Five Things to Do Today to Call Yourself a Professional

In my last two posts, I talked heavily about the topic of making money, our aversions to it and some of the excuses we make along the path of growing our business. Over the years that I have been growing mine, I have often heard the question asked, in my own head and by others around me, “when am I considered a professional at what I do?” Is it years of experience? Once I reach the five, ten, whatever year mark then I can be a pro. Do you need a degree in your field? Many people do equate professional with having a certain degree. I have a Masters degree in Higher Education and for years before I was self-employed, worked as a student life practitioner at a couple different colleges and universities. I was credentialed in my field of work and there was no question of my professional status. Then I decided to take my part-time business to full-time career and I quit my higher ed job all together. So now I am in this new field of self-employed photographer, but was I a professional at it?

I say yes.

And here’s the deal straight from the horses mouth. The bottom line is this:

You are a professional as soon as you tell yourself you are one. That’s it. End of story.

Stuart Smalley quote

But if you still can’t get outside your own head and you need some concrete examples of things you should be doing to prove to yourself and to your customers that you are worth hiring, here are five things that you need to have or should be doing to make the jump from amateur to pro.

  1. A web presence 
    This is the 21st century. If you do not have a solid web presence then you need to get one ASAP. Lucky for you, you do not need to be a web developer to make this happen. There are so many user friendly and affordable platforms available to people now to make their own websites. Platforms like Strikingly (www.strikingly.com) and Squarespace (www.squarespace.com) make it unbelievably easy to get up and running with the information you need to have online.
  2. Having a solid bio 
    This is an extension of your website and something that should be very well written. A good bio tells people how long you have been providing your product or service, whether or not you have a degree or certification, some personally engaging info about yourself and maybe a fun fact or two. It should be serious, but also welcoming and light hearted. You are building trust with the customer by the words you choose to use.
  3. Filing taxes
    And this really goes more to the issue of accepting money for services. If you are taking money from people, you are a gosh darn pro. If you don’t believe that, then you should not be taking money from people! Remember….business or hobby! We talked about that before. Additionally, you should be filing taxes, registering as a Sole Proprietor, LLC or Inc. Check with your accountant and or business lawyer to determine which one is the best option for you. I use the services of Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato.
  4. Customer testimonials
    People trust what others have to say about you often more than what you say about yourself. So having positive reviews and compelling testimonials is key to earning your customers trust and respect. Find a few past happy clients and get them write you a few sentences about their experience working with you.
  5. References to other featured work
    One of the things that gives me a lot of credibility in the industry is that I have been published in various magazines and news publications. If your work has been featured in other places, make sure that is highlighted in your bio and on your website.

I will say this again in case it didn’t sink in the first time. You are a professional the second you decide that you are one. And when you make that decision you know it is because the product or service you are providing has value to people and hopefully you have been working your hiney off to get where you are today. Remember, you made a choice to take money from people for a service. So show those customers how freaking awesome you are, get out of your own head, do the work, and rock those professional wings of yours. It’s time to watch your business soar to new heights.

Anne Schmidt

Anne is a professional wedding and portrait photographer, mother of two and recent Texas transplant (her heart is still in Maine). When not photographing very awesome life events she can be found wrangling small humans (only her own, she promises), cooking her favorite recipes, brewing beer with her husband and desperately trying not to own everything Kate Spade emails her on a daily basis.

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