Even if you are creative, passionate, charming and have amazing business ideas and skills, you can still be unprepared for many of the opportunities that come your way.
If any of your distinct skills and ideas are going unused, it may be because you need to prepare a few more essential elements of your business persona. Here are 10 things you can do to be ready for any opportunity:
1. Get professional or creative headshots. You will use your headshots on your social media channels, website, guest posts, speaking engagements, appearances on other people’s sites, the back of your new book and more. If you don’t have a quality headshot waiting, you might attempt a last-minute selfie or resort to cropping your ex out of that one picture you like. Think of the impression you want to leave with others and then get professional pictures that reflect your competence and style.
2. Maintain a social media presence worth noticing. Try free software such as Buffer or Hootsuite to automate a few messages each week if you feel you’re too busy to create content daily. Also, if you want to be like the “kids these days,” making all those beautiful images on their blogs and social media accounts, try using Canva to create your own stunning, professional graphics in minutes. Be honest: would you want to hire someone who is radio silent or not up to speed in the age of the internet? Make yourself available and attractive on the channels your future clients operate on.
3. Develop a brand pitch. If you’re establishing yourself as a freelance designer and I ask you what you do and you say “graphic design,” I might fall asleep. Instead, try, “I create modern, bold identity designs for consultants and other experts. I make people look as credible and approachable as they are in real life. I love what I do!” Okay, you win. People will buy from you. Just be specific, charming and passionate. Opportunities have a habit of presenting themselves to people who seem motivated and prepared.
4. Create a simple portfolio site or blog. Just as visual artists need portfolios, business people, marketers and consultants need sites to showcase their potential. They’re called blogs. Create a place where connections and clients can view your thoughts, expertise and helpfulness in whatever area they might want to hire you for. Being ready means taking control of your online presence. Even if you meet people in person, don’t assume they won’t internet stalk (what most people would call "due diligence") you later, because they will.
5. Obtain a professional email account. JennyBunny234 and PartySoHard_Baller do not belong before the @ of your email account. It would physically pain me to email you. Establish an email account at your portfolio or blog’s domain name or opt for firstname.lastname with a professional, free email service.
6. Gather past client reviews and praise. Whether you collect positive tweets and embed them in your website, survey clients by email or ask trusted connections to review your past work, gather testimonials and praise that make you look good. Use these reviews on your website, press kit and other marketing materials.
7. Update your bio and create at least two versions. Your accomplishments, guest appearances, thoughts, abilities and experiences change constantly. Write a bio that reflects the skills most related to your brand identity. Create both a formal and conversational version.
8. Create a business card worth keeping. That time when you meet someone who seems interested in working with you and you have exactly zero business cards with you -- fix that. You can hire a designer to create some memorable cards, or you can use the business card designer on Canva and then print some “luxe” business cards with MOO. Look at you, standing out among the poor souls who aren’t as savvy.
9. A way to take payments. Once you get business or freelance requests, you’ll need a way to actually get paid. A free PayPal account will allow you to invoice and receive payments online, and a Square or PayPal Here device and app will enable you to take payments on your smartphone or tablet. Don’t be that guy who is unprepared when a customer is ready to go.
10. Craft a plan. Business people die a little on the inside when they talk to others who don’t have a plan. Where are you going with your business or freelance career? What new products are you launching soon? How are you going to market yourself? If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail at impressing people and winning their trust or hard-earned cash.
Take a few moments to evaluate your business image based on the points above. Pick a smaller item to complete to get your momentum going, then form a full strategy to put any remaining elements in place so you’ll be prepared when the next opportunity comes your way.