Most home-based business owners love the benefits: no commute, (very) flexible dress codes, mid-afternoon dog-walking breaks.
But some of those pros can quickly turn to cons when you have a Skype video call with a colleague, client or business associate. That comfortable “home-y” home office (with the napping dog, the unfolded laundry, the kids’ art projects) can be more than a distraction. It can undermine your professional image and subtly suggest a less-than-serious attitude about work.
So how can you make your home office camera-ready? At least every couple of months, do a video “check up” to ensure you’re optimizing the image you’re presenting, whether it’s just you and a client or a group video call with several others.
- Check your camera position, settings and lighting. The easiest way to do this is to click on Tools > Options > Video Settings and you’ll see a live video of yourself as you would appear in a call. Click on Webcam Settings to adjust the camera. Mac users can click on the Skype menu > Preferences > Audio/Video. Experiment with lighting and camera position until you’re happy.
- Keep personal items that are visible in the video frame to a bare minimum. These include family photos, evidence of kids and pets, and items that reflect your personal life like vacation knick-knacks, exercise equipment and clothing.
- Maintain a very tidy workspace. Papers should be neatly stacked (or filed) and electronics’ cords untangled and hidden away. Empty space suggests organization and control.
- Remove sensitive or private business documents from the video eyeshot. These may include business proposals, employee records, or clients’ internal company materials.
- Greenery can freshen up a visual image, but don’t go overboard. One well-placed, healthy plant can make your home office look friendly but not greenhouse-like.
- Carefully consider visible wall art. Would the image be appropriate to display in a traditional office that operates in your industry (or, if that’s not applicable, in a hotel, library or hospital)? If the answer is “no,” hang it away from the camera’s lens.
- A bookcase is a universally-appealing backdrop. Just fill shelves with business-suitable titles. Avoid having lots of home appliances and electronics (refrigerators, stereo equipment, televisions) visible in your video’s background.
- If you work in multiple locations (a desk, the couch, your bed), designate a specific “video” locale that’s easy to get to. Conduct your video calls from that one place, to maintain consistent lighting and background.
- Finally, perform a test video call with a trusted friend or business colleague. Gather his or her honest feedback on the impression you and your office give on video, and act on it.
Do you have any funny stories, tricks or best practices of your own? Feel free to share in the comments below, or in our groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. If you’d like help deciding how to involve video calling in your small business, our chat team is glad to assist you.