Becoming known as an authority source or expert in a niche is quite possibly the best thing a writer can do for their career marketing-wise. Here's why:
- More trust and credibility
- More word of mouth referrals
- More respect often equals the ability to charge higher rates
This is one of the reasons I so often tell new writers that they should specialize in a niche they're interested in and knowledgeable about, instead of simply becoming generalists. It's also why specialists usually make more money per project, and have wider name recognition. People don't always hire writers just because they can write. They hire experts in a niche or industry who can contribute something beyond the basic research they could do themselves, and they pay more for that, even if the writing itself isn't necessarily the best.
Becoming an authority source isn't just a benefit to writers. It's what consultants and many types of freelancers work towards. It takes some time and a lot of hard work to build that recognition, but it's not impossible, and it's definitely worth it (you would be amazed at how much marketing time you save when the clients are coming to you instead of you having to look for them - it means more billable hours). Here are a few things you can do to help yourself become recognized as an authority source in your niche:
- Launch your own website or blog on the subject where you offer free information to readers.
- Write and publish an e-book or self-published book.
- Have a book picked up by a publisher (harder, but can carry more weight).
- Spend a lot of time contributing to news groups and forums in your niche (that means offering useful information and tips; not going there to simply advertise your services. Don't advertise at all actually until you've built some reputation).
- Forget about mass-publishing articles to article directories (which makes you look more cheap and desperate than professional), and instead contribute articles to prominent ezines, blogs, and websites in your niche to get your name "out there" a bit in the beginning.
- Set up a business website where you list your services and rates (you'll get more clients in general if you publish them... people hate having to ask for quotes just to know what you charge, and it weeds out the people who simply can't afford you; even if you just list general ranges, list something.).
- Have a professional portfolio online with several quality samples of your work (that doesn't mean point people to something like a content producer page or your profile page with a freelance website... again, that just makes you look cheap and unprofessional).
- Don't be stingy with advice. If someone contacts you with a quick question that you're qualified to answer, answer it if you have the time. We'd all love to charge for absolutely everything we say when consulting with someone, but being stingy in that sense drives clients away. I can't begin to tell you how many clients I've gotten just from free advice they've gotten from me first, the fact that someone I gave free info to referred them to me, or because they saw me giving public advice on a blog or forum.
- Always be honest. If you're the type of freelancer who does nothing but act as a "yes man" with your clients, you become a doormat and you destroy your own value. You're hired because you have a certain expertise... that's what people are paying you for. Demonstrate that. If a client makes a request that's completely foolish or unrealistic, it's your job to suggest a more appropriate alternative or make suggestions to improve the idea instead of simply saying "yes sir!" and jumping into the work. The end result of your work isn't just the article (or whatever you wrote) that you send to the client. It's how that piece benefits the client. If you aren't active in making your work as effective as possible, they'll eventually find someone who is. That doesn't mean the client will always listen to you. In the end, it comes down to whether you're willing to move forward with their original plans or not. If it would somehow affect your own credibility in your work, turn the gig down.
- Don't be afraid to turn gigs down. If you accept every single gig opportunity that comes along, it says that you have no room to be choosy (meaning there's not enough demand for your time... which gives the client the upper hand in trying to get more work, lower rates, etc. even if you can't really afford it). You'll gain more respect by turning down clients you're not comfortable with or don't have time for than you will by trying to cram in everything and everyone. Yet again, it's something that makes you look desperate... an authority in a niche won't come across as being desperate for work (even if you do feel that way in the beginning, how you start your career will directly affect where it goes; stand your ground and work with clients who are good for your career from day one, even when times occasionally get tough).