by Emily Crookston
I finally made it to the salon this week to get a cut and color. This is kind of big deal because I rescheduled the appointment 3 times (#freelancerlife). It’s also a big deal because I’m trying a new stylist and salon after a somewhat disastrous experience at a different salon back in December.
My new stylist absolutely blew me away! She talked with me for 15 minutes before she even moved me to her chair and she took the time to explain everything she wanted to do with my hair. As a result, I have a cut and color that I love for the first time in years. What an amazing first impression!
After my experience, I realized something: What I project in my virtual image is directly connected to how I present myself in my daily life.
I had been putting off finding a new salon because, as a freelance content writer, I don’t often have face-to-face meetings with clients. So, it’s not a high priority for me to look my absolute best all the time. However, looking and, more importantly, feeling confident definitely helps me do my best work, even when my work goes on behind a computer screen.
First impressions are gold in business.
We all know someone who owns whatever room she walks into. These people always land the best jobs and find the right dates. Far from being born lucky, these successful types have figured out the right formula for making an amazing first impression. The good news is that anyone can learn these psychologically tested and proven skills.
Victoria rightly points out that it only takes 7 seconds for people to make a judgment based on a first impression. But in the digital age, first impressions mean something different from what they once meant. Depending on your industry, you are more likely to make that first impression virtually than in person.
This is certainly true of my work; most of the time I must rely on my virtual image to get my message out and build credibility. The problem is that I sometimes rely too much on my virtual image.
I love the flexibility and independence of being a freelancer. But too often that flexibility and independence manifests itself in wearing yoga pants, not wearing makeup, and throwing my wet hair up into a scrunchy (okay, I haven’t worn a scrunchy since the 90s, but you get the idea) as I run out the door to work in the coffee shop.
My experience feeling more confident after finding a great stylist made me stop to reflect on few points that might help you too:
- Consider all aspects of your brand.
Does your online image reflect who you are in the real world? Some days, I allow myself to wear what’s comfortable and that’s perfectly okay. I mark off content days in my calendar and spend these days hiding out in the coffee shop or co-working space just cranking out content. On these days I know I won’t be meeting with clients and my appearance won’t reflect back on my brand.
Other days, however, I will be networking and representing my business. During these times, I know that the people I meet will be considering not only my look, but also how I speak and what I say as they ask themselves whether they want to do business with me or refer me to others.
It’s always important, though, to make sure all aspects of your brand from the images on your website, to your business cards, to your 30-second spiel align with your brand and present you in the way you want to be perceived.
Quick take-away: You can’t afford to hide behind a vague description of your work or project a lack of confidence in any aspect of your brand whether in virtual or meat space.
- Your next client could be at the grocery store with you.
Does your line of work require that you project a certain type of personal image? Like it or not, image is highly subjective. This means that your industry, your position, your gender, even your personality and attitude can affect how others perceive you.
Stereotypes and assumptions abound. Whereas it may be fine for me to bump into a potential client at the grocery store or coffee shop sweaty after my hot yoga class, my realtor friend may lose a sale because she popped into the pharmacy after taking a run in the middle of the afternoon.
Now, don’t get me wrong, in an ideal world, we would all be able to drop clients who have unreasonable expectations and who would judge us for getting away from our desks during the weekday. But in the real world where we all want to succeed, we need to be at least a little mindful of others’ expectations.
Quick take-away: Your next client could be right in front of you and you are making an impression without even knowing it.
- Be ready for anything.
Even freelancers work for others and can find themselves at the whim of other people’s schedules. Plans change. You could be called into a last-minute meeting. I once had a client call me out of the blue, months after our initial meeting and ask me to meet with her in her office in 30 minutes.
Sure, I could have bought myself some extra time to run home and change; however, being able to run over to meet her when she wanted me to definitely scored me some brownie points.
With video conferencing being so important to doing business today, the last-minute video meeting is another possibility. It helps if you already have on a decent shirt and your hair hasn’t been tossed up in a sassy bun. Plan your morning to put your best business face forward, you’ll more prepared to tackle the day.
Quick take-away: Plan your outfits for the next day each evening and toss your favorite make-up essentials in a bag that you keep with you all the time, so that you never miss an opportunity to put forward your best self.
Above all: Treat yourself like a professional.
Treating myself like a professional this week made me realize how much my outer appearance affects how I feel on the inside and how much how I feel on the inside affects the quality of my work. As often as I preach to my own clients about how their marketing content affects their image, I finally connected the dots for myself.
Going forward, I will definitely be paying more attention to my professional image both on the screen and behind the screen. Does your online image need a boost? Contact me and let’s chat about your content marketing needs.
Emily Crookston is the owner of the Pocket PhD (thepocketphd.com). She is a copywriter, former professor, and pocket resource for your business. Emily specializes in creating captivating content that converts, influences, and sounds like YOU on your best day. When she’s not writing intensely, she’s most likely practicing yoga intensely.