Ever heard of the phrase “Fake it until you make it”?
When you’re a self-employed business owner, you can’t afford to look unprofessional. You can’t try to fake it until you become successful. You have to build your business as a professional, even if you don’t have a large marketing budget.
All your marketing and advertising should look professional – even if you make it on your desktop. All your social media should support a positive image – even if you don’t think you need to stick to the same rules as corporate business. Basically, you have to create a brand that helps your business grow – even if you’re dead broke. Your image should scream “I’m a professional” and not “I don’t know what I’m doing!”.
Because as a business owner, you are your brand.
What Branding Is…and Isn’t
Branding is not like marketing or advertising. Branding is something you are doing even if you don’t know it. You impact your professional brand every time you write an email, or post something on Facebook or Twitter.
If you tweet something negative about politics, religion, or even the latest gossip, you are creating an image. Your clients and potential clients take in lots of information about you. Your behavior on social media platforms is just one portion.
Branding is not your logo, business card, or website. Branding is the image you project. You can consciously project a professional image. Or you can just wing it and hope potential clients believe you are a professional.
The bottom line is you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a professional brand image. But you should think about what kind of image would help your business succeed. And craft the best professional image you can afford.
Create a Professional Online Platform
The good news is it’s both cheap and easy to create a professional image online. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create your own online platform. You can actually do it for free.
Canva is a simple and easy way to create professional looking graphics, including blog graphics, Facebook covers, and presentations. You can also create free websites at Weebly, Wix, and Yola. You can also create free ecommerce stores with Selz and Square. These sites allow you to sell your product or service, and then charge a percentage of each sale. This is great if you don’t have a lot of start-up money, but still want to look professional.
The point is to leverage these free resources to create a starting point. Then you can use your new online platform to project a very professional brand image.
Acting Like a Professional Online
A professional brand platform is only half of your online brand. Now you need to act like a professional brand. Many business owners turn to social media as a way to market their business. This can be a great way to grow your brand, but can also be a huge nightmare. Social media is supposed to connect real people to other real people. Use real photos of yourself, not a graphic or cartoon. The brand you’re trying to build should still be you – not a fake (or better) version of yourself.
Plus, some people become self-obsessed online – only posting about themselves. They don’t engage in the social media conversation. They just talk about themselves, and never listen to anyone else. They may act more confrontational , or share personal information they would never share in person. When their online, they forget how to behave as a professional.
So set some personal guidelines and stick to them. Stay away from controversial topics (think about the last presidential election!) and try to keep positive at all times. Don’t swear, or share risqué pictures. Don’t just talk – listen. Don’t act offensive, or aggressive. Share valuable tips, and informative . Support other people’s business that you admire. Essentially, be charming, helpful, and likable. Don’t connect your brand with negative online behavior.
Don’t pretend you’re not a business owner. Act like you’re in front of actual clients or potential clients – because you are!
You Are Your Brand
If you’re trying to build your business online, it’s essential that image is professional. There is nothing wrong with using free tools to build your online platform – in fact, it’s smart business. It doesn’t take a lot of money to create a professional brand image. But that’s only half the branding battle.
You can have the best products, website, and logo. But if you don’t act like a professional – it’s all a waste of time. Don’t tell yourself you’ll act more professional later. Because if you don’t act like a professional when you’re building your business, you won’t have to worry about “later”.
Because there will not be a later.
About the author:
Liesha Petrovich is the creator of Micro Business Essentials, a unique business blog exclusively for micro businesses. If you're looking for fast, affordable, and effective tips to help your business grow, click here to grab a copy of Micro Business Essentials Toolkit: Free and Low Cost Resources.
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