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10 Tips and Tools To Look Like a Big Company (Even if You’re Not)

10 Tips and Tools To Look Like a Big Company (Even if You’re Not)
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Let’s face it, if you’re a sole-proprietor business owner, or a freelancer operating on your own then, inevitably, some clients will not take you seriously just because.

In the 21st century, it seems that every other person has some kind of a business going. This makes the fact of being an entrepreneur not enough to make you look like a true pro anymore—even though you surely are one.

So, let’s even the playing field a bit and introduce some (sometimes tricky) methods and tools that you can use to make yourself look like a big deal.

Being the ‘front man’ vs. being the only man

To start with, I just want to say that the path I’m going to show you here isn’t about hiding yourself behind a business curtain of sorts. Being the front person of your small business is still cool. More than that, it’s actually a great way to give your business some personality.

On the other hand, if it’s clearly visible that you are not only the front person, but also the only person in your business, then it will always be a disadvantage that can put some clients off.

Let me give you an example of how to utilize a personal brand properly.

neil

    Neil Patel is the front man of QuickSprout. His personality drives the brand, the site, and everything that QuickSprout is. However, none of Neil’s clients or even followers get the impression that he’s alone in business (he’s not). He uses his personal brand effectively, without it impacting the overall appearance of his businesses.

    There are a lot of details that play a part in his case, and not necessarily the ones I’ll be presenting on my list. However, I’m mentioning him just to show you what we’re aiming for as our final goal.

    Onwards!

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    1. Have the right business structure

    This one’s quite obvious, but at the same time, it’s one of the best ways to make yourself not look like a one-man band.

    In short, depending on the country you’re operating from, there surely are different business entities you can use. And while every country has its unique regulations, they tend to be kind of similar on a wider scale.

    For instance, every jurisdiction has a version of the sole proprietorship, which stands for operating on your own as an independent contractor. While it is a good structure to get you started, it does make it obvious that you’re alone in the business. So, if you want to look like a big deal, you have to upgrade as soon as you can afford it.

    The logical next step up is your country’s version of an LLC.

    Then, once you have the right business structure…

    2. Don’t call yourself the CEO

    Nothing, I repeat, nothing screams sole-proprietor business like introducing yourself as the CEO of [Insert Unknown Company Name Here].

    The term CEO sounds good only if it’s followed by a fairly recognizable company name. Everything else works against you. There are two ways out of this, and while I’m not a fan of the first one, I’m listing it anyway just because it’s a fairly popular practice:

    1. Give yourself a mid-management title. For instance, instead of introducing yourself as the CEO, you can be a Director of ____, or a Manager of ____. I’m personally not a fan of this because it’s kind of a lie. After all, you’re suggesting that there’s someone above you in the business structure.
    2. Don’t use a title at all. As simple as this. Introducing yourself as John Smith of [Company Name] is really good enough.

    3. Use Grasshopper

    Traditionally, sole-proprietor businesses don’t use 1-800 numbers, or large phone systems with extensions and various advanced features. Back in the day, this was reserved only for the big guys.

    Not anymore. Grasshopper is a virtual phone system that brings you all that.

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    grasshopper

      The main benefit for you is that you can list a 1-800 number on your site that will greet the caller and then send them over to a specific department based on their tone selection.

      For instance, you can set the x1 extension to be “sales,” x2 to be “support,” and so on.

      4. Use Bidsketch

      Bidsketch is a client proposal tool. In lay terms, this means that you can use it to design, build, manage, and send good-looking client proposals.

      bidsketch

        Bidsketch has many cool features. Just to give you an example, the tool lets you know who viewed your proposals, when, and how much time they spent interacting with them. This is a great (and disguised) feedback mechanism informing you on the quality of your offer.

        Of course, you can still handle proposals the traditional way—by jotting stuff down in Word and then sending it manually via email. But then again…that’s how a sole-proprietor business would do it.

        5. Hire a virtual assistant (VA)

        Now, before you say that you don’t have a budget for that, just give me a chance to explain myself.

        Hiring a VA can still be affordable, but you have to think outside the box—or outside the U.S., to be more precise. For instance, a service called Virtual Staff Finder will help you hire qualified personnel from the Philippines.

        vsf

          How does this make you look like a big deal? Simple: if someone gets an email signed by “John Smith, virtual assistant of Your Name” it will always look good, very good. Apart from making you look good, they will also help you outsource some of the daily tasks you do.

