When I was starting out in local news in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, there was no chance I would have had an assistant. But, sometimes it appeared better if I did, so I could look like “kind of a big deal” (which I wasn’t).
So, I made one up.
“Her” name was Dorothy. I don’t know why I picked that name, but it sounded like she was legit (looking back, it had some Wizard of Oz symbolism going on). I set up an email account for “Dorothy” and whenever I reached out to pursue an opportunity, I sent it from Dorothy. When I needed to schedule something with someone important, Dorothy (a.k.a. yours truly) handled the calendar. I’m not sure if the perception made much of a difference in the opportunities that came my way, but I know that when I finally got a real assistant, I couldn’t have been happier: “Dorothy” was overworked and ready to retire.
One day you will be a big deal, and have your very own assistant, too. But for now, here’s how to fake it ‘til you make it and create the impression that you already are.
Get a fake assistant: I mean, who really knows if “your name + asst @gmail.com” actually goes to your assistant or to you? Have your “assistant” schedule meetings with your client’s assistant.
Get your own domain: Okay seriously—get your own domain, or a variation of your name if that’s not available. It’s usually around $10-$20 per domain (assuming your name isn’t Madonna) and about $10 to add five email addresses. That’s plenty for you and your “assistant” @yourname.com.
Grasshopper: We love this service because it makes any roaming cell phone look like it’s connected to a big fancy phone system. Link multiple cell phones to the same “landline,” which is easily managed online. You can even set up an internal directory for redirecting all of your calls.
Business cards: Now that you have your domain name and fancy phone line, spring for business cards. Yes, they’re still important even with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, what have you. It’s easy to do with the plug-and-chug business card creator on FedEx’s website, or one of many other sites (like MOO). Spring for the slightly more expensive premium paper ones—after all, the perception is so worth it.
Uber for car service: Once your “assistant” has set up your meetings and you’re armed with your business cards, get this easy, text-on-the-go car service to pick you up as you’re walking out. It’s about the same price as a cab but gives off a “big deal” vibe like no yellow cab can.
Meetings in hotel lobbies: If you don’t have an actual office, setting up meetings in high-end hotel lobbies is a great way to go for glam office space on the cheap. Get a carafe of coffee in the lounge and set up camp for meetings bootcamp—it’s classier than Starbucks and costs about the same.
Self publicize! Whatever you do, you’re an expert at that. Get your name out there by pitching yourself through free PR sites like HARO and Muckrack, which allow journalists to post queries for the stories they are working on. Get a mention and a quote out there and have your “assistant” email it to the last meeting you had in the lobby of the Four Seasons. Voila! You’ve become the bigger deal people perceived you to be all along!