“What am I doing? I’m not an expert! Why would anyone buy my product / take advice from / hire me?”
If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, know that you’re not alone. It’s called “imposter syndrome” and every creative entrepreneur I’ve met has experienced it to some degree. If you haven’t, it may be time to replace your batteries soon (...because you’re a robot! #badjoke).
Whether it’s because you’re young and afraid that nobody will be willing to listen to you, or you’ve recently launched + want to grow quickly, or you’re tired of your side gig looking like a hobby… it’s time to establish yourself as a legit business.
Here’s a few things you can do to put on your best game:
1. Be consistent on social media. That means you should have the same @handle for all of your accounts. It makes it SO MUCH easier for your fans to find you when they actually need you (because when they first stumble onto you, they won't be ready to buy). BTDubs, I am totally guilty of violating this because my name is too long for Twitter. Whatever Twitter, I don’t understand you anyway.
Pro Tip: Claim these early and often. Unless you have a trademark, these things can sadly be lost. Right Nissan?
2. Build a website. Yes, you can get by with just a Facebook page for your business, but that's like buying a Starbucks coffee and forgetting the sleeve… It works but you're bound to get burnt. What happens when you build an amazing following and then Facebook goes up in flames? Or worse, in Christinaland, when I don’t see a website, all I hear you saying is “I’M AN AMATEUR AND I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I’M DOING NOR DO I CARE TO EVEN APPEAR SEMI-LEGIT, DEFINITELY DO NOT HIRE ME!” It takes a few hours to set up a professional website on Squarespace, and it will serve as your homebase, even if it’s just a one-pager with your contact information and a link to an Etsy shop for now.
3. Use a professional headshot. As a creative, your business is built on personal and professional connections which means your headshot is as important as your logo. You want it to be recognizable since you’ll be using it EVERYWHERE — seriously, here’s just a few things off the top of my head where I see my face on a daily basis: newsletter signature, social media, blog comments, guest blogs, webinars, and workflow tools. If you can’t afford a pro photographer, you should at least take a photo with a clean backdrop and great lighting that shows your personality.
Pro Tip: For the love of pumpkin spice candles, step AWAY from the background when you take your photo. Leave a few feet between you and the wall to avoid looking like the police took your picture.
4. Use a contract. Sending a well-drafted contract to a prospective client or customer is a great way to stand out because it shows that you treat your biz like it’s your full time gig (even if it isn’t). A contract forces you to clearly spell out expectations and deliverables, proving to your client that you’re organized, prepared, and ready to help them.
Pro Tip: Grab one that fits your biz here for a painless, easy solution that’s ready in the next ten minutes. #TheStruggleIsLame
5. Show awesome photos of your work. I don’t really need to explain this one, do I? If you want people to buy your products, you need to show them, as clearly as you can, what they’re paying for. Badly lit, blurry photos that don’t show the quality of your work cheapen your goods, no matter how amazing they are in person.
Pro Tip: Buy a 40 cent piece of foamboard for your background, and if you have a DSLR, use a low f-stop to capture that blurred out background.
6. Position yourself as an expert with your content. You may not feel like an expert, but the truth is that you only need to be a step or two ahead of your audience. Create consistent content that is helpful or inspiring, and you'll build credibility and authority.
Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble staying consistent, there's a copywriter for that. (How do you think this got written?)
7. Print business cards with a real phone number and email address. You may think you won’t hand out business cards often when you run an online business, but you’d be surprised! If you’ve registered a domain name, you can create a professional email address (aka one that doesn’t end in @gmail or @yahoo). You can even access your email through Gmail, so there’s no excuses for handing out a business card with someone else’s website listed on it. On that note, you should have a phone number for your business. Google Voice lets you set up a separate phone line that forwards to your personal phone.
Pro Tip: Set it and forget it. You’ve probably been avoiding this for a long time because it seems like a big tech challenge. Google makes it easy and very, very cheap. Set it up and you won’t have to deal with it for a very long time, maybe ever.
8. Practice your elevator pitch. An elevator speech is a 60-second (or less) description of what you do. The idea is that you can get into an elevator with someone and tell them about your business (generating interest and planting the seed for future referrals) before the elevator stops at your floor. Intimidating? Uh, yes! But it gets so much easier over time, and you’ll likely draw from it every time you have a consult with a new client, host a webinar, or share your story in a Facebook group.
Pro Tip: People don’t care about you until you give them a reason to care. Create an elevator pitch that turns them into fans by making the whole thing about how you could help them, not about what you’re passionate about. Example: I’m an attorney who helps creative entrepreneurs, primarily in the wedding industry, who want straightforward legal solutions and information so they can focus on what they do best.
9. Meet other business owners. Whether you go to local networking events, join a coworking space, or schedule virtual coffee dates every month, you need to get out of your home-working shell. It's amazing how much you can grow just from interacting and learning from other professionals and entrepreneurs.
Pro Tip: Listen to Reina’s Social Glue Method to learn how she used this exact little diddy to go from a nobody to booked solid.
10. Build an email list and regularly engage with your subscribers. If you want to appear organized, thorough, and in control of your To Do list, send a regular newsletter to your email list. If you're sporadic about it, it tells your customers that they're an afterthought, someone you only talk to when YOU need something. Don't be that gal.
Pro Tip: Find a way to batch these so you’re only writing them once a month, and can schedule them out over the next four weeks.
Presenting yourself as a pro (even if you don’t feel like you are one) isn’t misleading. When you put your energy into bettering your business, you’re intentionally choosing to show up and serve your clients well. While you’re practicing to be a pro, you might just wake up one morning and realize you are one. Fake it ‘till it’s real, y’all!