She was qualified. Her portfolio exhibited the kind of skill and experience the consultant was looking for, but she took three days to answer the e-mail, and when she did, it didn’t seem she had even read it. The initial phone conversation was one-sided, with the consultant listening to a long list of all the writer’s accomplishments and why she should be given the assignment.
The other candidate’s resume wasn’t as impressive nor as extensive, but she repliedto the e-mail inquiry before the end of the day, and when she did, she addressed all the questions. When the client talked with her on the phone, he knew he had her full attention. She asked intelligent questions and listened for his answers without interruption.
The “less-qualified” candidate won the assignment. Why? Because she was professional; she cared.
If your demeanor – whether online or in person – is unprofessional, you will give the impression that you don’t care.
On the other hand, if you’re a pro – whether you’re a writer, a waitress, or a wedding consultant – you’ll be perceived as conscientious, enthusiastic about the services you provide and your client’s or customer’s needs.
Following are a few questions you might ask yourself to check your professionalism – not just to make a good first impression and win a client, but to ensure a long, healthy working relationship.
1. Are you reliable?
Being reliable means that others can count on you to follow through on your commitments. They never have to wonder whether or not the job will be done to their specifications and on time. They know they won’t need to remind you of what you promised.
2. Do you admit your mistakes?
Occasionally, you may drop the ball. You may become distracted with another project, or you’re not as organized as you should be. This is the time to be pro-active. Call or e-mail if you’re going to be late with the assignment – before the client calls you.
Don’t make excuses. Barring emergency hospitalization, excuses tend to sound lame. No matter how legitimate they may be, they’ll come across as a lack of planning or foresight or even indifference. Take responsibility, do what you can do to make things right, and prevent it from happening again.
3. Are you discreet?
Your clients must be confident that you will discuss their businesses, personalities, and pay structures with no one.
4. Are you an expert in your field?
You can not know everything, but you can know where to find the answer. Make sure you’ve received the best training possible, always looking to extend your skills and knowledge. Your level of enthusiasm will go a long way in demonstrating that you love what you do.
5. Can you be trusted?
A client must never doubt your veracity. Having integrity means you neither participate in nor encourage unethical practices.
6. What image do you portray?
Know the territory. When you meet with a client or potential client in person, dress as expected for your profession. If your communication is online or on the phone, convey a friendly tone while respecting that this is a business relationship. Being too chummy may repel, rather than attract, clients.
7. Do you maintain professional relationships?
It’s good to like the people you work with, to know and care about their families, about their personal wellbeing. But when you’re working or discussing a project together, stick to the job at hand. Respect your client’s schedule.
8. Do you organize your time well?
If you’re a true pro, you keep ahead of work, not behind. You deliver earlier than expected. You invoice on time. If you can’t keep up with your administrative duties, find someone to help you.
Being a professional is largely a matter of respect – for yourself, for your work, and most of all – for your clients and their professional goals.