End-of-year self review part 3: updating yourself

We discussed what small businesses can be doing to prepare for the coming year in Part 2 of the series. Today, we’ll get into the fun stuff: focusing on you.

Your personal “look” says a lot to clients. Whether you’re in the office every day or work at home in sweats and tee shirt, eventually, you will come into contact with other people who will evaluate your value to them in part on your appearance. I’m not suggesting everyone go out and buy power suits – I don’t remember the last time I put on a suit to see a client – just take a look at the message you are sending, and consider if it’s time to update your public look.

Step 1: Evaluate your hairstyle

Fashion magazines and so-called “women’s” publications encourage readers to change their hair color, length and style constantly. Even some high-end salons will push clients to take on whatever is in fashion. Unfortunately, the latest style/color/cut doesn’t work for everyone. Nor should it. You don’t have to be a chameleon to stay current. Just look in the mirror and evaluate yourself honestly. Do you like the way your hair looks? Does it age you/make you look younger? Is it making the statement to clients that you want? (That could be anything from “I’m young and hip” to “I’m established” or simply, “I’m well groomed.”)

If you do opt to change your style, consider if your current stylist is the right one to do it. If you don’t have someone in mind, or simply want to give someone else a shot, find someone who has the general style you want – for example, if you want to be trendy, look for someone with trendy, well-cut hair. Ask them for the name of their stylist. Don’t be afraid to change if you’re not completely sold on your current person.

And finally, don’t ask any stylist to “give me xyz’s hairstyle.” If you see a model or star with hair you like, take a photo to your stylist and ask them if it’s feasible for your hair, or if it would look good. They might not give you the exact same style, but they can use your photo as a jumping off point for a discussion about what you want. Is it the color? The length? The straight/curliness? A good stylist can adapt a style to look good on you. They will also say when something just isn’t right.

Full disclosure/credit: This information came from years of talking to my own, highly-trusted stylist, Stephanie Veka, a salon owner in Seattle, Washington.

Step 2: Evaluate your makeup

For people who wear make-up, it is easy to get into a rut. Worse, your favorite colors can disappear overnight with the changing of the seasons. Don’t be afraid to visit your local make-up counter and ask for a makeover. Yes, they will want to sell you cosmetics – you are under no obligation to buy them. Your goal should be to explore options and find what you like, including brand, price-range and colors.

A good make-up counter artist will begin with a short chat. Explain what your rules are up front (e.g., hypoallergenic, colors you like/hate, etc.) and your goals for the makeover. Things to cover include the amount of time you are willing to spend on your make-up routine and where you will be wearing it (e.g., daily maintenance versus just for parties). Your artist should present some color options – don’t be afraid to reject anything you flat out hate. Remember, they are there to sell you make-up. They will take the time to find things you like.

When you are done, write-down the items you like. Consider spending an hour (at least) in your make-up running errands, etc. and see what you think when you are away from the sales desk. How do you look in normal light? Does the makeup stand up to your average day? Do you still like the color?

Once you’ve found the items you like, do reward the store by buying at least the first round from them. While they are providing a free service, it is courteous to make your purchase from the people who helped you make a decision.

Step 3: Edit your closet

This is often the hardest part for people, but think of it this way: you’re giving yourself permission (and an excuse) to hit the post-holiday sales. The basic standard for clothes is, “Have you worn it in the past year?” I have mixed feelings about this. There are obviously extenuating circumstances around why you haven’t donned certain apparel, particularly party clothes. If you have something that you haven’t worn, take a good hard look and think about why you haven’t. Did your weight change? Is it out of style? Did you simply forget you had it? (Yes, this happens.)

If you have gained weight, take the item out of your closet and either store it or give it away. You need access to good fitting clothes now, not clothes you hope to wear again someday. If you have lost weight and plan to keep it off, find a tailor who can adjust your clothes. (Or, again, consider giving it away. More on that in a moment.)

Next, look at what you have left. Sweaters that are stretched out may be comfortable for weekends, but good fit/tailoring is better for clients. You should have at least one up-to-date suit (you will need it someday) and a good selection of business clothes that fit in with your client’s expectations and your style. And don’t forget to evaluate your shoes and socks!

Sort through your clothes and pull any business attire that you don’t want or need anymore. Now here is your chance to do something good and get a small tax write-off. There are organizations across the nation that take good-condition (laundered) business clothes on behalf of people who need them. Help someone get and keep a job by donating your old business attire to:

Step 4: Take yourself to the cleaners

As clothes cycle in and out of season, they inevitably get wrinkled and musty. Review the items you plan to keep and add them to your laundry pile/take them to the cleaners. Be sure to remove your clothes from the cleaner bag as soon as you get home and allow them to air out before adding them to your closet.

Step 5: Charge it!

At the beginning of this story, I mentioned a good reason to hit the sales. If you’ve gone through all the steps, you know what to do: comb the sales racks to fill in items you need, whether you are replacing donated clothes or just realized you don’t have a good jacket. The end-of-year sales offer a great way to update your style without breaking the budget.

When you’re done, treat yourself to whatever you enjoy – spa, double-feature, golf… whatever makes you happy. After all, you worked hard this week.

Part 2:Organizing your small business
Part 1:Organizing your office for the new year

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