The buzzword in behavioral economics (consumer psychology) is "branding". Create your own brand. You want your brand to exude a) confidence b) reliability and c) relevance. It doesn't matter what your line of work is - a brand allows you to branch out in all sorts of directions.
But first, get your brand set up and going. I recommend starting with your name.
1. Get a domain name.
Now if your name is John Smith, that might be a little tough. But get a domain name that somehow contains at least part of your name. If someone else owns your name, you can look in the whois.net directory to see if the owner's contact information is listed. Just keep in mind that when someone knows you want something, the price usually goes up.
If your name is seriously taken (again, John Smith), see if you can take your last name and add "Group," "Corporation," anything that implies that you are an entity.
A suggestion: Before purchasing a domain name, Google your name (or business name) and see who is associated with it, or if that name is taken. See if there is a Twitter account (www.twitter.com) with that name already. The goal is to have a brand name that has "available space"—meaning that someone hasn't snagged it already.
Also, keep in mind that domain names of one word or two words are easier for people to remember than domain names of three words or more.
2. Get an email address with your domain name. Or at least an email address with your name.
Kermit@KermitMuppet.com is a good email address. Iluvmydog@blah.com is not a good email address. It says nothing about who you are, and it looks unprofessional. Don't get me wrong, I love my dogs too, but I don't put it in my email address.
Don't use "mail@" at the beginning of your email address. Junk mail filters usually toss those emails.
3. Put something up on that website.
Don't be shy. Although hiring a web designer can give you an edge, in the meantime there are simple, free ways to put content up. Look for a free web design template online. Or ask a teenager. They can probably get a website set up for you in 15 minutes. Now start putting stuff on that site. Start a blog where you comment on articles you've read that relate to your business.
4. Get a good headshot.
You need an updated picture of yourself. Quit using your Bar Mitzvah photo. You're 30. And if you are, ahem, folliculary challenged, quit using a photo of yourself from when you had hair. Because if a person's only frame of reference is an old photo, when meet you in person the first thing they will think is "Where did all his hair go?" rather than "He looks like a confident guy."
If you're not sure what you should wear for a headshot (a photo from your shoulders up), lean towards professional clothing. Avoid wearing stripes, patterns, or white (except if it's a white dress shirt). You usually can't go wrong with a dark neutral suit (navy, charcoal gray), a white shirt and a red. People connect the color red with confidence and power. So get your red on.
5. Get some business cards.
Use both the front and back of your business card. Make sure you put your website name on there, even if your website has just started up. Putting your headshot on your business card also helps. People are less likely to throw out marketing materials (and the like) if there is a photo of someone on it. Why? Because people feel bad throwing someone out. Even if it's just a headshot of them. Really.
A pretty reasonably priced site for printing your own stuff is www.vistaprint.com. Go to www.retailmenot.com to see what discounts are available for VistaPrint.
6. Set up social media accounts.
In step 1, you checked to see if your name (or business name) was available on Twitter. Start "following" some people. Then start retweeting people's posts. Then start tweeting your own posts. (See my article "The 3 Reasons Why People Unfollow You on Twitter" to find out what not to tweet. After mastering Twitter, work your way up to a Facebook fan page. Baby steps, baby steps. Eventually get your blog, Twitter account, Facebook fan page, etc. all linked together. You post on one, the post then goes to all your social media accounts. (Again, ask a teenager for help with this. They really do know everything.)
Remember, start with your name as your brand and move on from there. These tips for creating a brand apply to everyone, regardless of what you do for a living. Remember, everything begins somewhere.
Copyright 2011 Sarkis Media LLC
Dr. Sarkis is not affiliated with the websites mentioned.