industry-expertI wouldn’t be surprised if many people reading this can deliver the same or better result as “experts” in their industry that command a much higher price. Are you one of them?

You May Be More of An Expert Than You Realize…

You may be thinking… “but I’m not at expert level yet…” I beg to differ. There is something that you know how to do very well – something that other people want to know. You may have to start with a small niche – but that small niche can be huge! Establishing credibility as an expert will eventually allow you to branch out into other related areas with great ease.

I have worked with and talked to many people who are considered experts and many who are not. Some of the people who are considered experts are blown away at how they have somehow become leaders in their industry. I am working with several clients now who could easily position themselves as experts in their industry, but couldn’t see that potential in themselves.

We are so close to ourselves, that we often don’t see our true potential. There is very little that separates someone who is good at what they do from an expert aside from the right kind of exposure.

A Story of One Person Who Doubled His Hourly Rate in 45 Days by Earning a Higher Perceived Value Through Blogging

I want to begin by saying that claiming a higher perceived value does not mean lying about your abilities. It is simply a matter of maximizing your brand image so that you can earn the highest market value for your products or services.

The programmer in this story was a damn good developer, but largely unknown. Because he had been hired for a very long term contract with one company, he wasn’t concerned with promoting himself until that contract suddenly came to an abrupt end.

That very weekend, he started a blog, and within a 6 weeks had gained about 400 readers and a landed a contract with a well-funded, high profile start-up company, for a very exciting project. Because he is under an NDA and because I do not want to minimize his expertise, I’m not going to link to him, but I will share how he did this:

Contributing to Industry Knowledge

Unlike many blogs that just report rehashed news, he spent days building new mini-applications that could be used by others in the industry. The more he gave away, the more he got back in the way of subscribers, comments, and recognition.

Contributing truly valuable resources works in any industry or niche. Whether that means sharing valuable information that has helped you achieve your goals, processes that make your life easier, or WordPress plugins.

Skelliwag, a blogger who has quickly risen to blogger rock-star status and earned more than 2000 subscribers, recently wrote a wonderful post about this very same phenomenon.

By contributing to industry knowledge, you show that you practice what you preach. Anyone can go out and reframe some information that someone else has published. But those who are perceived as industry leaders are the ones making the news that everyone else is writing about.

When I started this blog, I made a commitment never to post anything about which I didn’t have first-hand experience that other’s could learn from. In order to have content for this blog, I need to be out living the entrepreneur’s life and trying new things so that I have first-hand experiences to write about. That means that I don’t post as regularly as some blogs, but I’d rather that the info offered here is original observations rather than fluff or second-hand knowledge.

Make a Name For Yourself in Niche Social Communities

Within this programmer’s niche, there is a social networking community that “ranks” developers in the industry. Ranking is determined by number of votes. And while there are roughly 1000 developers on this list with one or two votes each, he is ranked among the top 100 with a nice handful of votes.

He did this by doing something that anyone else on this list could have easily done. He asked for what he wanted. At the end of each blog post, he added: “If you found this article or my blog useful please recommend me at…” This caused an initial spike in votes, and when that slowed down, he wrote to other industry experts, inviting them to read his blog and vote if they liked what they saw.

Are there social communities in your niche? If not, how about general sites like Technorati? Try adding a piece to the end of your posts that reads “If you found this article or my blog useful, please favorite me at Technorati.”

How this paid off in profits:

The client that contracted him is a big name in the reality television industry and is backed by some heavy-hitting funding sources. The company”s goal after launch is to eventually sell the company. This company was looking for a name brand programmer that would not only do great work, but whose work would add to the valuation of the product and the company. Branding yourself not only helps you become more profitable, it can also help your clients become more profitable.

Offering Consulting Services

Though this developer’s blog quickly gained many readers, it was missing one critical piece that when added turned it into a money making machine. It is a mistake that most blogs are making. While the point of the blog was to generate revenue from programming work and consulting, the blog never mentioned this fact.

Once he added a consulting page, he began receiving around 3 calls per week for work. He received more requests than he ever had time to fulfill and therefore was able to adjust his rates as the market would bear.

