For many companies, making the jump from promising beginnings to a legitimate business is a hard one. It takes a while before a business has enough money to spend on “extras” like marketing or advertising because money is tight in the beginning. However, there are many things you can do to make your business look more legitimate that won’t break the bank. By utilizing the right tools, getting your name out into the world as a serious business can be easier than you think. If you’re tired of being the little guy and want to look more professional and legitimate to your clients, the following are a few tips that can lend you a hand—no matter what industry you might be in.

Update Your Company’s Website

Often the first point of contact with a company in the internet age is the company’s website. When considering your services, customers will want to know more about you, and this is where sleek design (try website formats like WordPress or Tumblr for great templates) and interesting facts about your company can show the best parts of your personality and your brand. Even if you’re a tiny restaurant, copy shop, or dog salon, utilizing the internet will really connect you with customers. If you have a website, not only will people more easily discover your business, but they will be able to find your contact information, buy products from you, and give you feedback. In today’s world, many people won’t take a business seriously until they’ve had a chance to look at a company’s website and check it out. If you don’t have a website yet, get one—if you had a website set up when you started the business, it’s time to update it.

Make a Positive Impact on Social Media

Speaking of interacting with clients…In this day and age, social media can be a company’s best friend. If you can show that you’re polite and respectful to clients and customers, those clients and customers will love you for it, and with that respect will come referrals. Think of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as cocktail parties to which everyone is invited. Being a good listener and a polite guest in these digital circles will always be seen as a plus for enterprising businesses. As your company grows you’ll likely start coming out with updated or new products, you might have a few events, or even open a new location. Social media is the perfect platform for getting attention when it comes to these announcements and changes in your business. For many people (especially the younger generation), if you don’t exist on social media, you don’t exist at all.

Certification

One thing that can really boost the professionalism of your company is to have relevant certification. When you first started your business you had to get a business license and other types of certifications in order to run your specific business legally. Once you’ve received legal licenses and certification, you don’t need to stop there. Depending on your industry, there are likely helpful skills that you or your employees can become certified in. Your clients will be more impressed and more trusting if you are legitimately certified in your field—it will make you look like an expert in their eyes. Find out if a local college or university offers certification in your field. With demonstrated credentials, you’ll be at the forefront of the competition and customers will be more willing to trust you.

Offline Networking

In the age of social media, it’s easy to forget that older methods of doing business still work. Face-to-face interactions with colleagues, for example, will help you get your name out into the corporate world. Try calling experts in the area and offering to pay for a lunch in exchange for asking them questions about how to develop a business from the ground up. Another helpful way to get your name out to customers and other businesses as well is through trade shows. You’ll quickly find that this is a great way to get referrals, especially if you can show that you’re respectful and reliable. Attending a trade show could also result in a beautiful partnership—you never know!

A Professional Manner

It’s tempting for many new businesses to get away from the big corporate lifestyle and abandon any pretense of suit-and-tie conformity. This can be a good thing (see Steve Jobs’ unique looks over the years), but it’s important to maintain a professional appearance, even if it’s more your personal style rather than a Brooks Brothers suit. A neat appearance goes a long way in business, so even if the culture of your company is laid back, throwing on a suit and tie every once and a while will help you impress clients and potential customers across the board. Remember, it’s much better to be overdressed than it is to be underdressed.

As you can see, with the right attitude and utilization of resources, you can make your business look more legitimate by building a real brand. There are many free tools to help you put your business on the map, and some of the best companies have taken steps to success by building themselves from the ground up. Just because you are the “little guy” in a world of big businesses doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you take yourself seriously, then customers will take you seriously and see you as a legitimate business. Take all the necessary steps to become a more professional company with a clear and attractive brand, and you’ll no longer feel like a little fish in a big pond.