“Fake it, till you make it” is a catchphrase you may hear often with new businesses, budding entrepreneurs and in Hollywood studios—just behind closed doors as no one wants to admit they've hyperbolized who they are and what they’re doing. (You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't made frequent use of this optimistic motto.)
The idea of implying through confidence and assertion that you're a bit more, a bit bigger, than you might actually be at the moment, is a productive idea that projects success in order to see some professional result. We chatted with several people who have successfully "acted as if" to help reach their business potential but asked to remain anonymous. Here are their tips for how and when to consider showing confidence and implying a bit extra to get ahead. (Warning: Don’t do this unless you can back it up with the skill, experience and hard work you’re promising.)
1. Communicate about your business in the plural
If you’re a solo act, refer to a “we” vs. just an “I.” It implies that you're running a bigger enterprise than you actually are. Being a one-man band isn't a bad thing, but some potential clients often feel more confident investing in a business that holds more than the owner accountable. For example, on your company website, use simple language such as: "We produce..." Our policy is..."
2. Create an assistant
If you're not ready to hire one, work with a part-time receptionist, intern, family member or carefully pretend to be one yourself. It’s a good idea to have someone who can respond for you instead of you when it comes to corresponding and making appointments for your business. That distance can imply importance. Naturally, there are also times when immediate and direct communication from you is pertinent. Thankfully, 3 a.m. e-mails have long become acceptable.
3. Use a P.O. Box instead of a home address
If you’re shipping a product, this is especially important. First you want to keep your privacy, but second, your business will seem less barebones and grassroots if you use the more anonymous P.O. Box. Personalized touches are nice, but even if you’re selling a food product and you’re creating it in your own kitchen, as you get larger-order clients, you don’t want them to consider that you might not be able to handle the order.
4. Keep a local phone number that is a landline
Everyone works off their mobile phone these days, but it’s important to show you have roots. (You can do this with a landline and fax number.) Get a landline and have it forward to your mobile phone, or acquire a mobile number that has a landline prefix.
5. Invest in professional looking website
For many businesses, the website is in face the headquarters of the business. If that is the case and you’re outsourcing everything from factory to distributor, then you better have a site that is a polished and impressive piece of Internet real estate. Your website is key to helping you create a larger, more influential and impressive presence. A "do-it-yourself" site will look just that, like you worked on it the night before on your laptop while watching the latest episode of Mad Men.
6. Dress well
This is a given. When you don’t work in a professional work space it’s easy to get a little casual. Have some good investment threads to pull out for closing the deal and impressing new clients. They don’t have to be power suits necessarily, but depending on your business, they should be the best version of what is appropriate to your industry.
7. Take advantage of short-term office space
If you don’t have an office, or a proper looking office that can play host to potential clients and investors, then find a space that feels comfortable, is quiet and looks professional. There are short-term office spaces managed by companies like Emerge 212 (they also rent virtual space). For the impromptu ultra short-term office space, rather than rely on a noisy local café, the lobby, restaurant or bar of a hotel can make for an ideal spot to hold court in some cities.
8. Embrace silence
Part of “faking it till you make it” is remaining cool. Over-talking and trying to compensate for what you aren’t is transparent. Listening and observing the successes of others is key to growing your business beyond what you may be projecting.
How have you "faked it till you made it?"
A version of this article was originally published on September 26, 2011.
Image credit: Dmitry Ilinov