How to Fake Credibility When You’re Just Starting Out

“Fake it till you make it” may be one of the most popular pieces of small-business mindset advice out there.

Whether charging high prices even if you’re new or creating clear client procedures right off the bat, there are a lot of applications of this advice, but not very many people go into that, it’s just “fake it till you make it.”

So how exactly do you fake credibility when you don’t yet have a track record?

There are three distinct areas of your business where you can apply this advice to “dress for the part you want, not the job you have” (another popular version of the “fake it” advice): how you present yourself in person or by phone, how you present yourself online, and how you present your “past work.”

Fake It Field 1: You

Even if you haven’t taken any client calls yet at all, you can still exude confidence and expertise right off the bat.

You just need three things:

  • The right tone
  • The right vocabulary
  • The right answers

I know it seems like a chicken and egg problem. How can you have fluid answers and vocabulary without practice?

You do need practice; it just doesn’t have to be with prospective clients.

Talk with your friends, your spouse, your mom group—whoever!—about the business you want to have, the work you want to do, and the way you want to do it. Rehearse answers to questions about your process, payment specifications, and prior experience so that stage fright doesn’t set in when you get them in a business setting.

And read everything about freelancing and your industry in particular that you can get your hands on.

A freelance friend recently shared this great rule of thumb with me:

If you can read how-to books and industry websites and feel like you’ve heard it all before—even if you haven’t done it yet—then you’re ready.

Fake it Field 2: Your Web Presence

One of the biggest issues for new and aspiring Freelance Moms is a lack of clients, which stems from a lack of marketing, which stems from a lack of presence.

While it’s possible to get your first couple (or even many if you have a strong social referral circle or amazing Facebook connections) clients without having a website, it’s a crucial part of running a business today.

When a prospective client hears about you or when you first reach out to them, the first step they take is to check out your website. The same goes for professional connections you make at industry events.

Without this mainstay—or if your business website looks more like a personal blog than the digital shop window of a serious business—your prospects will choose your more serious, savvy competitors.

Faking credibility on your website when you’re just starting out involves six things:

  • A professional headshot (doesn’t need to be taken in a studio, just not be from a vacation!)
  • A keyword-filled landing page
  • A clear list of your services (and prices if you are comfortable with that approach)
  • An FAQ page that demonstrates your expertise and professionalism
  • A portfolio page to show prospects you are capable of what you say (make portfolio pieces if you don’t already have some!)
  • A past clients/testimonials page offering third-party thoughts on your work to satisfy today’s review-hungry culture

Don’t have clients to ask you “frequent” questions? Look at the FAQ pages of similar businesses and come up with your own answers to those questions.

Don’t have clients for the past clients and testimonial pages? That’s up next…

Fake it Field 3: Your Clients

Big-name companies impress. No surprise there. But so many new freelancers and business owners are afraid to name drop places they’ve worked previously or companies they’ve partnered with in other jobs because they think it’s not relevant to their new businesses.

But isn’t your background a key part of your new business?

Even if you’re in a different field, your communication skills, business savvy, and project management processes carry over and are important no matter what the application.

No matter how new your business is, it’s important to have a portfolio or past client page and a testimonial page(especially if you don’t work one-on-one with people). For brand-new businesses and even new-ish businesses that haven’t taken on big fish yet, stock these with the biggest names and best results you can, even if they’re from your “past life.”

Specifically, ask your previous bosses for short recommendations if you don’t have written recommendations from them already. LinkedIn is great for this, because you can ask them for a recommendation there and have it as part of the recommendations on your digital resume—a section that you can’t fill in yourself—and then cut and paste the glowing commentary over to your website.

If you didn’t work with any big fish in your past life, this is a great time to volunteer your services to great non-profits and get experience, tax benefits, and a great recommendation in the process.

What can you do right now to project more credibility for your business?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Stein owns, is a college business professor and a mom to Gabriela and Elle. Lisa is dedicated to playing a part in helping women and moms run a business they love, help support themselves and their family and create a flexible lifestyle. You can find her online on Facebook and Twitter or at home burning something in the kitchen.