First — a little background: I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really have an “office” per se. I have a little studio that overlooks the living room where I do all my creative stuff — writing, cartooning or whatever catches my fancy. And during the summer, I can usually be found under a palm tree at the beach — catching some rays while hammering away on my laptop (and not trying to get sand in it). It all suits me to a “T”, because after 22 years of military rules and regulations, I just do want to be that organized anymore.
That’s all well and good. If you run a home business you may not have or need an office. But you still need to project yourself as if you had one. As for me, on those occasions when I did have to talk to a client in person and in my house, I noticed I was coming up short. Maybe I didn’t have an office, but what I did have needed to look more like a professional business and less like a playroom.
I’m probably not the only one faced with such a dilemma.
The here and now: Let’s face it — too often in business, perception is what’s real. And all too often, the perception is that BIGGER is not only BETTER, but more capable and even more reliable. So how can a small home-basedbusiness compete with the big boys? How does a small business create a big image – especially without going broke in the process?
I’m glad you asked.
Everything we small home-business owners do must be professional. From business cards, to stationary from where we work to how we dress (at least when you’re not at the beach). Seeing as how were talking about a home-business, by spending a little more time on how you self-promote with printed materials, you can make an impressive statement about yourself without spending a bundle by following a few simple rules.
1) Be easy to understand: whether it’s a business proposal or simple e-mail, word document or spreadsheet; use a font that’s large enough to read and can be read easily. Times Roman and Arial are practically industry standards and 12 is generally the font size of choice (although I’ve gotten away with an occasional size 14) If you mix fonts you risk your message coming across like a message from the Uni-Bomber or worse. Keep it simple, keep it legible.
2) Juice things up a bit with graphics or a photo: Keeping it simple and keeping it legible doesn’t mean keeping it BORING. Liven up your printed matter with a simple graphic or photo.
3) Your Logo is YOU: Look at your logo. Is it simple to understand? If trying to decipher your logo is like mastering a Rubik’s Cube than you’re missing the mark. Color can certainly help. Remember, yellow is a sign of warmth and happiness. Darker colors are more conservative.
4) Look at your business card: Is your business cardattracting new clients or attracting flies? How about a little color to frame your text? Or maybe a photo to enhance your message? How about both? And remember to print enough, because running out of business cards is just plain embarrassing. And stay away from companies that offer free business cards with their logo printed on the back. You’re selling yourself, not someone else.
5) Electronic mail or otherwise: Any time you physically mail out a product or letter or just use e-mail, your logo should out there for all to see.
6) Holidays are Good: The holidays are always a great time to hand out a calendar (if it’s the New Year) or free pens or pencils with your logo at any other time of the year. Save money by purchasing in bulk quantities.
You may have noticed there’s a bit of cross-pollination involved with your logo, business cards, packages, etc. Namely, once you have settled on an image and logo you will use it everywhere regardless of the media. There was a time when I even had a little slogan that I would use when answering the phone — the same catch phrase I had on my business cards.
There are a host of good resources out there that can help you on your way: one of the easiest to access is the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov), another is Home Business (www.homebusiness.com) and yet another is the American Small Businesses Association (www.asbaonline.org). I’ve tapped into a wealth of useful tips for the trade by simply typing “operating a small business” (minus the quotes) into a search engine. I never knew I had so many concerned colleagues who wanted to help me (for free).
So remember, every time you send out a mailer, leave a business card, deliver a product or give away a calendar it’s a chance to promote yourself. It lets clients and potential clients know all about you even if they never actually get a chance to meet in person. And remember, when they do meet you — leave the flowered shirts and sandals at home.