What’s the first image that pops in your mind when you think of people who work from home? If it is somebody wearing casual pajamas and lying in bed with their laptop, you’re one of many to have fallen into the trap of the working-shirking from home cliché.

In fact, the idea of office-based productivity is so deeply anchored in the collective mindset that it is increasingly difficult for most home-based workers to feel positive about their performance. It doesn’t mean you can’t tackle challenging projects and heavy workload in your home office.

On the contrary, home-based employees and freelancers are more likely to maximize their productivity and creativity. Indeed, removing most office-related interruptions and disturbances – from commuting stress to co-workers’ disruptions – can improve not only your mental focus but also the quality of your input. In other words, people who work from home work more and better. However, they tend to be worse about their contribution, doubting their professionalism and compensation with prolonged working hours.

How do you create a professional feeling – for yourself and your clients – when you can’t rely on the office to give your business skills the structure the universal conscience expects? How do you convince others to take you seriously and see beyond the PJs cliché?

It’s the question that keeps countless solo entrepreneurs and freelancers awake at night. Injecting professionalism in an environment that is not commonly associated with high-quality work is challenging, but it’s not impossible! Here are a few ideas to get started:

Working from home doesn’t have to mean losing professionalism!

Working from home doesn’t have to mean losing professionalism!

Dedicate a room at home just for your work

To keep the PJs cliché at bay, you need to pay close attention to your working environment. You may not need to commute to the workplace, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have an office. On the contrary, creating a home office enables you to keep your work and your home separate.

If you’re still trying to complete projects on the corner of your breakfast table, it’s time to plan some much-needed improvements. Designing your home office is crucial, not only to your productivity but also to your perception of your work. You’re more likely to take your work seriously if you’ve got a space for it.

Organizing your home office is the secret to making a small room feel just as competent and professional as the typical business workplace. Consequently, you need to focus your attention on establishing a clear storage system. You can’t afford to keep loose sheets and stationery in random piles on the desk.

Knowing where everything is is the administrative baseline of your office. Keeping everything tidy and clean is the foundation of office management. And finally, keeping track of your budget through the organization replaces the work accountant. In short, you’ve got yourself a functional office place at home.

Getting the right equipment is fundamental

You can’t cut costs on your work equipment. At the top of the list, you want to make sure you’ve got the office devices you need. You can’t achieve anything without a reliable laptop or computer and a broadband connection.

Your home office also needs a printer – nobody can go entirely paperless –, work software tools and a phone – whether mobile or a Google Voice line. Additionally, as each business is different, you will need to explore your equipment requirements in depth. If you need to meet clients regularly, you might be interested in finding out more about leasing a car for your independent business, for instance. A car lease would give you access to a new vehicle, which encourages a positive first impression when you visit clients.

If you take it seriously, others will

Your behavior can influence the way you feel about your business. There’s no denying that working in casual pajamas can be a comfortable option, but that’s precisely what gives an unprofessional impression.

Indeed, your brain instinctively becomes more relaxed when you wear your night clothes, meaning that you won’t be as productive. Instead, if you make the conscious decision to dress up for work, you create a mental barrier between home life and professional life. It’s all it takes to build a professional attitude at home.

For your family and friends, seeing you getting dressed for work and staying consistent with your schedule encourage them to take you seriously. As a result, relatives are less likely to disturb you when you’re at home because they know you’re working.

Practice your conversational skills with clients

People who work from home tend to have fewer professional interactions during the day. Consequently, conversations with clients can feel a little awkward or forced at times. There’s no secret. You need to prepare for all questions so that you can shine with expertise and professionalism.

Ultimately, you’re an independent, so your clients need to ask you questions they wouldn’t ask a company. Be honest and open about your career. If you’re new to the freelancing world, let them know where you come from. A carefully crafted portfolio is crucial during these interviews, but it doesn’t replace your personality.

Keep your skills up-to-date

You can’t expect clients to trust you with their projects if they fear your skills aren’t suited for the current market. As an independent professional, you can’t afford not to keep up with the latest business trends.

You should make sure to take business classes on everyday business requirements as well, from business writing to entrepreneurship. There’s nothing worse than an expert who lacks business know-how. You can boost your professional profile with free classes as well as paid for online studies.

