Alright, y’all – let’s talk about looking the part. I know folks are going to have an opinion about this post, but that’s too bad because this is an important issue. Dressing for success is an important part of finding and emulating success as an entrepreneur. You might be surprised by this – after all, isn’t the best part about owning your own business is being able to conduct conference calls in your pajamas? Yeah, that’s one of the perks, but it doesn’t change the need to look presentable when the occasion calls for it.
Look, I like dressing in my “lazy” clothes as much as anyone else. Now, lazy for me is an old pair of broken in yellow Reebok Classic Nylons (yes, I have sneaker folks) and an Old Navy track suit I wear on almost every flight. However, there’s a time and place for casual clothes. The “time” isn’t a client meeting, professional conference or at a 1:1 with a prospective joint venture partner. Here are two super basic fashion rules that I swear by…
- I wear what reflects my position – Boss Lady.
- I add flair to make my look my own.
Let’s break that down, because we gotta understand this – your attire is important. If you ask me, tech-start-ups got the rest us thinking it’s okay to do business meetings in yoga pants! Never conduct meetings underdressed, just don’t even think of doing it. A first impression will always be a lasting one and whether or not you realize it, the way you dress has an impact on how other people see you. Do you want people to see you as some “wannabe”? I think not. You want to be seen as a capable, knowledgeable entrepreneur. We already encounter all sorts of skepticism and pushback as solopreneurs – I don’t think we really need to give people more reasons to doubt our aptitude. The truth is, people will judge your ability to run your business or represent theirs based on your appearance.
I know I’m going to get some chatter about this topic – someone is bound to say that it shouldn’t matter how you’re dressed as long as you can still walk the walk and talk the talk, right? That’s fair. I even agree that how we dress doesn’t matter much if we can’t deliver on our claims… but let’s be real for a second: that’s not how life works. If you ain’t Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah already, people are gonna have perceived notions when it comes to all sorts of different things – and trust me, business attire isn’t exempt from this. You will be judged on your physical presentation, whether or not you think it’s relevant.
So let’s talk about dressing for your profession. This is pretty easy to follow – dress in whatever passes for appropriate business attire in your industry. I wear stylish clothes and heels, for example, but a construction worker probably doesn’t need to go to the same lengths because expectations about what constitutes “professional” for a construction worker isn’t the same as say for a lawyer. Here’s what I would like you to ask you yourself: if had two contractors (each owners of their prospective companies) with the same credentials come to your house to give you an estimate for a project, how would you feel about the one wearing the sheetrock sweatshirt and tar-stained jeans? And, how would you feel about the one wearing a sport coat and dry cleaned khakis?
With that said, you always want to look like you put some effort into your look. Regardless of what your job is – whether you’re delivering papers or conducting conferences all day long – make sure that you look like you care. Don’t walk around with messy hair and wrinkled clothes. And don’t get me started on bad hygiene or too much perfume/cologne. I ain’t got time in this post. Just if you’re into wearing jeans and a nice shirts, you want to make sure that your clothes fit you well and reflect your sense of professionalism.
Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your own appearance when it comes to building as a successful solopreneur.