Running a business in the new economy means that most of us spend a big chunk of our workdays behind a computer screen. And as many can attest, the longer we work from home, the fuzzier the idea of looking presentable gets. Our definition of making a good impression means we spell check our emails, rather than practice the perfect handshake. But, what happens when we land a big client meeting, or that long-awaited media interview? Below, a few tips on how to shift seamlessly between work-from-home solo-preneur to real-world, successful business owner. And don’t worry, you don’t have to compromise your authentic self to do it!
Do Right By Your Brand
Your brand is in essence, your point-of-view. The more confident you are expressing your spin on things, the more likely you will make a positive first impression on your ideal clients. Take a few minutes to think about what your brand represents, and how you can embody it best with your dress and overall appearance. This means different things for different people by the way: just think of how a business consultant might dress compared to an edgy hair stylist. Blue highlights could garner praise at a high-end hair show, and rightly so—but it would probably not win over a Fortune 500 client. What would make you feel in integrity with your persona and the business you’ve created, AND make your target market feel comfortable buying from you?
Young, trendy industries love creative expressions of dress, but even in these scenarios, it doesn’t always mean you have full license to let your “freak flag” fly. The key here is to give an impression that you are successful and confident in your area of expertise, whatever that may be. Do some research on successful people in your field, and keep an eye on the way they present themselves. It’s likely that they’ve taken their brand and their philosophy, and added their own, sophisticated spin on it.
Focus on the Fit
Ask any stylist what their #1 rule is when it comes to dressing to impress, and they will likely agree that it’s all about the FIT of the clothing you wear. Whether your daily uniform is a tank and a cropped pants, or a cardigan and slacks, you can uplevel your appearance by simply becoming a stickler about the way clothes fit, and flatter, your body.
Note that fit has nothing to do with being thin, or hitting the gym until you’re in the best shape of your life. Every person has a particular body shape that will shine in certain styles, and will flop in others. Find out which ones work for you by investing in a book, like that of Clinton Kelly’s (co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear) Dress Your Best! The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That’s Right for Your Body, or Kendall Farr’s The Pocket Stylist.
I also find that most nicer pieces I buy need a bit of tailoring to fit great. Find a great tailor near you and use them often!
Pay Attention to the Details
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the challenge of putting together an outfit, and neglect the finishing touches that truly seal the deal. Here we’re talking about well-groomed hair, makeup, and nails. Your hair is one of your most important accessories. Get a good cut and color if you need it. It should always look styled, and frizz-free, no matter how conservative or alternative your personal style is. It’s okay to keep things natural and not overdo it on products and makeup, but your goal is to give an overall impression that you are composed and put together—and you care about your appearance.
If you think this tip is only useful for divas, chew on this… when mental health specialists do an assessment of a new patient, one of the first things they’re required to do is gauge the dress and grooming of their patients. If a patient doesn’t look like they comb their hair or take care of basic grooming, it’s a red flag that they aren’t functioning at 100%. Grooming says a lot about how you handle your world. It shows how well you tend to details, and how invested you are in where you want to go in the world.
Don’t Wait ‘til You’re THERE
Despite what you think, you don’t have to wait until you weigh a certain number, or have a certain amount of money in the bank to start presenting yourself like a successful business owner. Invest in a suit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Get the shoes that make you want to take a presentation by storm. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to do this—focus on wearing pieces that make you feel confident in your skin.
Ladies, a nice bag and watch are great investments that make a great business impression, and you’ll wear them for years!
Your Energy is Part of It
It’s likely that people won’t remember exactly what you were wearing, but they WILL remember how your energy made them feel. No matter how nervous or out-of-your-element you may feel inside, make eye contact and take your time to connect with people you are speaking with. Keep your business cards in a designated place in your purse or satchel, so you don’t have those awkward moments of scrambling through your purse.
If you can step into the world confidently representing your brand, and showing that you care about your business, yourself, and your clients, then you are dressing for success. People will pick up on it, and you’ll find that they’ll be ready and willing to champion you and your business.
I’d love to hear how you work what you have to put your best self forward. Please share your tips below!
© 2012 Ali International, LLC
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