Make time for a real break

Last, but not least, when you work from home, you tend to skip breaks. As a result, clients can get in the habit of contacting you at any time, which can affect your professional interactions. You need to establish healthy breaks throughout the day, for yourself and to encourage clients to think of your services as a business. Take the time to eat at lunchtime or to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. Applying an office break policy to your home business is a game-changer.

Professionalism is the complex mixture of how you act, how you think and how you feel. For home-based workers, it’s about creating an environment that is suitable for the business mindset, from what you wear to the equipment you purchase.

With 28.8 million small businesses in the world, it can be tempting to join the crowd. One big barrier to entry is figuring out what you want to build your business around. For this, you can turn to your natural strengths or areas that excite you.

One area that you may turn to is art! Luckily, the art industry is growing rapidly, with a market value of $64 billion as of 2019. So how do you go about getting into this industry? Here are 4 steps to make sure you start on the right foot.

1. Choose your Niche

Before starting out, niching down will make sure that you avoid as many problems as possible into the future. As a beginner, it can be helpful to try out as many areas of art as possible so you can learn what you enjoy doing and what you are best at. However, if you’re someone who is ready to get paid for your art, it’s best to niche down and specialize in a very specific area. Take photography for instance.

As a beginner photographer, you’ll be taking pictures of everything. But if you’re ready to start a business, it’s important to get really good at one area.

Are you best at shooting professional headshots or candid wedding photos? Or if you’re selling prints, are you a specialist in landscape, animal, street, or architecture photography? Asking these questions early on can help you get really good at one thing, centralizing your focus into getting better. This way, your quality of work is a lot higher, clients will be much more willing to hire you if you specialize in what they want, and you’ll have better knowledge of the industry.

2. Create a Plan

As boring as it may sound, creating a business plan is an extremely important part of building your business. This plan will help you make tough decisions and can be an anchor point for you to turn to when times are rough.

On top of this, your business plan can keep you on track during the good times, allowing you to plan out the vision for your business and set goals to stay focused. Here are some questions to help you get started.

  • What is the vision/purpose of your business?
  • What do you want the business look like in one year? 2 years? 5? 10?
  • Who’s your target market? Who are you selling to?
  • What does your cash flow look like?
  • How much art/many clients do you need to stay afloat?
  • What will you do to scale?
  • What is your exit strategy?

While these questions might seem trivial, they can prove to be essential to define. Take defining your target market, for example. If you don’t know exactly who will be buying your art, can you be sure that there are consumers out there?

42% of businesses fail due to a lack of an available market, so there’s a lot weight on this question alone. Creating this plan might seem like a trivial “business” task that won’t make you money, but, it might just save the future of your business

3. Manage your Finances

Finances are one part of your business that may fall by the wayside while focusing on your art. However, this can cause a multitude of problems. Knowing your expenses and income for your business can give you an outlook on your financial situation in general, to know if you’re making enough money or if you should consider producing/selling more or raising your prices.

It’s also important to know about any debt you may have or may want to incur to help your business grow. If you have to pay down any debts, you’ll want to use your business funds to pay these off as fast as possible to ensure that you are saving on interest, yet balance it with investing in your business today.

Speaking of which, if you think that your business can benefit from some sort of loan to invest in your business, you need to know what options are out there. Big banks only approved 26.9% of small business loans, leaving the other 73.1% to other lenders. It’s important to shop around for the best interest rates and features, alongside knowing the reason and proof behind why you should get a loan in the first place.

You’ll also want to make sure the legal side of your finances are in check. If you’re working as a freelancer, you have to know how to report your income and expenses on your personal tax return. However, if you have a legal business structure like an LLC or corporation, the way you file your taxes is going to be extremely different.

4. Grow your Brand

Marketing is essential for people to know that your business exists. There are two main areas that you can invest in to get the word out and help sell people on your business.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing is one of the strongest ways to gain clients. 92% of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends over any type of advertising. So how do you use this to your advantage? Here are a couple of ideas.

