Making A Good First Impression

This should really go without saying, but first impressions are tremendously important. In life and business, the first impression you make can go a long way towards establishing how your future dealings, be they personal or professional, with a person (or company) will go. A good first impression can lead to a long-standing, beneficial relationship. A bad first impression can lead to no relationship at all. Obviously, the former is the far more ideal outcome.

As a self-employed individual growing your Personal Independent Earnings, they are especially important. You lack the little bit of a safety net working for a company with an existing reputation can give you. You’re all alone. You’re on your own. And that’s just the way you like it, isn’t it? But because of this, the impression you make on people has to be the best it possibly can be, or you may just find things going awry in a hurry. There’s a line about a hand basket and a very warm place that may or may not exist that would apply here.

Fortunately, we love self-employed people here.  We want you to succeed. We’re here to help you do that. So with that in mind, here are some helpful hints (in no particular order) on making sure your first impression with potential clients, partners, staff, etc. is a good one. For the purposes of this post, we’ll be talking mainly about first time meetings in person. Online and telephone correspondence has a whole different set of rules, which we’ll eventually cover in a different blog post.

Surprisingly, you may remember some of these from your time as a 9-5er going to job interviews. Many of the same rules apply.

Dress To Impress:  It’s a common misconception that whenever you’re meeting someone for the first time, this means you should be dressed to the nines in the most expensive suit you own, trying to look as professional as possible. Interviewers love this, sure. And if you’re meeting with a high level corporate executive or a wealthy potential investor, this is certainly the way to go. But showing up to a meeting at a coffee shop (or bar for those so inclined) with a freelance writer or graphic designer dressed in a $5000 tailored suit might give off the wrong vibe. To the average freelancer, showing up for a meeting over coffee or drinks dressed in Armani can come off as pretentious, or as if you’re flaunting your own financial good fortune. This is a more casual environment, so more casual dress is required. Jeans and a t-shirt, perhaps accompanied by a pair of running shoes and if you really must, a sport coat, will probably give a better impression to someone who’s standard wear consists of runners and hooded sweaters than finely polished Italian leather shoes and a suit that costs five times many people’s monthly rent ever would. Evaluate the nature of your meeting, and dress appropriately. Specifically speaking of freelancers, they’re self-employed self-starters just like you, and many embrace the fact that they can basically wear whatever they want to work. Of  course they should be following this bit of advice as well, so hopefully you end up meeting somewhere in the middle, and everyone starts out with a good first impression based on appearance alone, which is extremely important.

Exude Confidence: So you’ve met up with your prospective client, employee, investor, etc. and now it’s time to start talking. Hopefully you’ve already made that all important physical first impression, now it’s time to open your mouth and start talking. By now you’ve learned that you shouldn’t try and market to this person, but rather converse and let selling them on what you’re doing come organically (that article specifically pertains to e-mail correspondence, but a lot of the advice there has real world applications as well). One of the most important things to keep in mind as you’re going about your conversation, is that you need to sound confident and 100% behind everything you say. It’s often been said that people will often believe anything as long as the person saying it does so with 100% conviction. I mean this not as a dig, but as an example, but look at organized religion. The various religious texts alone are not enough to turn religions into the global phenomena that they have become. It takes people with confidence and conviction spreading the word to really hook people in. Just look at Scientology (no offense to any Scientologists out there, I am not one to discriminate against people’s religious beliefs). A religion that was founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard who adamantly stated that starting a religion was the greatest money making scheme going. The premise of Scientology is by most people’s standards pretty out there, and yet people believe it. Why? Well it’s one part the human fear of the unknown, and the search for an explanation for it that makes sense to them, which attracts people to all of the other major religions as well. But it’s also the fact that those who “preach” Dianetics and Scientology do so with such confidence and conviction that it’s hard for many not to believe. This is actually true of many religions. It’s hard to listen to a priest or preacher who’s well into a well delivered sermon and not question your own beliefs at least a little, or at the very least, pay attention to what he (or depending on the denomination, she) has to say. This is the importance of confidence. When you go into your first (and really, all subsequent) meetings with a client, investor, or prospective staff member, it is of the utmost importance that you ooze confidence from every pore. You need to appear that you know exactly what you’re talking about (and hopefully do), and confidence goes along way towards that.  Try to avoid the usual pitfalls like stuttering, and words like “uhhh….” These can make it sound like you don’t really know what you’re talking about, and that will go a long way towards damaging your first impression. As we’ve established by now, this is a very bad thing.

Arrive Promptly: This one should really go without saying, but it’s incredibly important that you arrive at your designated meeting on time at the latest, and ideally at least a little early. The term “fashionably late” does not apply here. It’s actually quite rude, and will most likely be viewed as such.  No one, and I mean no one, likes to be kept waiting. One need only look to their personal life to see proof of this. Do you like waiting in line at the check out counter for groceries? In line for the ATM? At the liquor store the day before a long weekend? Of course not. Waiting, for lack of a better word, sucks. And the longer the wait, the greater the frustration at being made to wait becomes, and the lower a person’s initial opinion of you will be when you finally do meet. Doing your best to arrive promptly, and even a little early, goes  long way towards showing that you legitimately care about your meeting. If you really must be late, be sure to call or text to inform the person you are meeting why, and give them an ETA on when you’ll be there. It seems like a small thing, but it can work wonders to diffuse the frustration that comes with being forced to wait, and will gain you points in the long run.

As with many posts I have made in the past, I really could go on about this for pages and pages, and in fact will be revisiting this topic at a later date to discuss the many other kinds of first impressions you can make, but for now, these tips for your first face to face meeting with a potential client, employee, investor, etc should serve you well on your path to PIE.

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