It might be because you don’t have "enough" experience or clients, it might be because you’re only just starting out, or it might just be because you’re a bit of an introvert and lack the confidence to convince people to see you as an expert.
The good news is you aren’t alone. No matter how jealous you are of your best friend’s confidence, this is the one thing they might not have told you about their brilliant professional life: they, just like everyone else, are sitting there doing their best to keep going until someone realizes they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re exposed as a fake.
The first step to getting everyone else to think you’re an expert is to start with yourself: remember that everyone is an expert in something, and we all have specialized skills that others might not. It’s a vicious cycle: you need some confidence in yourself, even if it’s fake, to start convincing others; once you convince one other person, they help build up your confidence to go further and convince more people. The first step is that first person, and here’s how to do it:
1. Get Digital
Be honest: what’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new? Check them out online. That’s also what employers and hiring managers do before an interview, and it’s what everyone does all the time. Now think about what they find when they look for you: nothing? A barely-used blog or a first-draft website? Social media history that doesn’t make you look good? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then that’s where you should start.
An expert is someone who has great digital breadcrumbs, perhaps through a living resume on a site like Pinterest where they gather together everything they’ve ever done. (In their industry, of course. Keep it separate from food, animal or wedding pins.) This allows people to see all the things they’ve done and know that this person is an expert and actively involved in their industry.
If you have a blog or website, make sure it’s well presented and regularly updated. In the case of blog posts, quantity is more important than quality (within reason), as someone with 100 posts sharing original thoughts and ideas is someone who will be respected. Add testimonials and some varied content with videos and podcasts, and people will leave your site feeling informed and intrigued to find out more about you.
2. Get Yourself Heard
In the great infinity that is the internet, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of voices. It’s especially easy to get lost if you aren’t saying much, or you’re not saying it in the right places; go beyond your own blog and make sure you’re commenting on others. Tweet, retweet, follow and interact as much as you can to get yourself noticed, whether it’s by mentioning your favourite bloggers, asking them to do guest posts, or getting involved in discussions on digital communities such as LinkedIn groups.
Even though your online presence is important, don’t forget about real life; unless you’re a remote worker, you’re going to be interacting with people a lot, and you need to build up the confidence to come across as an expert. Angela Lussier realized the advantages of getting herself out there and set up numerous free workshops: by the end of the series she was more knowledgeable and confident, people were more aware of her, and she had potential clients approaching her.
You should also make sure you’re not crossing the line into narcissism, as too much self-congratulation and talking about yourself will make people lose interest. You need to interact with other professionals and clients and draw them in with a great About page that tells them exactly who you are and what you can do for them; never forget that people only ever stay interested if there’s something in it for them.
3. Be an Expert on Other Experts
You might just be starting out, but surely there’s someone whose footsteps you’re trying to follow? That person is likely the expert in your field, and if you don’t know about all their contributions then you prevent others from seeing you as a fellow expert joining their ranks. Know the important names and know the important works; not only will you seem more knowledgeable to the people listening, but you’ll know everything you need to about exactly what limits you should be trying to exceed.
Would you trust an Apple "expert" who had never heard of Steve Jobs? You wouldn’t, and you probably shouldn’t, because if they don’t know about these vital people in their industry, then they also haven’t learned from them. Knowing the existing experts and giving credit where it’s due makes you seem like more of an expert than if you claim to be some kind of prodigy who’s completely self taught and isn’t prepared to learn from history.
4. Have the Confidence to Tell, Not Ask
Upspeak is that bad habit a lot of us have picked up where our voice rises at the end of every sentence, making it sound like a question. If you’re walking around telling people "I’m an entrepreneur?" then you’re not telling them, you’re asking them if they think you are and if they allow it. It can be difficult to avoid when you lack confidence, or if your title happens to be one that you’re not sure people will recognize; solve the latter problem by using a related more general term and solve the first with a little trickery.
You’ve probably heard of the phrase "fake it till you make it"? That’s exactly what this is about. The more the word spreads, and the more people believe you, they will talk to you like the expert you want to be and increase your confidence- you will never have to fake it again.
Go beyond telling people what you do; tell them what you’re planning to do. Experts have strategies they’re about to follow and they do things they can assertively announce: non-experts make proposals of strategies, and they give people the chance to tell them they’re wrong. You’re an expert, and experts aren’t wrong!
5. Build Trust
Remember what we said about having a website that tells people what you can do for them? Well, the only thing more important than making promises that get people’s attention is actually following through on those promises; you want to be known as someone who delivers great results.
Become the authority on your area of expertise by delivering great content that no one else can provide, and on time. Additionally, it’s a good idea to stick to what you know, you don’t want to look foolish by getting ahead of yourself and talking about things you shouldn’t be.
People who come across as constantly perfect tend to be a little overwhelming; if they aren’t actually as perfect as they think they are, then you avoid them because you hate seeing them embarrassing themselves. Don’t be that person, and instead be someone people can relate to by admitting to your mistakes, acknowledging your failures and not being afraid to admit to not knowing something.
Don’t just sit around waiting until someone discovers you; you should be improving yourself and, in the meantime, distracting people from what you don’t know by shouting about what you do know. Don’t become known as the person who knows nothing about X; be known as the person they can have an intelligent conversation with for Y.
Do you have the self-belief to convince others that you’re an expert? Let us know below…