If there’s one thing that’s vital for a successful freelancer or solopreneur, it’s confidence. To succeed in business, you need to portray self-confidence and power, whether you work alone or you’re in charge of a team.
Clients feel comfortable when around self-confident service providers. They assume, because of your self-assuredness, that the level of your work will be of a high quality. This is not always the case, but unfortunately, first perceptions are usually based on body language and outward appearances.
You might be excellent at what you do but if you have low self-confidence then it’s unlikely you’ll attract your ideal clients. Alternatively, an outward projection of confidence can take you a long way, even if you’re just starting out or not one of the best in your field.
Confidence is the driving force behind making a great impression with clients. It’s therefore vital to cultivate an appearance of self-assuredness, even if you have to fake it for a while.
The following are 10 ways to portray confidence when meeting with your clients and associates:
Dress the part
We all feel better when we’re wearing nice new clothes which look good and complement our appearance. When we’re happy in how we look then we’re naturally more confident. Other people also automatically assume those who are well-dressed are confident, self-respectful, and good at what they do.
Prior to meeting with clients, make sure you have clothing options that look professional and match with your brand identity.
If in doubt, lean more towards the formal side. There are some nice smart-casual clothing styles which incorporate jackets and formal shirts but which also allow you to add some color and personal touches.
Practice proper grooming
Just like smart clothing builds confidence, so does proper grooming. It’s vital to look clean and healthy when face-to-face with clients. When you feel clean, fresh, groomed, and have had a healthy breakfast/lunch, then you’ll be more inclined to feel positive and confident when attending meetings.
Keep your hair tidy, your face clean, your teeth flossed, and your beard and nails trimmed (if male). A clean appearance makes you look competent and self-assured.
Assume a power posture
Develop a power posture. People sense confidence in those who stand up straight and keep their shoulders back. It’s a nonverbal sign of power and high-status, which can be easily faked simply by maintaining an erect but relaxed posture.
Also ensure your feet are apart, rather than close together. A good rule, when standing, is to align your feet with your shoulders. When sitting, avoid crossing your ankles. Keep both feet flat on the floor and widen your arms away from your body, so as to take up more space.
Keep your chin up
Confident people keep their heads up and their gaze looking straight ahead. When your head is held high, you naturally appear more confident. What’s more, you also begin to feel more confident.
If you feel unsure or nervous, then keeping your chin up is even more important. The previously mentioned power pose and a head-up attitude stimulates confidence-building hormones in the body while also reducing stress hormones.
Maintain eye contact
We’ve all met someone who is afraid to make eye contact. They’re usually perceived as a little odd, inhibited, scared, and unfriendly. In a business arena, lack of eye contact can be hugely damaging to your chances of making a sale, negotiating terms, or connecting with new partners. Friendly yet assertive eye contact creates bonds and portrays confidence.
Even if you’re shy, practice making eye contact with strangers when in conversation. Aim for a ratio of 60% eye contact and 40% looking elsewhere. You can fake some eye contact by looking at the areas surrounding the eyes – such as the bridge of the nose – rather than directly into the pupils.
Fidgeting is a sign of nervousness or boredom. Either is bad when in the company of clients. Playing with a pen, drumming your fingers, rummaging around in pockets, constantly moving in your seat, or jiggling your legs are distracting. Above all, they are a sign you’re not comfortable in yourself and the situation.
Whether you’re nervous or not, avoid any restless movements. Stand or sit still and keep your hands free. Instead of playing with a cup or pen, use your hands to support what you’re verbally saying, with gentle movements.
Make slow and sure movements
Gentle movements are in fact imperative when showing confidence and self-assuredness. Nervous people tend to rush about like headless chickens. They walk quickly, look from side to side frequently, and arrange documents in a hurried and sometimes haphazard manner.
Slow your movements down and be more purposeful in what you do. Walk with long slow strides. Arrange items a little more slowly and methodically, without worrying about time or what people might be thinking. Reduce the speed of your hand gestures. When you are less panicky in your movements then you’ll be perceived as confident and in control.
Practice a firm handshake
People make snap judgements about your abilities and confidence when they shake hands with you. If you’re grip is weak and your movement non-existent, then you’ll be perceived as lacking any self-confidence in both yourself and your work. This can destroy any chances you have with a new client before the meeting even gets going.
Practice delivering a strong handshake with a friend or family member. Grip the other person’s hand firmly and shake gently yet confidently. It’s important not to crush the hand in a vice-like grip but it’s also vital not to let your hand resemble a dead fish.
Remember to maintain eye contact during the handshake. Also, keep your hands clean!
Avoid nervous chatter
When nervous, it can be easy for us to engage in nervous chatter so as to hide our fears. Yet it actually does the opposite and portrays you as uncomfortable and lacking in confidence and self-control. For other people, it can also be annoying, especially for clients who want to share information with you.
Focus the topic of conversation away from yourself and on to the other person as much as possible. Get them to talk more by asking pertinent questions and, if applicable, focus on achieving the sale. Whatever you do, don’t chatter about irrelevant topics, just to fill up potential silences.
We are naturally drawn to people who smile. We assume people who smile are happy, relaxed, confident, and friendly. Scientists have also discovered we are more likely to remember a stranger who smiles than one who didn’t. Smiling is important in the world of business, and especially with new clients who might be nervous themselves about meeting with you.
Practicing smiling, even when you don’t feel like it. Your smile needn’t necessarily be a huge grin. A small closed-mouth smile can work well to show you are confident, in control, and content with the situation and your abilities.
Portray confidence until it sticks and becomes reality
It’s easy to assume those who portray confidence really are confident. Yet sometimes, those people who look in control and with sky-high self-assuredness are in fact deeply self-critical, anxious, and very unsure of themselves. They have just found ways to hide these fears behind a confident facade. This is often what successful people do.
Showing confidence in front of clients can be developed even when you feel tense or riddled with impostor syndrome. It’s simply a matter of controlling your body language, modifying your speech, changing some thinking patterns, dressing the part, arriving on time, and preparing properly for the meeting in advance.