1. Have a professional email address
Research by GoDaddy has found consumers are nine times more likely to choose a business with a professional email address. Three-quarters of those asked thought having a domain name which matches a company website is important. A further quarter said they would be reluctant to give payment and personal details to an online seller with a generic email address, such as those ending in yahoo.co.uk or hotmail.com.
While free email services have their uses, a more professional sounding email address would be something like email@example.com, for example. Your website hosting service may offer a number of email addresses bundled into the cost. Not all businesses need a website but you can buy a domain name and use it just for email hosting too.
2. Create a professional-looking website
If you do have a website, it should be easy to navigate, sleek and professional. There are ways to build your own website, even without technical knowledge, but using the help of a web designer could pay dividends. Think about the wording you use on your website too. Consider using words such as ‘we’ and ‘our’, rather than ‘my’ and ‘I’. This helps the business look bigger and, even if you are a sole trader, future proofs your website if you do plan to recruit.
3. Create a brand
Having a strong brand helps make your business memorable. A brand is wider than having a recognisable logo, which is part of branding, but not the whole story. Your business brand should seep through every level of your business, from your brand name, to how your website looks, the colours you use on published communications and the tone of voice used in your written material. To build a brand you first need to know your audience and how you want your company to be seen.
4. Design a logo
All the most recognisable companies have logos. But that doesn’t mean logos are just for big business. A logo helps create a strong brand and fix your company in customers’ minds. Creating a logo doesn’t have to be expensive. There are free logo design tools available and many website designers offer this service too. Nike reportedly paid $35 for its well-recognised tick.
Although logo copyright isn’t usually an issue, if you have national or international ambitions it is worth taking extra care to avoid infringing another business’s logo copyright. Check other local similar businesses to ensure your logo is not too similar, not just for copyright issues, but because your logo should cement the identity of your brand, not that of another company.
5. Use a virtual reception service
Using a virtual reception service, where someone answers your calls and puts them through or takes messages, gives the impression of a dedicated receptionist in a dedicated company office. There are many of these services available offering 0800 and 0845 numbers and those with an 0207 London dialling code.
6. Get a more impressive address
The postal address you give clients can impact how professional and large your company looks. If you company is registered to your home address, or you are based in a less desirable part of town, consider getting a PO Box address. You can then either collect mail from a delivery office or have it forwarded on.
When it comes to meetings, there are ways to avoid inviting clients into your real offices, too. There is nothing wrong with being a small business, or operating from home, but there are ways to look more professional when needed. There are many companies that allow you to rent fully-equipped meeting rooms for as little as an hour, such as Regus, meetingrooms.com and Bird Office.
7. Consider incorporating your business
Becoming a limited company, which means registering with Companies House, can be a cheap and quick task. While it can present the image of a bigger and more established company, it is sensible to take advice from a qualified accountant before you decide if this is the right structure for your business.