Advertising
Advertising

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)

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!

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

          Advertising

          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:

            Advertising

            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?

              More by this author

              Karol Krol

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

              How to Stop Information Overload How to Steep a Perfect Cup of Tea Every Single Time 10-Email-Management-Skills 10 Email Management Skills Everyone Should Learn to Be More Productive How Not to Fall Into a Productivity Hole 11 Unique, Useful Tools for Freelancers That Make You More Productive

              Trending in Work

              1 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them 2 How to Switch Careers and Get Closer to Your Dream Job 3 9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career 4 How to Swiftly Make a Midlife Career Change 5 10 Essential Skills to Become a Successful Team Leader and Manager

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising
              Advertising

              Last Updated on May 15, 2019

              10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them

              10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them

              Apart from making crucial decisions for their own businesses, entrepreneurs innovate and grow their ideas. Albeit there being no cookie-cutter answer that fits everyone’s experiences, taking a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs today, you might spot some similar traits and characteristics.

              Starting and nurturing a business entails a great amount of hard work and commitment. However, for aspiring entrepreneurs who are prepared to dedicate themselves to their vision, here are 10 most successful entrepreneurs you can learn from:

              1. Melanie Perkins: Know Your Worth and Keep Trying

                Melanie Perkins founded Canva, a Sydney-based business valued at $1Billion having successfully raised a number of rounds of successful funding and boasting more than 10 Million users in 179 countries.[1]

                She told BBC that one of the biggest challenges she faced getting into the business was talking about her company’s accomplishments when she first got to Silicon Valley. She attributed this difficulty to a cultural difference where Australians tend to ‘talk down’ their achievements and this would slow down her fundraising progress for a few years.

                Despite hundreds of rejections, Melanie emerged three years later with a much clearer strategy and stronger investor pitch that prompted a series of fundraising rounds netting the company $82Million of funding in total.[2]

                2. Bill Gates: Keep Learning and Exploring

                  If you don’t know Bill Gates, you likely know the company he founded – Microsoft.

                  Bill Gates’ story is a prime example of nurturing an idea that might seem out of this world but make sense in the future. One of the most successful entrepreneurs in history did not complete his degree at Harvard University to pursue a vision that the technology would soon become the future.

                  He told a white lie to Altair, saying that he had made a computer program for them, therefore pushing himself to create a system that would change modern history.

                  “The most important speed issue is convincing everyone that the company’s survival depends on moving as fast as possible.”

                  Gates’ success is built on self-improvement and the seeds of an idea.

                  3. Elon Musk: Never Stop Innovating

                    Traditional thinking suggests that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, one must focus in a single field or industry.

                    Elon Musk, however, breaks that rule.

                    Today, the multifaceted tech entrepreneur, investor, and engineer advocates for the diversification of skills and businesses by delving into various fields of interest.

                    When done right, skills in a single domain can be carried over then applied into contrasting industries to create something new the world might need. Musk owes his accomplishments to a constant thirst for knowledge.

                    Having birthed Tesla and a myriad of products across the arenas of aeronautics and software design, Musk continues to evolve as an entrepreneur and plans to innovate for the long haul.

                    4. Richard Branson: Develop People First

                      British entrepreneur Richard Branson founded Virgin Records in the early 1970s. Virgin Records has since grown into the Virgin Group, today responsible for over 400 companies.

                      The billionaire is strongly particular about working with a team that shares his core values and aspirations.

                      Branson believes that managing a business can become taxing, thus he acknowledges his employees for putting in the effort that they have.

                      Advertising

                      A good leader knows how to raise morale for positive productivity. Utilising emotional intelligence and compassion is a game changer in seeing results within a team.

                      Branson’s supports the idea of nurturing a positive work environment, with the belief that credentials must go hand-in-hand with an enthusiasm for work.

                      5. Jeff Bezos: A Relentless Focus on Customer Satisfaction

                        Having founded Amazon, Jeff Bezos is known to be one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs. The e-commerce pioneer fixates himself on angry customers with the belief that a business’s loopholes are found in the experiences of unsatisfied customers.

                        For the 8th year in a row, customers have ranked Amazon as the number one in customer service (according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index).

                        While numerous companies ignore unhappy customers, Bezos found success in learning from reviews and surveys. By focusing on customer service, Amazon shows they care, both for their customers and for rising above their competitors.

