Back in Andre Agassi’s acid-washed-jean-shorts-and-tights-wearing days, he was identified with the tagline, “Image is Everything.” It was the centerpiece of ads he did for Canon and no doubt helped sell cameras, in part because it embodied what we thought was cool at the time. Whether it was an athlete, a product, or company, the early ’90s were all about convincing audiences that how you were perceived (brash, edgy, glamourous) was all that mattered. Style trumped substance.
Agassi ultimately regretted being the billboard for narcissism (and is now, credit to him, known for helping educate children), and there is a lesson that all business people can take away in the post-mullet era. Especially in the service industries, it’s reputation, not image, that’s everything.
No one wants the sizzle without the steak. What your potential clients/customers really want is to hear good things about your work or product from people they trust, whether that be word-of-mouth or through any of the social media/networks where like-minded people gather. While they still have to buy (into) what you are selling, the difference between getting the assignment or not may very well come down to what that third party says.
How comfortable are you that your reputation works for, not against, you?