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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)

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?

              More by this author

              Karol Krol

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

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              Last Updated on July 10, 2020

              Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

              Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

              Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

              Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

              Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

              Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

              Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

              1. Make Time for You

              If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

              Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

              Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

              Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

              For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

              By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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              2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

              Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

              Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

              When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

              It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

              Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

              3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

              According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

              For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

              If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

              4. Work on Your Personal Brand

              Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

              Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

              What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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              Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

              Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

              5. Be Accountable

              Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

              For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

              When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

              6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

              All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

              Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

              Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

              It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

              7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

              Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

              It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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              This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

              If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

              To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

              For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

              You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

              8. Learn to Embrace Failure

              Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

              The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

              In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

              We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

              However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

              Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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              “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

              9. Build Your Resilience

              Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

              Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

              Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

              In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

              Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

              10. Ask for Help

              It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

              No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

              My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

              1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
              2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
              3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

              Final Thoughts

              You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

              Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

              More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

              Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

              Reference

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