As a self-employed professional, the view that prospective clients hold of you is crucial. What you want is for clients to see you as an expert. How clients perceive your level of expertise will influence not only whether or not they hire you, but also how much they’re willing to pay, how easy it is for you to close the sale, and whether clients award you big projects or small ones.
It may feel like you, the person to be hired, don’t have much power over clients’ perceptions. You may believe that clients will make their own decisions about how — or whether — to work with you, regardless of what you do. But that’s not true. There is much you can do to influence how potential clients view you before you ever have your first conversation with them. Here are seven ways you can influence clients to perceive you as an expert.
- Speak — Public speaking for groups of potential clients or referral sources is a powerful way to demonstrate your expertise, while simultaneously making a personal connection. Whether you speak at conferences, professional meetings, webinars, or teleclasses, audience members will automatically value your expertise more highly because it’s coming from the podium.
- Teach — If you enjoy speaking in public, consider finding an opportunity to do so on the faculty of a university, training school, or resource center where potential clients or referral sources attend classes. In addition to the usual benefits of public speaking, you’ll gain instant credibility as a faculty member of a recognized institution.
- Write — Writing articles, blog posts, white papers, case studies, or ebooks can allow you to reach a wider audience than speaking or teaching. Plus, writing has the significant benefit of permitting you to capture your expertise once, then share it over and over. Once clients view you as the “author of” one or more publications, they’ll begin to think of you as a trustworthy advisor.
- Publish — Writing for your own blog or newsletter is an easy way to get started as a writer. But you’ll become more credible once you publish outside your own website or mailing list. Consider writing guest posts for other blogs your audience reads, or articles for industry newsletters, trade journals, or local publications.
- Join — Clients will often survey your affiliations to judge how “professional” you are. Even when a client knows nothing about your field, they’re likely to consider you more of an expert when you belong to one or more professional associations related to what you do.
- Serve — Volunteering on a committee or serving as an officer for an industry association or local community group provides multiple benefits. You’ll make new connections with potential clients and referral sources, gain recognition from colleagues or neighbors, and be seen by others as someone who’s at the center of things.
- Position and Promote — All of the above activities will produce better results when you make sure prospective clients are aware of them. Your professional bio should include where you speak or teach, where you publish, and what organizations you belong to or volunteer for. When you get booked to speak, begin teaching a new class, publish an article or other writing, or take on a new role with an organization, let your mailing list and social media connections know.
Don’t spend all your marketing time and money just on being more visible to prospective clients. Visibility marketing like running ads, email blasts, direct mail, and promotion-only social media may get your clients’ attention, but you want more than that; you want their trust. Make sure to include some of the trust-building approaches above in your marketing mix.
Then clients won’t just see you, they’ll see you as the expert you truly are.