When you’re in business for yourself, doesn’t it make sense to act like a professional? How you present yourself to others who might hire you makes a huge difference when it comes to landing new clients! Yet every day I see solopreneurs and small business owners make mistakes that mark them as amateurs. Often, those without much experience don’t realize what people expect. They make mistakes without understanding they’re permanently damaging their reputation and their business. If you want to set yourself apart, act like a professional; people will notice!Here are five easy ways to avoid the kind of amateur mistakes that will absolutely kill your business:
- Acknowledge emails within a day of receipt. If a full response will require a few days to gather information, check with others, or prepare a quote, fine. But in the meantime, send a quick reply to let the sender know what’s happening. I can’t tell you the number of businesses I personally have eliminated from further consideration because I just never got a response to an inquiry. People need to know you’ve gotten their email and are working on it. Otherwise, they’re likely to move on to someone who’s more attentive. If you’ll be out of touch for more than just a couple of days, set up an auto-responder in your email so that incoming messages will get an automatic reply to that effect.
- Return phone calls in a timely manner. The most unfortunate voicemail greeting I ever heard informed me that my call would “be returned within 72 business hours.” 72 business hours! At eight hours per business day, this person was advising me not to expect a return call for nine business days! What kind of business owner thinks that’s acceptable? Not one most people would want to do business with! Even if the person really meant 72 clock hours – and not 72 business hours – that’s still three days and way too long. If you’re so busy you can’t return a call more quickly than that, consider re-directing incoming calls to an assistant.
- Be on time for appointments. If you’re frequently late, it will create a very negative impression about your time management skills and ability to meet deadlines. If you see you’ll be detained (and unavoidable things do happen, despite the best planning), call or text the person who is waiting and wondering where you are. Now that almost everyone has a cell phone, this is so easy to do that anything less shows a lack of respect. They can’t help but question your professionalism, and your dedication to getting their project done on time.
- Have information at your fingertips. Keep your calendar with you so that when a potential client is ready to book a meeting, you can do it on the spot. Do the same with your contact database. When you realize you know someone who would be a good connection for a friend or colleague, you’ll be able to give the referral right then. So many people need to go find the information and get back in touch later (and may forget to follow up altogether), that you will appear very efficient. When you handle the small things in a professional manner, people will feel confident you’ll be on top of the big things, too. They like to work with people who are prepared to take action.
- Follow up promptly on referrals. When a person is kind enough to send a potential client your way, contact that client right away! More than once, I’ve referred business to someone who never contacted the client. How disappointing and embarrassing! When I make a referral, I’ve assured the client I’m connecting them with a trusted colleague, so when that colleague doesn’t follow-up it reflects badly on us both. How can a solopreneur expect to stay in business if she doesn’t jump on a referral that’s handed to her with no strings attached? And once you have made contact, it’s simply good manners to let the person who made the referral know the outcome.
When you’re in business for yourself, be businesslike and professional. Don’t make amateurish mistakes that will turn off potential clients or colleagues and kill your business! If you want to add some professional polish to the way you run your business, book a few sessions with me. It’s my mission to help solopreneurs become super successful!
I’m curious; what mistakes do you think mark someone as an amateur? Share your stories in the comments below.