6 Instances Where Being Cheap Will Ruin Your Professional Brand

No one appreciates a shrewd, thrifty business professional more than I do.

That being said, over the years I’ve met many business owners and executives who have allowed the same stingy tendencies that helped them generate business success in the first place to erode their public images and credibility over time. There is a line between pinching pennies to get ahead and just being cheap–– how do you know if you’re crossing it?

Here are six of the most common penny-pinching behaviors sure to undermine a business professional’s personal brand:

  1. Not Using A Professional Email Address

Many solopreneurs and startup professionals are guilty of this— conducting business with an AOL or Gmail account because they won’t spare the meager expense of setting up their email through a custom domain. Not only is it unprofessional to send emails from a consumer domain, but it can delegitimize your business and create barriers for building trust with clients, prospects and even industry peers.

  1. Rejecting Award Opportunities

Awards can be a game-changer for business professionals, as the right award can help you establish credibility on a local, national and/or industry level. Some of these nominations require a fee— and that fee is often a big turnoff to overly-thrifty professionals. If you value the award and feel that you are worthy of it, don’t let a nominal fee scare you away.

Instead of balking at the first sign of nomination fee, it’s important to do your homework when presented with these opportunities. An award is meant to bring in name recognition and prestige. With that said, there are many awards that are more of an advertising play than anything else. It’s important to do some homework when presented with these opportunities. If you’re unfamiliar with the award or the organization presenting it, then it probably isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

  1. Not Using A Professional Head Shot

If you want to use a bathroom selfie for your personal Facebook account, knock yourself out. However, when it comes to your company website and LinkedIn profile, you need a professional headshot. Period. Go to a photography studio complete with proper lighting and equipment, and get them done right. They shouldn’t cost much more than $100, and they’re usually good for 1-3 years until it’s time for a new one.

  1. Leaving A Bad Tip

When you’re out on a business dinner, it’s a generous and traditional gesture to pick up the tab. Keep in mind that at some point, the people you dine with will pick up on your tipping habits. Those habits can alter their opinions of you and even make them deal with you differently in business situations and negotiations. So don’t be a bad tipper. Ever.

Along those same lines, be respectful and kind to the servers and staff at the restaurant in which you are dining. Treating the waiter or waitress poorly can be just as damaging to your image as a lousy tip.

  1. Not Purchasing (FirstLastName).com

If your domain name is available, it’s a no-brainer to buy it. Having a web domain for your professional brand adds mobility to your internet presence and can help people find you online.

The last thing you want is for someone with your same name –or a domain squatter– to buy it before you do. Building an impactful digital footprint requires people to be able to find you, not someone else with the same name. It can cost less than 15 bucks a year and, even if you don’t use it right away, you’ll always have it in your back pocket to use for future business endeavors.

  1. Avoiding Industry Events

We all know event and conference participation can come with a hefty price tag. The combined cost of travel, hotel stays, meals and event tickets can scare away professionals who don’t think they have the extra room in their budget. But by opting out of all events because some of them are expensive, you will miss out on valuable networking opportunities and the chance to bring in new business that far outweighs the cost of attendance.

Start with a plan you’re comfortable with and find the events that present the most opportunity. And if you truly are on a shoestring budget, look for free events or very inexpensive ones to attend.

Brian Hart is the founder and president of Flackable, a national financial public relations and digital marketing agency. Learn more at www.flackable.com. Follow Brian on Twitter at @BrianHartPR.