I have. And it hurts.
But when I finally got up the nerve to ask my client what made them terminate our relationship and find another freelancer, they were very open with me:
They needed an expert.
The irony of it all is that, with more digging, I realized I possessed all the expertise they saw in my competition. They just didn't know it.
My client appreciated my work, but felt limited because he didn't understand the full scope of my skill set.
This event happened years ago. But I'm sharing this story because since then, I have learned how to position myself as an expert. And it has brought in more freelance clients than I could have ever hoped to bring in otherwise.
In this episode, I'm going to share with you a list of ways any freelancer (even you) can demonstrate their expertise.
Before you know it, you'll be hailed as an expert instead of watching solid clients write you off as "ordinary."
If you're ready for your clients to realize your full capability and expertise, keep reading. Today is your day to make a change.
Before Giving Away My Secrets
But before I give you the full list, let's talk about a few things you have to do to prepare yourself for this shift.
First, be one. While some freelancers make a career out of lying about their skill set in order to get clients, the best way to position yourself as an expert is to actually be an expert.
Don't waste time trying to be something you're not. Decide what your expertise is (or what you want it to be) and then work hard every day to learn as much as you can about that skill or topic.
Does this mean you have to know everything, have the world's best portfolio, or write a New York Times bestselling book on your topic?
But you do need to be an expert at solving any problem you may face in your area of expertise.
Know how to troubleshoot, know where to find answers to common problems. The idea is to live, breathe, eat and sleep whatever topic you want to be an expert in.
Second, believe in yourself. In one of my favorite business books, Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath, they teach about the curse of knowledge.
Essentially the curse of knowledge is this: When we completely understand something (any topic) it's hard for us to remember what it's like to not know or understand the particular topic.
What does this mean for freelancers?
Remember what it was like when you were first learning to write, design, program (or whatever you do for a living)?
You felt like there was a whole world of things to learn.
And there was.
There still is. But think how far you've come. You probably know more about your craft than most of your clients.
My point? Believe in yourself. You know more than you think. You're capable of more than you think. And when you believe that you're an expert, it will be much easier to position yourself as one.
How to Position Yourself as an Expert
Here are a few ideas on how you can do that:
1. Only include your best work in your portfolio."¨
Take 20 minutes or less and purge your portfolio. Remove any projects that don't scream "expert" and add any recent projects that can really show off your skill set.
2. Include your expertise in your title."¨
Anywhere you include your title under you name (business card, web site, other promotional material, office door, logo, etc.) be as specific about your expertise as possible.
So instead of Preston D Lee, Designer, I use Preston D Lee, Social Media Design Specialist. Instead of Programmer, why not try PHP Programmer.
Of course, these can get silly very quickly (Remember Subway's "sandwich artists"? Terrible) so be careful not to overdo it.
3. Reject clients.
I know this sounds crazy, but hear my out for a minute here. I'm a freelance designer. Imagine if I specialize in web design but clients are always asking me to design logos for them.
Can I design a logo? Sure. Am I great at it? Nope. It's not my expertise.
And that's ok.
Because what do logo design clients bring me? More logo design clients. And it's a downward spiral that turns me into "the logo design guy" instead of the web design expert that I am.
Rejecting clients is hard "” I won't lie.
And it means you may have to lose a little money now. But it will pay off later. Because when you're an expert, you can charge more.
When people come to you for the best (fill in the blank here) around, you can charge much more for your service.
4. Give away free knowledge
One of the quickest and most effective ways I have been able to grow my expertise is to give away free knowledge.
Whether you blog about your area of expertise, offer free seminars for potential clients or start your own YouTube classes, offering free knowledge can build your level of expertise very quickly.
When I was starting out as a freelance designer, for example, I created a printed booklet titled "10 Elements of a Successful Business Web Site." I then passed the booklet out to local companies who I knew needed help with their web site.
After reading the booklet and implementing a few things on their own, who do you think they called when they needed more extensive web design?
I also know another freelancer who made a habit of calling up companies and offering free suggestions to help with their internet marketing.
Of course, all good ideas take real people to execute. So they hired the person who came up with the ideas in the first place "” my friend.
Smart move on his part.
How Do You Build Your Expertise?
Positioning yourself as an expert in your field is critically important for achieving freelance success.
I'm sure that many of you are already working to establish yourself as an expert. And many of you are probably already considered experts by your clients and colleagues.
So let me ask you: How have YOU built your level of expertise? And how do you convince prospects that you're the best at what you do?
Leave a comment below and let me know what's worked for you.
Preston D Lee is a freelance web designer, internet marketer, and blogger. He offers client advice and business tips for freelance designers at graphicdesignblender.com. Connect with Preston on twitter @prestondlee.