  1. Provide stellar work and customer service for current clients
  2. Put customer testimonials on your social media and website
  3. Start a referral/finder’s fee program

Use these to build trust with your customers and to encourage them to tell their friends and family about your art.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a vast field, including areas such as SEO, PPC, social media, email, and your website in general. Depending on what industry you’re in, you may see success in different areas.

If you’re someone who is selling prints or doing lower-ticket client work, then working on your social media might be the best bet. This allows the platform to put your content out to possible clients, where they might come across your work at no cost to you.

If your revenue per client is higher, then you might be able to afford to spend more money to get your name out to them. You may find success in PPC campaigns like Google Ads, where you could make upwards of a 200% return on your investment.

Go and Build Your Business

Art and creativity are extremely important in our technology-filled lives. When surveyed, 94% of people say that their workplace is made more welcoming with art, with 61% agreeing that it stimulates creativity.

Building an art business to fill the demand for this is a wonderful idea. There are, however, a few items that you need to keep in mind while starting your business to ensure your success. But most importantly, never lose your passion and love for creating something beautiful. Now it’s time to go and build the business of your dreams.

When it comes to your small business, you want to do everything in your power to ensure that things are going smoothly. But there may be some unexpected factors that could be impacting your customer conversion that doesn’t have to do with your business model or products.

Here are three unexpected things that could be slowing down your new business sales and what you can do to get them back up again.

Unhappy Customers are Customers that Don’t Convert

Using only video marketing on your website

It’s true that video marketing can do wonders for your business. Experts say that using a video on just your landing page can increase conversions by 86% and 70% of marketers say that video increases their conversion rates better than other marketing formats. Movement even gets your consumers’ brains going.

But it’s important to remember that consumers like to get their information fast. It only takes 10 seconds for people to form an impression about your brand and 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about your website.

If your website only provides information about your business through a video and nowhere else, and that video provides the information slowly, consumers will click away from your website fast. Include information in videos and in written formats so your consumers can get their information in a way that works best for them.

What’s more, you want to make sure your video marketing has audio and captions. Non-hearing consumers won’t be able to interact with your website if there aren’t any captions and hearing consumers won’t be able to multitask if they have to watch the screen to know what your business does.

Not having a phone number or address listed on your website

When you’re operating a small business and you’re working from home or your business is completely digital, it can be tempting not to list any phone number or address on your website. After all, putting a personal phone number or listing “101 Storybook Ln Apt #4” on your website may not feel very professional. But not listing a phone number or address on your website can make consumers feel uneasy, like you may not be a real company.

Of course, renting an office space and getting a permanent land line may not be in your budget. So what’s the solution?

We’ve found great success using inexpensive voice-over-internet phone lines (e.g. Google Voice) and virtual addresses (e.g. DaVinci Virtual) to provide that added level of comfort that the customer often need.

For example, in our trampoline dropship business, we saw a near 50% increase in sales by simply adding a phone number to the header and an address to the footer of our website!

Having an Unprofessional or Confusing Checkout Process

The less friction you introduce into the sell, the higher the conversion rate will be. This is common sense, and yet we see business after business injecting unnecessary processes into the checkout process.

This relates to both in-person and digital transactions.

We lived overseas for quite a few years in a country where the checkout process at many stores was ridiculously complicated! I remember going to one of the big local electronics stores to buy an HDMI cable, and spending 20 minutes in the checkout process. To simply buy a cable I had to:

  1. Tell the store salesperson which cable I wanted.
  2. The salesperson then personally took the cable to counter where someone would package the item in a bag, and staple the bag shut.
  3. I was sent to a separate window (and person) to pay.
  4. Once paid, I had to take the receipt to a second window where I received my “warranty”.
  5. With the receipt and warranty in hand, I returned to the counter where my cable had been packaged and that individual stapled the receipt and warranty to the bag.

As a customer, the entire process was a huge turnoff that dissuaded me from shopping there ever again. It would have been much easier to grab the item, take it to a self-checkout, and walk out the door 30 seconds after picking up the item!

The same can be true of online checkouts. Does your online store have too many steps? Too many pages from when the customer selects ‘Buy’ until the point when the customer finishes the process? If so, you’re losing sales!