How do you command a premium price for your services? By cultivating your personal brand and building your reputation as the leading thinker in your own, special niche.
Yes, I know the caliber of your expertise is already evident on your resume and LinkedIn profile. And, I’m sure your reputation among your professional network is stellar. But the truth is, you’re one of thousands of professionals in the market today, and you have to stand out if you want to command upper-end fees.
Get people to talk about you, and you’ll become more visible. As you generate buzz, your market price will rise.
As a Thought-Leader, Your Market Value Will Rise
I know what you’re thinking. Thought leadership is a lofty goal. But – good news!
– you don’t have to become a Malcolm Gladwell or Clayton Christensen for others to place an exceptional value on your services. You may only attract a few hundred followers, but go about it the right way and that will be enough to become known as a leader in your area of expertise.
How do you do it? Here are four steps to becoming a thought leader in your field.
- Develop a Focus. Like many executives, you’ve probably held a number of different roles throughout your career, so it’s likely you’re an expert in several areas. But thought leaders aren’t generalists. Rather, they focus on the one specific area on which they’ve built their career.
Your choice should have four important characteristics.
- Alignment with the type of projects you’d like to secure in your role as an independent consultant.
- Passion for the topic. As a thought leader, you’ll write and talk about it constantly. If you don’t find it endlessly interesting, your motivation will wane.
- A willingness to push boundaries. Thought leaders are constantly advancing new ideas that change their industries or professions.
- Real world experience that backs up your claims. It’s hard to stake out a position as the leading authority if you don’t have a track record of success.
- Articulate a point of view. You’re not a thought leader without an opinion. Sure, you can give advice. You can create listicles or how-to blog posts about organizing a sales team or creating a media strategy. But thought leaders distinguish themselves by taking a unique position on a topic, then sharing their vision widely.
For example, Susan Cain established herself as a thought leader by arguing that introverted people were misunderstood and undervalued. In a society that highly regards extroverts, her position stood out.
- Take up the Bullhorn. Once you’ve nailed down your angle, it’s time to share your ideas. Nowadays, there’s no shortage of communications channels, but here’s an important tip: Work the real world as hard as the digital one. Your network is a valuable source of leads, and nothing builds trust as fast as a face-to-face conversation.
Focus on these three types of communications:
- Long-form content allows you to explain your ideas in detail. Choose the format you’re most comfortable with: blog, podcast or video.
- In-person speaking opportunities at networking events, conferences or workshops will help you develop personal connections with potential clients and consulting firms.
- Soundbite platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are essential for distributing your ideas, starting conversations and promoting your latest long-form content. You don’t need to be on all of them. Focus your efforts on the platforms your target audience uses most frequently.
- Volunteer your ideas. Look for opportunities to share your knowledge with the pre-built audiences of print and online publications. The digital editions of magazines such as Forbes and Entrepreneur, as well as the online-only Huffington Post, accept independent contributors. Also, take advantage of LinkedIn’s blogging platform to distribute your content beyond your personal network.
Look for every opportunity to interject your opinion – no matter how small or insignificant it seems. Follow and engage journalists covering your field on Twitter, and list yourself on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) as an expert whom journalists can call when they’re working on relevant stories.
Remember, though, it takes time to become known as a thought leader. But every blog post you write and every tweet you send will help raise your profile.