When you’re an entrepreneur, you are the face of your company. It’s very easy and extremely common for your personality traits and private life to overlap with your professional image. For this reason it’s essential that you put your best face forward in order to protect the reputation of your company. You may have behaviors that are perfectly acceptable in your private life that you might need to reel in or mask when you have your business hat on. We’ve identified 5 common ways that your lack of professionalism can harm your credibility.

  1. Complaining: When you complain about other people in your industry, your competitors, or past clients, you may think you are showing your clients that you trust them and feel close to them. You may even think you are displaying a level of vulnerability that will help them to better understand your work style and pet peeves. But in reality your client is sitting and wondering, “How long will it be until she starts talking like this about me to other people?!”Loose lips sink ships. Keep the details of your business dealings private, especially the negative stuff. Even anonymous venting can send the wrong message to your clients and make them feel uncomfortable.
  2. Emotionalism: Are you dealing with a cold and emotionally unavailable client? Is their aloof behavior leaving you feeling neglected and unappreciated? If you are a passionate person in your private life, it can be difficult to accept this sort of detached relationship without feeling offended. You may be tempted to let the client know how you are feeling and maybe even lash out. However, you have to understand what people mean when they say, “it’s just business.”When we do favors for friends, we expect them to show gratitude and give us emotional feedback. It may help to remember that you are “the hired help” and that it is unlikely that your client spends enough time thinking about you to even consider wanting to hurt or offend you. Their lack of overt consideration for your feelings or emotions is justified because they are thanking for your for services by compensating you by paying for your time.
  3. Lack of Self-Confidence: Being an entrepreneur is an amazing way to test not only your discipline but also your self-esteem. You are no longer in the corporate world where you may have been getting a constant array of performance evaluations, critiques, criticism, encouragement, or other forms of feedback about your performance.When you’re self-employed your performance review is often as simple as your bank account balance. Do a good job, get paid. Do a bad job, don’t get paid.A poor interaction with a client very rarely will result in useful feedback about how you handled the experience more often than not they’ll just vanish leaving you with an unpaid invoice and wondering what on earth you did wrong. And even the most positive experiences might leave you with a paid invoice and not so much as a thank you or compliment to let you know whether they were merely satisfied or completely delighted with the service you provided.Of course there are ways to try and seek out feedback from clients in the form of reviews, referrals, and such. But for the most part you’re going to have to look within yourself for motivation if compliments are the sort of thing that keep you going. And on those days when you inevitably are feeling a little bit down about your abilities, you’re going to have to learn how to keep that bottled in. Potential and current clients don’t want to hear about how nervous you are about a new skill you picked up or how unsure you are about something you produced for them. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
  4. Punctuality: Clients absolutely must be able to rely on you. If you say you’ll have something done by Tuesday at 1 PM, then it must be in the client’s possession by Tuesday at noon. If they were willing to accept a poor level of accountability and wishy-washiness then they would’ve gone ahead and hired their cousin’s girlfriend’s nephew to get the job done. But instead they hired you, a professional, whom they are paying very well to complete a project that is very important to them. Show the client that you respect their investment; stand by your word and meet your deadlines. Your professional reputation depends upon it.
  5. Grammar: Despite the lack of factual correlation, many people use grammar, diction, and the use of slang as ways to decide the intelligence level and education rank of others. It’s no secret that people usually take those judgments one step further and develop prejudices about your personal character. We would never recommend that you strip your verbal style for the sole purpose of hiding a cultural heritage, but we definitely advise our clients to pick a voice and use it consistently in all of their professional interactions.The goal here is not necessarily to change yourself to make others more comfortable. Instead the aim is to make sure that your clients are never caught off guard by the way you speak because they always know what to expect. That consistency is important to your branding and essential for your credibility.

Example: How would you react if one day your New York City born and raised lawyer started using lots of Australian slang on his Twitter account? Crikey, right? Don’t be that guy.

Your professional credibility is completely dependent upon how others perceive you. If someone has prejudged you or is relying on bad information, there is not much you can do. While that may seem unfair, it’s just business! Focus on what you can control: your image, your brand, and making yourself appealing to your target market. The rest will all fall into place.