With the U.S. unemployment rate at more than 10%, many people are transitioning from employee to entrepreneur.
According to business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter, author of When The Little Things Count…And They Always Count, “Out of necessity people are establishing their own businesses. Many of these new entrepreneurs are working from home and having to be professional when interacting with potential customers, clients, vendors, former colleagues and bosses.”
Pachter suggests these seven guidelines to help people maintain a business image no matter where their offices are:
1. Have a separate space for the office. This should be an area or room that is private and where there won’t be the sound of dogs barking and/or children screaming. And if the entrepreneur has children, establish a closed-door policy. Children need to know that the parent is working, and unless it’s an emergency or really important, they aren't to disturb you.
2. Answer the phone professionally. Invest in a separate line for work calls. When answering the phone, give a greeting and name: “Good morning, [your name] speaking.” When the person isn't able to answer the phone, callers should hear a business message - no little children talking or music blasting. The message should say whom the caller has reached and when the call will be returned.
3. Have a Web site. Start with a basic site that explains what the company does and includes contact information. Use an appropriate business-domain name for the Web site, and use that domain name for the e-mail address (the part after the @ sign).
4. Be organized. Most people can’t function in chaos. Have file cabinets. Use a contact-management system, such as ACT, to keep good records of business contacts and activities. Develop good-quality business cards, stationery and other company materials.
5. Create a professional Internet presence. In addition to having a Web site, use social-media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to let people know about the business. And remember that anything posted becomes part of the professional image. People should Google themselves to find out what customers will discover about themselves and their company. Blog about work. But be careful not to get so wrapped up in social media that other parts of the business are neglected.
6. Dress up if you need to. Many people believe it helps them feel professional if they put themselves together before they start working. However, if people can work well in their PJs, as long as they don’t videoconference, they should go for it.
7. Have the appropriate space if meeting with other people. If there isn't space at home, arrange the use of a meeting room or meet in a restaurant.
Edited from an article by Barbara Pachter, a speaker, trainer, coach and author of numerous business books, including The Power of Positive Confrontation and NewRules@Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead. For a free copy of Pachter's communication e-newsletter, Competitive Edge, readers can call 856-751-6141 or go to http://www.pachter.com.