notice. Are you in agreement with this?” Then I wait for the response. It takes some people by surprise when I say this, but they always comply.

If you have credentials, diplomas, or certificates, display them in your home-based business space. You have worked hard for your skills, and they’re an important part of your professional image, so showcase them. I have two university degrees hanging in my office. I have my credentials from the Professional Résumé Writing And Research Association sitting right on my desk. I take the time to point out to clients that I am one of only six professionals in Canada to take the time, money and effort to belong to this international, professional organization.

You’ve certainly earned your knowledge base, so share this with the client. People often mistake my services for secretarial or typing. Although I offer the service, I emphasize that people pay me for customized, intellectual property. It’s my words that get people the interviews. If money is an issue for the client, I tell them it’s cheaper for them to hire a high school student or a copy house (then I refer them to some good ones) than me, if all they want is someone to type or word process. Your services may simply not be for everyone, but you still have to be positive and professional when referring them to others who can help them. Part of developing a professional image is developing trust.

When the occasional person asks why I don’t open up a shop in town rather than have a home-based business, I mention that statistically, it takes four times the amount of business to generate the same profit margin as working from home. I indicate that my operating costs are cheaper here, so the savings are passed on to my customers. This is seen as value added and thus, appeals to the clients.

Contributed by Audrey Field of Résumé Resources. Contact Audrey toll free at 1-877-204-9737 or via email at info@resumeresources.ca.

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