A great first impression can open a lot of doors. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When you’re an independent contractor that cultivates your own clients to grow your business, you quickly learn to appreciate the power of a good first impression. Fortunately, likability is an asset that you can cultivate like any other.

Your Book is Judged by Its Cover

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but the first thing people notice about you is your appearance. You don’t need to be a model, but you should fit the role that you’re auditioning for. The easier you make it for your new contact to imagine you in that role, the more likely they will cast you to play it. Numerous studies have shown that you only have seven seconds to make a first impression, and your new contact might already have a clear idea about who you are before you ever speak a word. Embrace it, and use it.

Do Your Research and Come Ready to Party

When you are meeting someone who you hope to develop into an important contact, don’t waste one second asking them about anything that you can find out on a public profile, their LinkedIn or their company page. Coming armed with this information is the best way to show them you are interested in them, that they are valuable to you and that you take yourself seriously. Don’t be afraid to show off the fact that you’ve done your homework. Come prepared to talk about details with a specific agenda in mind. If you want to give an interview, have your questions prepared. For example, if you want to be hired to plan a wedding, have your wedding portfolio on hand. Be ready with a business card or any additional information they might request.

Take the First Step and Like the Person That You’re Talking To

The phenomenal behavioral investigator Vanessa Van Edwards shared an important insight about popularity in grade-school when she pointed out that the kids who are the most popular in school are the kids who also said they liked the most people. People like people who like them. Developing the quality of feeling well-being toward the people that you meet is the quickest way to endear yourself to them. Extending your warm feelings toward the people around you will not only help you make a great first impression, but it will also change your outlook and it might even change your life.

Embrace Your Authentic Self

People who make great first impressions are not always those who are physically attractive. The people that stand out of a crowd are people who are comfortable with themselves. Authentic confidence comes from embracing your imperfections and being comfortable with yourself as an imperfect human being. With some exceptions, people have an incredible nose for inauthentic people or for people who have ulterior motives. Expressing yourself and your desires honestly will earn you the respect that can be the basis of a lasting friendship or a productive professional association.

Be Mindful of Your Body and Stay Relaxed and Alert

An article in Time reinforces the wisdom that 60 percent of communication is nonverbal. By learning to control your body, you can have a major impact on how people perceive you. Pay attention to your breath, breathe deeply and slowly and this will help you to avoid fidgeting and seem confident. Salespeople who mimic the body language of customers have been shown to be more successful and to leave a better impression. Leaning in shows interest and attraction. Making good eye contact shows alertness, but prolonged staring can feel aggressive. Speaking with your hands can make your words more memorable. Most importantly, relax but maintain good posture.

Whether you want to become a persuasive entrepreneur or your designs are more social in nature, if you learn from every person you’ll be a master of first impressions in no time. Play around with these ideas until they feel comfortable. When they feel natural to you, your authenticity will shine through, and soon, you’ll be looking forward to every opportunity to make a new first impression!