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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.

It’s a given that business owners and employees alike should act in a professional manner. What constitutes professionalism? To a degree, it can be interpreted in different ways. When you own your own business this becomes even more important to be professional and be conscientious of how others view you.  

I believe professionalism directly relates to customer service. And, strong customer service is essential to a successful business. It’s not only important to be professional when it comes to customers, but also when talking with colleagues, business partners, vendors, etc. Image is everything.

Let’s be honest, many of us don’t have a large marketing budget. But, being professional is one free way we can increase our word-of-mouth exposure. On the flip side, if you act in an unprofessional manner, there can be severe consequences. It’s not always true that any publicity is good publicity. If word gets out about a poor interaction it can really harm your business, even for weeks and months to come. 

I’ve put together my top five components of professionalism. These are the things that I think make a strong, professional business person {in no particular order}.

  1. Education:: You don’t need a Ph.D. to be educated about the business world and the company that you run. By doing research and gaining experience in your field you become educated. You will be more respected if you are knowledgeable about your products, competitors and customers. You can never know too much and you should never stop learning.
  2. Kindness:: I’m sure you don’t enjoy dealing with unkind people, so why would you subject your customers and business partners to the same misery? A kind word can go a long way in building respect and trust. Personally, I’m drawn toward kind people. I like to do business with those who genuinely care about me and Market Mommy.
  3. Fairness:: It goes without saying that a dishonest business person is a lousy one. Going above and beyond to be fair when there is a mistake or a misunderstanding can give your customer the extra confidence that they are dealing with a top-notch company.
  4. Humility:: Nobody is perfect; each of us can only do our best. Realizing that, as business owners, we aren’t above our customers, but rather on a level playing field, can go a long way in building relationships. Just as we expect respect, it should be shown to others as well.
  5. Gratitude:: Potential customers don’t have to become customers. Current customers don’t have to remain customers. By showing your appreciation, you can help to ensure that customers will return and recommend you to others. I am appreciative of each of my customers and try to show it with things like thank you notes, referral programs and repeat discounts.

 How do you portray professionalism?