What is authority?
Authority, influence, leadership - call it what you will, when it comes to business, there's a certain indefinable X factor that makes some people, brands or businesses stand out from their competitors. They're seen as the go-to experts in their fields. When they speak, people listen. Wherever they go, people follow.
So important is it that when owners come to sell their companies, they often attach a premium known as 'goodwill' to the sale price. In a nutshell, this intangible asset represents anything that adds value to the business, such as a solid customer base or well-established reputation.
Individuals are no different. A glance at LinkedIn will often make it clear who's considered an influencer. These people won't necessarily have a high net worth, but they'll definitely have an air of authority about them. They're not necessarily household names, but they almost certainly top the list of recommendations from those 'in the know'.
You don't have to have a huge following
You don't have to be famous or have a huge following to build your authority. You just have to focus your efforts on a narrowly-defined group of people - people with problems you can help solve.
"I'm not famous, I'm simply very well-known to certain people."
- Anton Corbijn, Dutch Photographer
There's no doubt that authority makes it easier to attract clients, command higher fees and boost your reputation. So what can you do to build authority when you're just starting out?
Path to building your authority
First of all, accept that it takes time, especially at the beginning. However, there are ways to speed up the process a little.
Here are a few tips:
(1) Develop a strong online presence
Create a distinctive brand identity and then build a clear and compelling online presence to reflect this, via a website or social media page or profile. Here you can showcase your skills, talent and previous work, which all go a long way to build your authority. The more ubiquitous you are online, the more credible and trustworthy you'll appear.
You don't have to be on every online platform. Start with picking a few platforms you feel comfortable with and where your audience hangs out at. Be consistent. Don't jump from one thing to another without giving it long enough to build momentum.
(2) Create quality content
In this digital age, it's so easy to consume content. If you've ever clicked from one link to another and found that 2 hours have gone by, you know what I'm talking about 🙂
If you want to start building authority in your chosen niche, one of the best things you can do is to stop just consuming content, and start creating your own!
Most influencers have an arsenal of content under their belts. It's difficult to become a person of influence and authority if people can't see what you've produced. So share your knowledge, opinions and expertise in the public domain. Create quality ebooks, articles and other content that you can share on your website and social media platforms, write guest columns on well-known business forums or industry magazines and submit contributions to key media outlets.
A good habit to build is to start every day as a creator/producer, not a consumer. Before you check your emails, log onto social media or read other people's content, create something, whether it's blogging, videos, webinars, podcasts, content for a course, an email to your list or 1000 words for your book.
(3) Take a stand on something
Is there a topic you feel passionate about in your industry? Are there things you feel should be done differently? Do you have opinions that go against the status quo? If so, don't be afraid to take a stand and make it part of your core message. Speak out, write about it, create conversations around the topic, and consider how you can bring about change.
Sure, you'll offend some people. They may unsubscribe. They may hate or shame you. But I'd rather have 100 fans who feel equally passionate about what I stand for, than 1000 people who don't care what I do. Poking your head up will feel scary at first, but staying safe won't get you noticed.
It sounds like a cliché but knowing the right people is a sure-fire way to boost your reputation. Start by cultivating connections with key people within your LinkedIn network and ask for their endorsement when you feel it's appropriate to do so. Join industry-related professional groups and go to conferences. The more closely you become associated with key authorities, influencers and experts in your field, the more authority you'll develop.
(5) Don't be afraid to toot your own horn
Publishing testimonials, reviews and endorsements from previous clients on your website and social media profiles will also go a long way to bolstering your credibility. The more positive personal recommendations you can get, the more you'll be trusted by new clients.
Learn to talk about your achievements and strengths without sounding like you're bragging. Don't focus on who you are, but what you do and how you help others. Remember, unless you talk about your expertise and accomplishments, no-one is going to know about them.
The bottom line is that while it takes time to build up momentum, once you get going, things will continue to get easier - a bit like the snowball effect.
As time goes on, you may want to become more discerning about who you take on as clients or choose to partner with - remember that these people reflect your values and brand, so you want to make sure they're a good fit for your business.
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