I had the opportunity to speak at a conference, WordCamp NOLA in New Orleans, Louisiana. While driving back, I was able to have a great conversation with fellow freelance creative, Obinna Okongwu. Last week I brought to you The Roadtrip Part 1: Value & Price. This week is the second part of our conversation in which we thought about those things we used to do that were unprofessional.

When working with clients give them a steakhouse experience not a McDonald’s burger.

Have a business email address

I must confess that when I first started a business, I simply created a Gmail account and was on my way. I was okay with people emailing Nathan and focus media @gmail.com. My thought, in the beginning, was a focus on saving money but getting a business email address is not too costly, and it’s something I should’ve done earlier. The email address creates the perception that you are a serious business so much so that even something as small as an email address is tailored for your business.

Streamline your communication

I used to be so excited to work with the client I would give out whatever means of communication they wanted. My hope was to make the client feel comfortable. My lack of streamlining my communication channels was unprofessional. I would give out multiple means of contacting me whether it was my email address, website, cell phone number, Twitter account, personal social media Facebook page and I would even allow clients to text me.

As a professional, you are the one who is to set the means of communication it can be of whatever communication you choose however streamline it so the client knows if they contact you through your specified means of communication you will be available.

The answer to this is to choose what message you want to commit as a means for communication.

Set business hours

My lack of initiative in setting business hours led to people texting me and emailing me at all times of the day and recess and expecting a response. This even met over the weekend as well. I’ve since learned clients won’t have a problem with commute with communicating between a certain amount of hours they just need to know what those hours are or if they reach out how soon will they hear back from you set that expectation from the beginning.

Meeting spaces

We both used to meet clients in Starbucks and Panera Bread for client work. These locations do not create an environment for serious business and start the relationship with a client on the wrong foot.

You have no real control over the environment, and people can get fairly loud in Starbucks or any other public place. Not to mention you have no control over if someone sees you and interrupts your client meeting.

A great solution to this is to get a co-working space. A co-working space allows you to rent a desk or meeting room on a monthly basis. Some allow you to pay per each visit. When we made the switch to coworking spaces for a client meeting, we both experienced better client interactions, and clients had more respect for our advice.

Watch the profanity

I’ve seen a few different opinions online as it pertains to whether or not you should use profanity. Some people feel like profanity shows that the person is casual and is a relatable guy/girl. Ultimately I do not think it is worth the risk if you are meeting in a business setting and drop a four letter word.

You have no clue on whether or not that will offend your client or potential client in a business setting. It’s better just to hold your tongue during client interactions and communicating email as it pertains to profanity.

As a follow-up to that point, mirror the client. If you are meeting with the client and they are cracking jokes and using sarcasm in are relaxed then you can mirror them and do the same. Let the client be the first one and reflect their attitude.

The opposite may be true as well, the more formal and professional you are in your business then the more formal and professional your client will be as well because they see on the level of seriousness you have for their project.

Response time

The quicker you can respond to a client re-higher the chance that you are going to move forward and book with the client and get to a point to where they can pay you. Don’t make the mistake of delaying a response to a customer under the guise that you’re busy or want to appear busy.

Even if you are too busy with projects respond to the client and let them know I would love to work on your project, however, I am busy until December are you able to talk about your project at the end of November.

Utilize pre-written scripts to send emails to clients as a way to more quickly respond to them.

A great lesson I learned from web designer Paul Jarvis is you can use email automation to help you. When you reach out to contact Paul if you expressed that you are interested in being a client, you will get an automatic email sent to you that has preliminary information about working with Paul. This allows clients self-select and determines whether or not they want to work with him based upon the preliminaries they received.

Create a LinkedIn Company Logo

In case there’s a chance you may not know linked in is a social media platform for business professionals. Imagine Facebook but instead of showing your personal life; you are highlighting your work experience and your work history as a professional.

A small but impactful when you can claim on LinkedIn is to create a company profile. To do this, you will need a business email account. The company profile will allow you to upload your logo and describe what your business does as well as post as a business and give updates.

This can also help your business look more legitimate if you create a company profile then when you are filling out your work history on your personal LinkedIn profile you can now link your business title to your company’s business page, and that looks more official.

Business cards

In our digital world, a business card may seem out of date however it is still very relevant. If you’ve ever gone to a networking event, they are essential. The fact that you can carry a business card with your branding and your direct contact information is a great way to show people you are serious about your business.

It’s not that a business card is an absolute requirement but is the fact that you have thought of every type of branding you need even if it’s a business card that just shows that no matter whom you are with you are in Anticipating getting business.

Business cards of one of those things that you give out and someone may not directly go to your website immediately, but they think about you, you’ll be glad you gave out your card. It’s about creating the opportunity to speak again in the future.

Put your best work forward

Your best marketing tool that you have at your disposal is the portfolio. You have the opportunity to create a portfolio that will influence a potential client decision on whether or not they will work with you. The portfolio is not for every piece of work you do. You should only focus on the best work you produce or The type of work you would like to do in the future. Ask yourself what do I do well and let that be the main theme of your portfolio.

Don’t work without a contract

I will confess I have worked without a proposal in a contract. I would simply send the client a quick invoice, and I would use our email conversation or our phone conversation as the terms of agreement. Not only is this legally a problem but it is very unprofessional. For every client that you work with you should have a proposal as well as a contract or client agreement that both parties sign if you’re going to do any work no matter how large or small.

Make payment easy

We both used to ask people to pay via check. The thought was to avoid payment processing fees. This later became a problem because a check takes a while and checks can be lost. The best way to overcome this was to utilize an online payment system to make payments easy. This enabled us to send clients a link and immediately receive an electronic payment within minutes of sending an email.