Does your "professional" email read something like this: Joanneb4u@aol.com? Does your website come from the dark ages? Do you even have a website? How about professional-looking business cards? Do you have a professional logo? Do your children answer your phone when prospects or clients may be calling? OK, perhaps you are on a tight budget, many solopreneurs are. But you can still leave a big impression on a small budget.
Let's begin with your logo. Not everyone is an artist and certainly not everyone has sophisticated software like Adobe Illustrator. Yet, we no longer have to use clip art to create what is the foundation of our company's branding. There are so many talented artists available who would jump at the chance to create your logo. Take a look at elance.com; it's simple to use and you can preview any artist's work prior to inviting them to bid on your job. I found my talented artist at a local print shop. Kelli created a logo that I absolutely love for only $60!
Now that you have the perfect logo, let's take a look at your website. If you have a site that's more than a few years old, odds are you haven't hopped on the web 2.0 bandwagon. Do you have the ability to update your own content? Do you have a mailing list for people to join? Are you watching your traffic stats? If not, it may be time for a WordPress site. WordPress is amazing, for a myriad of reasons that I won't even go into because you can easily find all of that information on the web. The main thing is that it's highly optimized, making it easier for search engines to find you. You can also update your own content and images with ease; a very important function, especially for SEO purposes. Don't be at the mercy of a web developer to update your content, it's costly and time consuming.
But how do you create the site without paying the big bucks? Here's my absolutely favorite find of 2009. Artisteer is an easy-to-use program that allows you to create customized templates for WordPress sites. If you can use Office 2007, you can use Artisteer. And the basic program is only $50! Simply drop in your logo, a few relative images, choose your layout, colors, etc. and voila! You have a WordPress template that no one else has! Register your domain name and find affordable hosting and off you go. Can you say empowered solopreneur?
Make sure that your email address reflects your domain name (email@example.com). It's simple, and seamless to the public, to redirect your professional email address to your webmail host (yahoo, aol, etcetera). If you choose to do this you won't have to check multiple in boxes. Remember, the name of the game is branding. If you're walking around with firstname.lastname@example.org on your card, it lacks professionalism and isn't at all memorable.
Now the business cards. If you are on a very modest budget, it's fine to design your card on a site like VistaPrint or Bizcard (or a myriad of sites like them). But do 2 things differently than you might have done in the past. Pay the $10 or so for the upgraded paper (make sure you opt for a custom or blank backside), and design your own layout rather than using a template. It doesn't feel good to exchange business cards with someone who has the exact same design! Be uniquely you, just like your product or services. Keep it simple; it's OK to upload your new logo and add your information without a lot of hoopla. If you like, you can even add bullet points on the back of the card to highlight your services or product. When you have a few extra dollars in your marketing budget you can hire your graphic designer to create your business card layout but you may be surprised at how well your cards can turn out when you stick to the basics.
Finally, the phone. Do you miss calls when you leave your home office? Does call waiting interrupt the flow of your conversations? Check out Google number for a simple, FREE solution. Your number "follows you, not your phone."
Go into the New Year with a new company image. It will take a little work, but it will boost your prospect's confidence in you and help them to find you more easily. No more apologies for the homemade business cards, the outdated website, or the missed phone calls!
Do you have some great, low cost resources you'd like to share? Please do! Send them to me or post a comment here on The Solopreneur's Million Dollar Mindset!
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.