Goodbye Boring! How You Can Be Professional & Still Be Yourself

merriweather council, Danielle Splurge, putting yourself into your business
“This is My Happy Place” embroidery by the lovely Danielle of The Merriweather Council

As a designer, I spend a lot of time thinking about making things aesthetically pleasing. Whether you like it or not, appearance matters quite a bit in business – even the best of us are often quite superficial in terms of the clues we look for to determine the quality of an online business.

Because of this, many small business owners think they have to appear a certain way to be successful. Sometimes this leads to design paralysis because the business owner is afraid of getting it wrong. Others, it results in a web presence that isn’t bad, but also isn’t particularly interesting or original.

Appearance matters, but you don’t need to be boring to be professional.

Let me give you an example in keeping with this month’s theme: my mom.

My mom is a breast surgeon who works with cancer patients and she’s also a hospital administrator. She saves people’s lives. Regularly.

Also, she has a very visible and rather large tattoo on her left wrist.

She never wears traditional business suits.

She listens to rock and roll music in the operating room.

She cares about seeing patients who can’t pay.

In a field that put up so many obstacles to her success, related to everything from gender to race to the heartache of extremely sick patients, my mom has not only excelled, but has excelled while maintaining some pretty non-traditional aspects of her identity.

Don’t mistake me, being professional is important. My mom would not be where she is if she wasn’t first and foremost an excellent doctor. Remember, though, that professionalism is only the beginning. By itself, it won’t keep you in the game, make you memorable, or help you love your work.

You’ve got to be professional, yes. You’ve got to have enough visual and experiential clues and markers to show people who visit your business online that you know what you’re doing, you do it well, and you’re here to stay.

But on top of all that, you’ve also got to be you.

So how can you incorporate more of yourself into your business?

1. Use your favorite colors in your branding, products, or both
2. Wear your favorite outfit in your profile picture
3. Find a premium font that is an exact fit, rather than settling for a generic one that came with your computer or a freebie everybody’s using
4. Write the way you talk
5. Change things up as you evolve
6. Use “I” instead of “we” when referring to your solo business
7. Make things or offer services that make you feel good
8. Listen to your favorite music while you’re working
9. Say “no” to opportunities that don’t feel exciting
10. Pay yourself appropriately
11. Update your “About Me” page regularly

What has your experience been creating a business that is true to YOU?