The importance of looking the part in business

If you’ve just started up your own business, your mind is probably racing with all the dozens of different things you can and should be doing in order to get your venture off the ground, and give it the best possible chance of succeeding.

You may well be investigating the best UX testing platform to provide valuable analytics that can help you to tailor your offering to your clients, you’re probably giving a good deal of thought to the importance of networking, and you may even be planning out your three year KPIs.

Here’s something to consider, though: one of the most important aspects of making a success of a new entrepreneurial endeavour, is actually to look the part of a serious professional in your field.

Here are just a few reasons why looking the part is a big deal.

1. A professional appearance builds trust and customer confidence

The Internet allows for a lot of anonymity, and that tends to make people pretty nervous. Small businesses that look amateurish, and shoddily put together, automatically trigger alarm signals in the minds of most people who will stumble upon them.

“This doesn’t look like a proper company, maybe this person is a scammer?” Is more or less how the emotional reaction plays itself out, even if no one is actually explicitly thinking that in so many words.

A professional appearance helps to build trust and customer confidence, because it signals on a deep psychological level that your business is like other businesses that are already well established, and that the customer likely already uses and trusts. In this sense, a professional appearance is seen as a barrier against fraudsters and unscrupulous opportunists.

Just how much of a barrier it is in reality, is another question.

2. Each industry has specific tropes and signifiers that customers look out for

Different industries have different “cultures” – not just in terms of the office cultures that may exist at certain companies, but also in terms of the consumer subcultures that exist among prospective customers and clients.

People are naturally tribal, and tend to become pretty tribal about their consumer spending habits, too. If your business doesn’t seem to match the appearance template that is expected in your industry, you may well be signalling to many would-be clients that you are “not one of us.”

If, for example, you ran an alternative, New Age shop, selling crystals and incense, and turned up every day in a sharp suit, with a clean shave, you’d probably make people uneasy more than anything.

On the other hand, if you were working as an attorney, and you turned up in sandals and tie-dye shirts, you probably wouldn’t land many clients.

Meeting certain appearance expectations is more or less “required” in many cases, in order to slot into an existing industry.

3. Looking the part helps you to feel the part, and then to act the part

Looking the part certainly helps your prospective clients and customers to view you in a positive way, but that’s not all there is to it.

In fact, looking the part also helps you to feel the part, and to act the part. All of this then builds your confidence, likely increases your productivity, and can have a tremendously positive net impact.

Many new entrepreneurs who work from home make the mistake of lounging around all day in their pyjamas while getting their work done. The problem is, this doesn’t tend to contribute very much to a “successful professional” self-image.

And don’t let anyone tell you that self-image isn’t important for success in business.

*This is a contributed post

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