14 Ways to Put Your Best Foot Forward

You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression, so make your first contacts count. Making a bad impression could cost you a client.

It’s often the first few minutes of any initial meeting that determine whether or not you get a prospect’s business. Yet, many freelancers ignore the importance of leaving a good first impression–that’s because they don’t know how to make a good impression or they don’t understand how important it is.

In this post, I’ll remedy that problem. I’ll share fourteen easy ways to leave a good first impression. At the end of the post, feel free to add your own tips for putting your best foot forward.

How to Leave a Good First Impression

Here are some tips you can use when you initially meet a prospective client to make sure that you leave a good first impression.

  1. Respond promptly. If you receive an email or a phone call, nothing leaves a bad impression like not getting back to the inquiry in a timely fashion. Yet, some freelancers make prospects wait days or even weeks for a response.
  2. Listen carefully. If you’re doing most of the talking, something is already wrong. Whatever you do, don’t interrupt your contact while they are speaking. It’s okay to take notes. It shows that you are serious about the client.
  3. Be positive. Think the best of your prospect. Attitude counts. If you come to a meeting with a bad attitude, it will show in your body language and tone of voice. Your prospect will likely pick up on it.
  4. Research beforehand. Even if the prospect contacted you “out of the blue,” you can still make an effort to learn something about him or her. See if they have a website or blog. Are they involved in social media? Find out what industry they are in and learn something about it.
  5. Be courteous. Another immediate turn off for prospects is rudeness. Even if you don’t think that the prospect is a good candidate to become a client, there’s no excuse for being rude to them. Rudeness will be remembered and may even become part of your online reputation.
  6. Be punctual. If a prospect sets up a face-to-face meeting with you, make every effort to arrive on time. If it looks like an unforeseen circumstance is going to make you late, call and let them know.
  7. Make eye contact. It sounds simple, but a surprising number of people don’t like to make eye contact. They may be shy or not making eye contact may simply be a bad habit. However, if you can’t look your prospect in the eye, you may appear shifty or dishonest. Don’t stare though.
  8. Take note of your contact’s name. Try to use it in conversation as often as possible. Be careful. Be sure to get right. Listen carefully when your contact introduces themselves and repeat the name out loud just to be sure. While we all like to hear our names, there’s nothing worse than hearing your name mispronounced.
  9. Relax. Since this is a first meeting or phone call, you’re probably a little nervous. Unfortunately, nerves are catching. If you appear nervous, your prospect may begin to feel uncomfortable. Try to calm down and appear relaxed.
  10. Dress appropriately. Freelancers are notorious for sloppy dress. When you’re alone in your home office, what you wear doesn’t really matter. You can stay in your pajamas or wear an old comfy sweat suit with holes in it. However, when you meet a prospect, make the effort to look professional.
  11. Be careful about your written communication. Mistakes matter. If your initial contact is through email, make sure that your email response is error-free. Proofread it carefully and look for any grammar or spelling mistakes that might make you look bad.
  12. Don’t seem rushed. Avoid looking at your watch or any clocks on the wall. If you appear rushed or distracted, your contact may believe that you aren’t really interested. That’s not the impression you want to make.
  13. Say thank-you. This is another courtesy that most business people no longer follow. However, just because other freelancers don’t say thank-you doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. A thank-you note after your meeting is a sign of respect and can really make you stand out in the prospect’s mind.
  14. Don’t forget to leave your business card. Your business card provides a handy way for your contact to connect with you in the future. While you might think the client will remember how to find you (especially if they contacted you first), this isn’t always the case. Don’t leave your initial meeting without passing your business card to your contact.

Your Turn

What are your best tips for leaving a good first impression? Share them in the comments.

Image by aramek