The Born Freelancer on the Merits of Becoming an “Expert”

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in bornfreel2the comments. 


The first time I was introduced in public as an expert on anything it was in front of several hundred university students when I was a guest consultant.

Honestly, my first reaction was to look behind me on stage to see who they were talking about.

At first I felt flattered. I had never thought of myself as an expert. But I quickly realized it wasn’t an attempt to flatter me.

It was in fact a shortcut to selling me – and anything I was about to present – to the students. By describing me as an expert it immediately gave me credibility – and also gave credibility by association back to the course and to the university itself.

It was in that moment I grasped the potential marketing power of being branded as an “expert”.

What is an Expert?

A expert is an authority on specialized subjects. Someone who is called upon to offer informed opinion and context on a given topic. A freelance expert is an independent voice, beholden to nothing except (ideally) a pursuit of the truth.

Be That Go To Guy or Gal

You may wish to become that person. The person others in the media or elsewhere call upon to answer difficult questions in public based upon the body of knowledge you have acquired, absorbed, and can synthesize into qualitative and pithy comments.


The name of the game is marketing your brand. Market your brand well enough and you should eventually increase sales. 

Enhancing Your Reputation

Being an expert makes you a name that others will seek out and provide you with opportunities to become better known.

Your latest project will also be referenced, especially if you are not being paid. (Some expert appearances are paid; many are not.) Such publicity can lead to further sales… which in turn can enhance your reputation. Around and around it goes.

How to Become an Expert

First, you’ll need to decide upon your area of expertise. This will be dictated primarily by your chosen area of work.

A science and technology writer may become an expert in matters relating to science and technology.

A children’s writer may become an expert in raising children or parenting techniques.

A crime writer may focus their expertise on particular types of crime, on its prevention, prediction and causes.

The Real Secret 

The real secret is to become expert in a broad range of issues that relate to your work.

If you can only talk about your work in public your opportunities for a lot of free media publicity will be limited. If you can talk with expertise on a much broader range of related themes and topics you may potentially receive much greater media coverage.

Legitimate Expertise

There are experts and there are bogus experts, of course. In order to achieve genuine expertise you’ll need to have a real passion for and genuinely know a great deal about your chosen area of endeavor. This will not happen overnight; it will in fact most likely take years. 

Take Courses; Get Papers

One path to expertise is, of course, to take academic courses. Getting papers recognizing your experience or training can be an invaluable asset.

But it can be easily abused. There are so-called “doctors” working in the media today who have degrees granting them their “doctorate” in areas that have nothing to do with their perceived expertise.

Others have had their academic titles issued by educational institutions with less than credible reputations. You are best to steer clear of such temptations, especially when the truth is so easily uncovered.

Publish, Publish, Publish

There is arguably no greater path to perceived expertise than to be published. Seek out the appropriate publications. Invest time and energy to determine how you may bring unique observations or a special POV to bear on contemporary issues.

Being published will bring added credibility by association with the credibility of the publication. It should also help pave the way for you to get additional paid work published elsewhere.

If your work is eventually quoted elsewhere you are well on your way to perceived expertise. And if it ever becomes widely plagiarized you’ll know you’ve really made it.

Give Talks

Libraries, public schools, colleges, community groups, etc. can offer opportunities to give a talk about your area of interest. You may receive an honorarium or have your expenses covered or you may not (especially at the beginning).

Credibility by association again will work in your favour as will any publicity. Your talk will need to be ambitious as the competition can be quite stiff for the slots available.

You will need to come up with a captivating title and the goods to back it up. A well crafted, innovative talk that can be adapted to suit specific target audiences should be ready to present at anytime. 

If you get really good at it you might even be able to add it as another revenue stream by getting yourself hooked up with a reputable speakers’ agency.

Online Presence

An online presence is an absolute must for establishing credibility. This can be as simple as tweeting, blogging or posting regular comments on relevant sites, to creating and maintaining a website devoted to your topic.

Media Interviews

Eventually, if you have positioned yourself effectively, media will call. Best to have a press kit (or web page) ready to disseminate to them outlining your opinions and topics on which you can offer expert insights.

Create a mailing list of media you would like to be interviewed by. Keep them apprised of your professional achievements. Most media keep a file of regulars they can call upon at a moment’s notice. You want to be in their files. You may even be able to evolve into a paid consultant if you do your job well enough.

But please always remember…

Never Believe Your Own Publicity

It can be intellectual and creative death to start to believe you know it all yourself. We must always be open to new ideas, new points of view, new knowledge. To really think of ourselves as an “expert” is to potentially close the door on all those things that may challenge our purported expertise.

An expert can only become a true expert when they know they can never know everything and wish to constantly know and understand more and more. 

The Takeaway

Becoming a perceived expert can be an invaluable marketing tool for your freelance brand. In some cases it may sneak up on you without you realizing that it has.

In other cases you may deliberately pursue its achievement as a long term goal to enhance your reputation. The monetary rewards can be direct or indirect.

Ultimately, it is for others to decide if you are worthy of the title “expert” based upon the body of your words and actions.

But if you do achieve it in the eyes of those you respect, there is an additional intangible bonus – an unparalleled satisfaction in knowing you have done your job well. 


Posted on April 20, 2016 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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