                        While praise and recognition are signs that a business is accelerating, criticism is an opportunity to improve a product or a service.

                        6. Mark Zuckerberg: Start Small, Think Big

                          Valued at over 55 billion dollars today, Mark Zuckerberg built the first version of what would become a social networking giant in his Harvard University dorm room. As one of the world’s youngest entrepreneurs, Zuckerberg undoubtedly took countless calculated risks to get his brilliant idea to its current status with 2.38 billion active monthly users.

                          “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

                          He’s always daring to explore with a fearless mindset.

                          Advertising

                          The young tech entrepreneur never shied away from innovating outside of the box. Soon after Facebook became a hit to users and advertisers, big corporations took interest in buying Facebook from Zuckerberg.

                          However, he took the risk and decided to stay with his creation. Turning down billions of dollars offered by Yahoo CEO, Terry Semel, he envisioned turning his brainchild into something much bigger than what it already was then.

                          7. Steve Jobs: Live Your Own Dreams

                            Steve Jobs lived a rocky path all his life and an aspect of which is a tumultuous career.

                            The founder of Apple endorsed his beliefs on the temporality of life and limitations of time. He preached about the importance of working on the very legacies people wish to leave behind, an achievement he’s undoubtedly etched into the the archives of human history.

                            Never one to hide under someone’s shadow, Jobs did not live by anybody else’s principles so he formed his own. He tirelessly dedicated himself to building a unique brand of products that became the benchmark for contemporary technology.

                            After his highs and lows through his brief battle with cancer, Jobs concludes with yet another lesson to takeaway from his remarkable life. “No matter how much money you have, even the richest man can’t buy time.”

                            8. Warren Buffett: Balance is Essential to Success

                              Despite being the third wealthiest person in the world, Warrant Buffett sported a frugal lifestyle for most of his life.

                              After buying a house in Omaha, Nebraska for just above 31,000 dollars, he has lived there since 1958. As a leading investor and a founder at Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett believes in setting aside an amount to save and spend only on necessities.

                              With a long term goal as a top priority in mind always, treating oneself can be sustainable once in a while. He advices to save money by deciding first and foremost what aspects to scrimp on and what aspects to splurge on to ensure a happy and balanced lifestyle.

                              Advertising

                              9. Jack Ma: Never Give up

                                On every journey to success, everybody stumbles and arrives at roadblocks. Some more than most, like Jack Ma, who survived countless rejections and failures only to get back up and brave every storm.

                                Ma is the founder of multinational technology conglomerate Alibaba Group. Despite being rejected to Harvard after every one of his 10 applications, Ma was never defeated.

                                His grit and tenacity is a fine testament to the fact that grades do not determine a future. While qualifications on paper are important, the development of skills and an attitude is just as helpful in making a recipe for success.

                                Despite finding himself in the verge of bankruptcy in the 1990s, Jack Ma possessed the resilience to put one foot in front of the other until he finally made it. “It’s important to have patience,” he says.

                                10. Tan Min Liang: Passion Can Pay Off

                                  Tan Min Liang is the founder of the leading high-performance gaming hardware, Razer. Always on the look out for new opportunities to connect and scale his business, Tan has been bold in making many of his life’s decisions.

                                  Having deviated from a traditional path set by a family that consists of doctors and lawyers, Tan was to find his life’s work and passion while gaming with his older brother.

                                  The idea was simple: there were so many games out there to play, however, there were hardly any gaming equipment to match this.

                                  So he dropped out of law and began going a different direction, into creating solutions in the gaming industry. At the start of 2019, Tan wrote to tech luminary Elon Musk to which Musk’s reply suggested of a joint venture between two of the most successful entrepreneurs today.

                                  Final Thoughts

                                  In today’s cutthroat world, the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur is a long and arduous process trailed with ups and downs. A valuable lesson that a good hand of entrepreneurs would love to convey to aspiring entrepreneurs is to keep the spirit of innovation and to explore uncharted waters.

                                  Advertising

                                  Learning from experience and failure is one direction to a desired end goal. Exhibiting the same dedication and grit so many entrepreneurs have through their unexpected careers – today’s budding visionaries ought to hang on their dreams and leave room for improvement along the way.

                                  More Articles About Entrepreneurship

                                  Featured photo credit: Patrick Tomasso via unsplash.com

                                  Reference

                                  Read Next