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I set out to be a financial advisor in my early 30s and getting started wasn’t pretty. Here’s my advice to my younger self about how to use youth as a marketing strength rather than as a detractor from your credibility.

1. Counterbalance stereotypes, don’t reinforce them

When I became a financial advisor, I thought it was okay to run around doing business dressed informally. I bought a membership to the Harvard Club and became part of the “scene,” frequently attending social events there, thinking the clients would flock to me. That was a good move because it put me in front of many pre-retirees and retirees, but that’s as far the good judgement went.

I was able to generate a fair amount of business from the Harvard Club, but not as much as I needed. The problem was that I didn’t present myself as someone with whom they’d want to do business. My dress was too casual. I rarely wore a suit. I typically wore a slim black dress with my long hair down like an untamed lion’s mane.

The way I behaved wasn’t the most professional, either – laughing freely, speaking a bit more loudly than I should have, using informal speech, discussing any topic that came to mind, etc. Sure, I was the life of the party, and I met a lot of people, but it wasn’t the best way to impress billionaires as being the next Warren Buffett.

As a result, the people who were attracted to me were young people who were excited to work with someone who acted like Lady Gaga, but they had small portfolios. I met some older men who were intrigued by my fun, hotsy-totsy personality. Those men tended to be divorced or about to get a divorce. Even though I displayed zero interest in them socially, I think that was what they had on their agenda. In a few cases, they revealed their true intentions a few months after engaging me as their advisor. How awkward!

My misguided free-spirited brand aligns better with what I am now (a digital-marketing consultant) rather than the financial advisor you’d hire to guard your millions and protect your kids from having to eat Alpo if a market crash happens.

In essence, I was reinforcing the stereotype of being a young, free-spirited person with my demeanor. They needed to see the opposite if they were going to trust me.

If I could have done it over again, I would have been obeyed what I now understand to be the golden rule of professional attire: dress as if you are well off enough to afford the product you are selling. I also would have conducted myself as if the Harvard Club were a professional setting and followed the same professional standards of conduct that you would expect in a formal office environment.