I recently received an email from a woman concerned about putting her image on her website because “unsavory individuals” might target her. This is a potential reality, but there are two facts to keep in mind:
- Most people are good and, with the business you are in, it’s unlikely there will be many unsavory individuals visiting your website.
- Not to scare anyone, but you’re more likely to be accosted walking down the street than by someone tracking you down with your website image.
That said, this is a business where you enter strangers homes and there are some guidelines that will further reduce your chances of ever getting into a questionable situation. Here are the basics:
Research New Clients - You don’t need to say yes to every client. I you’ll be going over to their home, try to learn what you can about them beforehand. Ask who referred them to you and Google their names and home if you want a little more information. If something seems off, turn down the job or bring someone with you on your first visit. It may sound weird, but I usually pull up tax assessor records on the home to see if it is rented or owned and gauge the worth of the client. I prefer knowing what I’m walking into.
Pursue Clients within your Network - Have your existing clients and business acquaintances connect you to potential clients. This way the clients are already vetted. I greatly prefer pursuing clients that have been given the seal of approval by someone else! Remember that this is a relationship and working with someone who is kind and respectful of your time and talents will be a more rewarding experience for both parties than working for clients that are rude or impossible to please. I have had clients warn me about potential clients before I’ve accepted jobs and I’ve never regretted turning those jobs down.
Follow your Instinct - While this may seem obvious, we can sometimes ignore our gut reaction because we “need the money” or are too busy to gauge our internal reaction. Take a moment after your initial call with a client to note any negative reactions you may be experiencing. If something rubbed you the wrong way, respect that feeling and act upon it. It may force you to stretch a little longer financially, but your safety and sanity are more important in the long run. While I’m sure nothing would have happened, I once cancelled on a guy because he spoke to me like I was a servant in our initial call. It was a large job so it took me a minute to look past the income and realize that I did not want to have anything to do with the guy. I called him back and cancelled our arrangements.
Use a Business Address - If you still have concerns, do not register your business under your home address. If you don’t have an office, get a P.O. Box. Your business license is public knowledge and I’ve tracked down the homes of many individuals by looking up their business on the state business registry website.
There are surely more, but these are the big ones to me. Being in business requires a fair amount of self-advertising and it is completely normal (and will probably help business) to have your name and picture on your website. If this concerns you, think about realtors, lawyers, insurance agents and the array of service providers who put their picture on everything. Or simply think of LinkedIn where millions of individuals provide their picture and full work history to the public. We’re in a world where just about everything is public so the real trick is how you interact with those you may meet in person.