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          6. Start using progress reports

          Clients simply want to know what’s going on with their projects. And while companies have a number of processes set in place to make sure that the client is happy (or at least seems like they’re happy), sole-proprietor businesses usually don’t.

          In the freelancing niche, for example, it’s common for clients to hear from their contractor only two times:

          1. the “negotiating the deal and describing the task at hand” email, and
          2. the “hey, I did the work” email.

          While mid-project communication is not always required, especially if a project is straightforward, it can really do a lot in terms of making you look professional.

          Progress reports are a simple way of handling just that. And the reports themselves don’t have to be anything fancy. You can go with a basic yet good-looking Google document with your logo at the top and a nicely designed list of the things that have already been done and the things that are still left to do. Focus on making it clear and readable.

          7. Use legal-proof contracts

          Contracts are one of the most boring things about being a business owner. But hey, we all need them to operate safely.

          The problem with contracts, though, is that if you’re not an attorney, you don’t have a way to know what a good contract is. And even if you have a good template, you don’t have a possibility to evaluate any changes that your client might have introduced prior to signing their name.

          The 21st century comes to the rescue because as it turns out, there is an affordable solution. Among its many services, Legal Zoom offers Legal Plan Attorneys’ help. Basically, for a monthly fee, you get an attorney to review your business contracts and other legal documents and also help you get them right.

          attorneys

            8. Use social proof and trust elements on your site

            This is what trust elements look like on a website:

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            trust

              Nothing fancy from a technical point of view, right? It’s just a set of company logos and website logos. This is a mind trick, so to speak. What it achieves is it showcases some big names that the business in question has worked with. This proves, to some extent, the business’s credibility in the eyes of every prospective client.

              A very simple yet very effective trick. Of course, making it a lie is out of question. You do need some nice entries in your portfolio to pull it off.

              9. Focus on design

              I’m sorry that I have to say this, but people really do judge the book by its cover. It’s just how things work with humans.

              That’s why nine out of 10 times, you will have a better chance at landing a deal if your solution/website/e-commerce store looks better than the competition’s.

              Don’t worry, though, because the best thing about the internet era we live in today is that good design doesn’t cost much.

              • For logo, flyers, business cards, book covers, and all other stuff like this: use 99designs.
              • For your website: use WordPress and a premium theme (Lifehack is running on WordPress, by the way, so the platform really is powerful).
              • For your e-commerce store: use Shopify.

              10. Use a real-time customer satisfaction solution

              Sounds fancy, right? What I mean is the following. If you’re running an e-commerce store, you will have a number of prospective customers having a multitude of questions about your products. However, if there’s no answer on your site, and no one to provide an answer in an accessible way, you will lose the sale.

              To help you with this, you can use a tool like Zopim. In short, it’s a live chat solution, but that’s an understatement. What it does, is it lets you reach out to your customers at the exact moment when they’re having questions. And if you’re not on your computer, you can set an automatic outreach message and then receive customer follow-up questions via a text message.

              Over to you

              In my opinion, using just two or three tools from the above list will already give you an advantage. Using all 10 will make it really unlikely for your clients or customers to ever think that there might be just one person running the business they’re dealing with.

              But what do you think, have you tested any of these yet?

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              Karol Krol

              Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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              Published on July 27, 2021

              15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

              15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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              During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

              But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

              Put the Pro in Professional

              After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

              1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

              The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

              Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

              2. Dress the Part

              While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

              Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

              For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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              Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

              3. Stage Your Workspace

              Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

              Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

              4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

              Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

              Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

              Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

              Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

              5. Arrive on Time

              In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

              Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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              6. Turn on Your Video

              Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

              If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

              Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

              7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

              Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

              Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

              Attend to the Pesky Details

              8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

              With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

              Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

              9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

              Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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              Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

              10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

              As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

              Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

              Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

              Talking Has a Time and a Place

              11. Chat Appropriately

              Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

              At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

              12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

              The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

              Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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              13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

              In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

              Manage Yourself

              14. Minimize Distractions

              While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

              Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

              15. Save Snacking for Later

              Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

              However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

              Final Thoughts

              Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

              Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

              Reference

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