I did a little keyword research to find the best keyword phrases to optimize for on his consulting page and offered some tips for on-page optimization. Because the blog was receiving a lot of traffic and built many backlinks, (due to his content that added value to the community) Google indexed this consulting page almost immediately. Within days, the page was appearing on page 2 of Google for the search term and on page 1 of Yahoo in the #3 spot.

Though the page was about consulting, people weren’t calling for consulting services – they were calling with projects. This is understandable from the clients perspective. If money were no object and you were looking for the best talent in the industry, hiring someone who functions at the consulting level and trains others in their own industry seems an even greater value than hiring someone who is just good at what they do.

What Other Bloggers Are Doing to Increase Their Value

Coin a Phrase: Business blogging consultant Michael Martine of Remarkablogger coined the term “Gateway Blogging” to describe how a blog should and can work for business bloggers. He didn’t set out to do this as a stunt, but because he discovered a hole in the industry that needed to be filled, and needed something to call it. I use this term constantly now when talking to clients because it really is a perfect word to help my business clients understand how they can leverage their blogs.

Seek Out Testimonials from Influential People: Don’t wait around for testimonials… go out an ask for them! When author/blogger Dan Sitter of Idea Seller released his latest book, “Superior Selling Skills Mastery” he sent the book to some very influential people that his target audience would recognize and asked for a testimonial. The book review by one of my own business heroes Brian Tracy convinced me to buy the book without thinking twice.

Have a Presence at Industry Trade Shows: Nate Whitehill and the Unique Blog Designs crew have been on fire this year. Nate launched his blog in January of 2007, building up a loyal group of readers. After launching Unique Blog Designs in August of 07, the crew set up a booth at Blog World Expo and is enjoying a plenty of business.

Choose Projects that Will Add Value to Your Portfolio: As a solo entrepreneur, freelancer, or small business owner, you have the luxury of picking and choosing your customers. Instead potential clients just evaluating you – you should be evaluating them! Choose clients that will add credibility to your portfolio rather than just taking on every single job that comes your way. Much of the reason that the developer in the above example chose this current client was because contribution to this project will drastically boost his value even more. Don’t be shy and target only the small-time clients – go for the headliners!

Create an Info Product or System: Dave Navarro is a good example of someone who is both contributing to the industry and carving out a niche in the productivity world. While there are countless bloggers writing about productivity, but Dave has put together an entire productivity system called The 30 Hour Day (which I will begin delving into in the next day or so). As the creator of a book or a system, media (including bloggers) are much more likely to seek you out and quote you as an industry expert.

More Ideas for Claiming Your Position as an Industry Expert

Get Listed in Expert Databases: When the media needs an industry expert to quote on a particular topic, they regularly go to industry expert databases such as Authors and Experts or Expert Click. I do not have first-hand experience with either of these expert databases but am recommending that some of my clients get listed in 2008. I’ll give an update once I have measurable results.

Write articles for Magazines and Trade Publications: It is not as hard as you may think to get an article published in a top name print publication. One person I know wrote an article for a big-name niche publication and not only received $700 for the article, but a lot of credibility as well. I recommend starting with the publications that you read and looking to Writer’s Market for more opportunities. Writing for traditional publications is different than writing in the instant online publication world. The process begins by pitching yourself and your article idea to the editor with a query letter and then writing your article once accepted. The first time I did this I was completely nervous and really thought that nothing would come of it. But the publisher wrote back with an acceptance of the article almost immediately.

Action Plan:

  • If you’re not blogging already – start!
  • Become active in niche social communities
  • Ask for testimonials and social votes
  • Create an info product, book, or system
  • Offer consulting services – someone wants to learn what you know without taking the time and risk of trial and error
  • Don’t be wimpy when pursuing clients – go for gigs that will enhance your portfolio
  • Find out which industry trade shows are coming up in 2008 and commit to having a presence – talk to someone who has exhibited at a trade show before for ideas about how create a successful exhibit
  • Identify influential publications, come up with a few topics that you could write about, and send out query letters
  • Get listed in an expert database
  • Pull the Trigger!

Have a happy and prosperous 2008!