Home-based businesses often struggle with an image problem. Although running a business from home can be more efficient—and even more profitable—than running a business outside the home, it can give the impression of a scrappy, less mature operation.

It needn’t be so. Home-based businesses can do several things to make themselves look larger and more professional:

1. Have a dedicated business phone.

How you answer your phone—and what clients and prospects hear when they call your business—makes all the difference. A barking dog or screaming child will give the impression of a very informal setup. Instead, keep a dedicated business line and record a very professional-sounding message. “I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me, representing a business, and I’ve heard kids or pets or TV in the background,” writes business consultant and entrepreneur Michael Hess on CBSNews.com. “Or I’ve called a ‘business’ number and listened to a static-y answering message saying ‘you’ve reached the Jones family and Jones Industries, Incorporated…’”  

Also consider extra features that jazz up your phone communication such as an after-hours answering service (depending on the nature of your business).

2. Design an impressive, up-to-date website.

Having a business website that looks professionally designed gives even a one-person company a big image. Make sure to update the site regularly with new and current information, as nothing looks as amateurish as a site with outdated information. If you can’t afford a professional web designer, many do-it-yourself website design platforms allow you to cheaply build an attractive, easy-to-navigate site.  Also get an email address with your company’s domain name as the extension rather than using Gmail or Yahoo.

Running a business with work-from-home employees? Find out how to insure your business with our Home-Based Business Insurance Guide

3. Embrace new technologies.

Beyond your phone and website, embrace technologies that show you’re keeping up with trends in the corporate world. Just because your business operates from home doesn’t mean you can’t use scaled-back (sometimes even free) versions of many of the same software and business applications to work with clients as a team. For example, many accounting and bookkeeping programs offer affordable versions designed for very small operations. Using video conferencing, webinars, and other current technologies specific to your industry will prevent you from looking stodgy and small.

4. Get publicity.

Having your business featured in the media, whether locally or nationally, adds heft to your reputation and makes you look like a big deal, writes Molly Reynolds, president of public relations for online marketing firm Trepoint, on Inc.com. “You are an expert at what you are doing—be someone’s source,” she writes. “Having a growing ‘featured in’ resume makes you look like a big shot.” Reynolds recommends signing up for a free service like Help a Reporter Out, which connects reporters seeking sources for articles with business owners and others interested in being sources.

Keep in mind that there can also be benefits to looking small. Some companies prefer working with smaller, more personable vendors that can provide hands-on, responsive service. All the same, running a business from home can hinder your reputation if you’re not putting your best professional foot forward.

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