3 easy and inexpensive ways to look more professional when you’re starting out

For bootstrapping young businesses, making a professional first impression as you build your brand is key.

Although hiring a branding expert may be too large an expense in the early days, you can still help your business stand out in the best possible way without breaking the bank.

Just follow these simple marketing moves that will help people to know, like, and trust you.

1. Build credibility with your own email address

A custom email account isn’t costly but is well worth the effort. Sending company emails from a Gmail or Hotmail account will raise questions about the legitimacy of your business (if they ever make it past your customers’ spam filters.)

If you’ve already registered your company’s domain name for your website it’s a snap to set up a custom email address. Many web hosting services such as Bluehost include a free custom email account with their service packages.

If you’ve never registered a domain name, search what’s available at GoDaddy.com or NameCheap.com. Most companies can help you find a memorable domain name with SEO keywords.

2. Build your brand with a customized logo

An effective eye-catching logo will attract new customers, help you stand apart from competitors, build trust in your brand and, ideally, inspire customer loyalty.

Should you have the funds to hire a logo designer, you’ll save time and get a unique, professional result—but best be prepared.

A professional designer will want to discuss your company’s brand identity with you. Being clear on your brand before your first consult will streamline the process, ensuring you get exactly what you want.

This article from LeanLabs help you pin down your unique brand identity with twenty questions. You might also find this free downloadable brand character workbook useful.

And if budget is a concern, try one of these free graphic design tools that help you combine visual elements to quickly create your own logo:

3. Build trust with a professional photo

Before strangers will buy from you, they need to get to know you.

A high quality photo for your website and social media accounts, in addition to professional web content and engaging social media posts, is a must. Nothing makes a business appear more “fly by night” than a faceless LinkedIn avatar—or less professional than a grainy, out of focus selfie.

Expect to pay in the ballpark of $100 for a headshot (or more, depending on the photographer’s hourly rate and the length of your shoot). You can also do it yourself if you’re on a budget following these quick headshot tips from HubSpot.

Next steps

Marketing is an ongoing commitment for every business, and as your business and bottom line grow you can invest in new strategies to maintain a profitable company.

In the meantime, these simple “must do’s” will help you make that the positive first impression with your customers and with would-be investors, potential partners, and lenders.

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