What "Positioning Yourself as an Expert" Really Means for Freelancers
“Want to earn more money? Position yourself as an expert.”
It’s powerful advice for freelancers from the content marketing world, but what does it mean, exactly?
When you position yourself as an expert, you focus your self-promotional energy on “owning” (exploring and discussing) a specific topic.
A “topic” is a broad term that can include a specific industry, audience, project, or geographical area. Some examples could be: hospitality (industry), small business owners (audience), social media campaigns (project type), or local businesses (geographical area).
This is related to a broader freelancing strategy called "specializing," where freelancers narrow their services to target a specific type of client or provide a specific signature service or group of related services. Specializing is an effective way for freelancers to set themselves apart from their generalist counterparts and warrant charging more for their services.
How does this relate to positioning yourself as an expert? If specializing is a strategy, expert positioning is one tactic to make that strategy sing.
Think being a jack- or jill-of-all-trades makes you more marketable? Think again.
Check out this free video training to learn:
Why specializing makes it easier for clients to hire you
How to pick the right specialty and positioning yourself as an expert
Strategies to help you target and reaching your ideal clients
Expertise Increases Your Earning Power
The big benefit claim of expertise is that it allows freelancers to earn more. But there are a lot of reasons why it works so well. I've written about this before, but here's a quick recap:
You increase your value. The fact is almost every client will value a freelancer more if they have expertise in an area that directly benefits the client. Why? Because it lowers the perceived risk the client is taking hiring a freelancer. If you were a client that needed a video script, would you hire a freelancer with loads of demonstrated video scripting experience, or a generalist whose portfolio includes a little of everything?
You reduce your competition. Developing specialized expertise means you shrink your pool of competitors. (In fact, I've found that when your expertise is developed and credible, competitors stop entering the picture altogether because the client is so excited and sold on working with you.)
You establish the right dynamic with clients. When clients view you as an expert, they automatically see you as a partner and assign your relationship equality. (Compare this to the more common "employer-employee" relationship most freelancers establish where the freelancer is subservient to their client.)
Clients embrace partnerships because it lifts the burden they carry. If they can trust you to make constructive suggestions and direct your part of the process (let alone deliver a great product), they'll show their appreciation with a willingness to pay higher fees. But they won't even give you that chance if you haven't demonstrated your expertise up front. And it's really hard to elevate a subservient relationship onto equal footing once it's established.
How to Start Being a Thought Leader
Always remember that your expertise needs to relate to your offerings. So, if you’re a freelance marketing writer, don’t write about tax law (unless your goal is to write for tax lawyers, tax preparers, or other tax professionals, and even then it should be written from the perspective of the services you offer).
How to start positioning yourself as an expert:
- Pick a specialty or signature offer and start creating content about or around it. And don't forget to also curate content from others. Creating 100% original content all the time can be a huge undertaking, but a good mix of original and curated content will still establish your expertise and save you time.
- Approach your content from the perspective of helping make your potential clients’ job easier...as it relates to your services. So, if you specialize in working with small business owners, you could write an article on “5 Tips to Creating Effective Ads for Small Businesses” or "3 Reasons Small Businesses Should Hire a Freelance Copywriter."
- Start connecting the dots. The more you think—and write—about a specific topic, the more you’ll find yourself making new connections. So, if you're reading a book on, say, meditation, you may find that an excerpt inspires some new thinking around the issues your ideal clients struggle with in their messaging. These types of connections are what really starts establishing you as a thought leader and ups your value. Embrace them.
- Capture contact information of interested parties. The whole point of developing expertise is to have your audience raise their hand and say, “I want to hear more!” That means you need a way for them to opt-in to your communication efforts. At the very least, provide them an option to join your email list so you can have more control over reaching out to them instead of waiting for them to come to you.