“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” We’ve heard the cliché and recognize that there’s a certain truth to the importance of starting off on the right foot. But that’s not always easy or natural, especially for creative entrepreneurs on the introvert side of the scale.
I remember earlier in my career recognizing that I’m not really a “first impression” sort of person.
I was a new hire and felt a pressure to demonstrate my value to my workplace right away. Yet the question I was asking myself was, “How could I tell my new boss that, years from now, she will be glad she gave me this chance? Is that even possible? Or do I have to wait years from now to say, ‘See, I told you that you would like me?’”
I sensed that my true skill set was being a long-term person. I’m a day-in, day-out kind of worker. That first handshake isn’t going to be the strong grip with the striking eye contact accompanied by a memorable elevator-pitch greeting. Over time, however, clients will find that I am consistent, reliable, accurate and helpful – and I do quality work.
So how does an entrepreneurial introvert move from “first glance” to the “over time” part? How do you demonstrate long-term reliability in your first impression?
First, start with your digital footprint. Keep your website content and social feeds updated. In today’s world, if you last posted six months ago or – even more ancient, back in 2016 – it almost looks like you’re out of business.
Yes, it can be hard to keep feeding the feeds, but create a system of repurposing content and make it happen. Through your social media feeds and website content, demonstrate that you’re active in your work and your professional community.
My projects comes through personal contacts, many of whom are Facebook friends. This smallish social world is a productive place for me to stay active, and I post something almost every day, often mentioning my work. In doing so, I am simply reminding people that I’m a writer for hire.
Second, concentrate on your second impression. In those immediate days after you get your opportunity, keep your promises. Show up. Be responsive. Return the call (or email or text).
My biggest mistake in self-employment occurred in the first three months out on my own. I had contacted a potential client. He agreed to a meeting. We discussed a project. I prepared and sent a proposal. He called me, leaving a voice mail to say the proposal looked good.
Here’s where things went wrong. In that voice mail he also said something to the effect, “I will call you in a couple of weeks to get started.” I took him at his word: he will call me in a couple of weeks. I was relieved, frankly. As an introvert, I had already pushed myself into the initial contact and the meeting. Having taken those steps, I was glad that it was my turn to wait for him to initiate.
Guess what? He didn’t call. After a long wait, I eventually followed up. By then, he had lost interest. We never worked together.
I was a lot younger and a lot greener then, but I did learn the lesson. In the digital space, that’s called onboarding. Back then it was called “follow up.” And that’s where your second impression takes place. Begin your long-term relationship by following through. Then stick with it day after day.
Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and creativity coach in Montgomery, Alabama.