4 Easy Steps to Demonstrate Your Expertise as a Freelancer

Summary: In this episode, freelance web designer Preston D. Lee will share with you 4 simple steps you can take to demonstrate your own expertise.

Have you ever lost a solid client to another freelancer or an agency?

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

position yourself as an expertOnce you've made a commitment to become an expert at something and to develop greater confidence in your abilities, it's time to make sure your clients (and potential clients) know you're 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?

Yep. Me.

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.

  • Balram Chauhan

    How can I establish as free lancer on line

  • Pat

    I leveraged off my corporate experience as a communication officer for a major bank. Did a lot of freelance work for financial institutions and wrote dozens of articles for financial-related trade magazines. I could offer the entire package of communication management from conception to delivery. I emphasized that I was smaller, more flexible and more cost-effective than the big consulting  firms who were my competition. Some clients even hired me to manage the consulting firms! Pat

    • edgandia

       Fantastic! Way to leverage your experience and track record! 😉

  • Maria

    Excellent article, thanks!  Good advice about rejecting projects that are not in your specialty area. That can be very hard to do, especially when you're first starting out, but it's very important to only take on projects that you know you can excel at - and will enjoy, too!

    • edgandia

       Maria - You can work yourself into that position over time. At first, you often have to take what you can. But it's important to gradually start shifting into more ideal clients, projects and situations.

  • We relocated to a new state, new demographic for my profession. Because there isn't another active professional organizer/productivity consultant here, I had to assess the need, as well as introduce myself and my skills to my new community. First off, I contacted the local small town paper and offered to write a column -- I'm a monthly contributor now. Second, I offered a series of free workshops in January in conjunction with "Get Organized Month." I did seven one-hour workshops in January and am continuing to host monthly workshops for free, repeating the most popular. I am pleased that several people attended more than one workshop.

    I ask people to sign in and let me know (via check boxes) if they want to be on my e-mail list and/or if they want a free assessment. My contact list (a clean list because I have permission) is over 200 and I am following up with those interested.

    This article was very affirming of what I am already doing. Thanks for great info!!!

    • edgandia

      Wow, love the creative approach you took here, Brenda! Great example of how adding value first demonstrates your expertise and builds trust. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  • Neil Pearce

    I have been writing tutorials on web design and development for a printed magazine called 'web designer' for over two years now. Even though I get introduced as an expert, I am far from it. As it is I only know enough about everything and this will bite me on the back side one day. I need to sit down and figure out what I love best and become as good as I can on that subject...hmmmm.....mobile web design looks a good one :o)

    • edgandia

      Thanks for your comment, Neil. We tend to give ourselves less credit than we deserve. I bet you know more about web design than you think.

  • I think it's always easier to think of yourself as an 'expert' when you have a bit of paper (a degree or diploma of some sort), than when you are moving into a field where you may have the skills and knowledge without the formal recognition paperwork confers. I have qualifications to Doctoral level and many years practical experience to go with them, but not in my chosen field of freelance work - though there are many transferable skills.

    I struggle to think of myself a an expert because my bits of paper don't formally recognise the creative writing I do, just the very formal and academic work of my previous existence.Lesson learnt from your post - think of self as an expert and so will others.... regardless of the lack of a bit of paper.Thanks!

    • Stuart

      Linda, I have graduate quals in my field (from many years ago), and more recent post graduate quals in something pretty much unrelated. So I sort of understand what you say, but I dont support my 'expert status' with the qualifications.

      The idea of being 'percieved' as an expert is exactly that. The 'perception'. I'm not saying you don't need to work at being an expert, but rather the other person will determine if you are the expert, not you, or your qualifications. (The exception is in academia where quals rule.)

      After being around for many years (but still young at heart) I think lots of people who have completed higher level qualifications subconsciously think higher is better. But thats not the case - depending on your area of expertise and your clients. Many (if not most) clients want results from your work. In the business world that's the proof they seek, not a warm feeling from you having a 'bit of paper' as proof of your expertise.

      Following the tips in this article are fantastic ways to show you have expertise and can produce results (thanks Preston!).

    • edgandia

       So true, Linda. So much of this is about mindset. Act the part and you will quickly rise up to the occasion!

  • Krandrews2003

    Great article.  I became an expert when my client told me I was -- he saw it in my work before I did.  Great feeling.

    • edgandia

      So true -- clients see it before we do! I'll never forget one of my clients introducing me to a prospect as "the top enterprise software writer in Atlanta..." I was shocked to hear that. But that's how she felt about me. Gave me a huge confidence boost! 😉

  • Mjnspeaks

    I'm an expert at evaluation--(I just won a Toastmasters International Award for the State of Georgia in speech evaluation)  giving and receiving feedback and coaching others to do the same.  What would I call myself?  

    •  From what little you've said, Evaluation Coach, Evaluator Trainer, Public Speaking Coach (in order to evaluate, you have to know what makes a good presentation) and Speech Contest Judge come to mind quickly. Focus on the value of what you do and what you provide to your "clients".

      • edgandia

         Excellent advice!

  • dennis

    Sometime we are just afraid.

  • Thank you, this is great advice that has come at a good time for me

  • shahid karimi

    Great article! Appreciate the work you are doing.