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How to Present Yourself as a Design Expert

September 26th

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“Expert” can be an intimidating word, but an expert, simply put, is a specialist.

In fact, there’s really no set amount of knowledge or experience required to call yourself an expert. You just have to know more than the people who are hiring you, which is good news for many designers looking to set themselves apart from their competitors.

But what does it take to become an expert? Can you be an expert even if you’re a newbie designer? How many years of experience does it take?

And, more importantly, how exactly do you do it?

Let’s take a look at some of the ways “expert” status makes your career better and the best ways to become one, whether you’re new to the game or you’ve been around for years.

Being an Expert Means More Respect

If being an expert means you know more than your clients, you have to actually know more than your clients.

Becoming an expert – especially in a niche – will do a lot of great things for your business. People will trust you more, and they’ll want to learn from you, which can boost your reputation and provide a bevy of exciting opportunities from guest posting and even being invited to events and webinars.

All of those things can mean exposure and new clients, which can be great for your bottom line.

So how much effort does it take to gain the level of knowledge needed to be an expert?

According to Tom Egelhoff from Small Town Marketing, just 20 minutes a day.

“If you spend just 20 minutes a day reading something about your business or industry at the end of a year, you’ll know more than 75% of the people in that industry,” he says.

Of course, many experts have been in the industry for years, and that experience shows. But even if you’re new to the game, spending time learning the issues that face your industry and finding solutions to those problems can help set you apart from the competition.

Being an Expert Means More Money

Another benefit of obtaining “expert” status is that people will want to work with you more often. That can lead to some lucrative deals, if you play your cards right.

The design field is fairly crowded as it is. According to Brandon Gaille, employment rates for graphic designers will only increase by 7% in the next ten years, which is much lower than the average.

Unlike many other jobs, graphic design requires very little job training. Sure, some may have degrees, but many freelancers are self-taught or use a combination of school and training.

But that’s why experts stand out in the design field in particular. Anyone can design a website, but if you can do better work than “anyone,” you are in the perfect position to net higher paying clients.

How to Achieve “Expert” Status

Becoming an expert does take work, but if you work strategically you can reach top tiers faster and easier. In other words, you don’t have to be in the industry for 20 years before someone will take you seriously.

Here’s what you should do…

Niche yourself

The folks over at Search Engine Journal say that niching yourself is the key to success as an expert. After all, a jack-of-all-trades is master of none, and every designer looking to become an expert needs to find a field of expertise that differs from the rest. Maybe you will become a designer who specializes in sites for restaurants, or maybe you’re the go-to designer for creating lead generation forms. Either way, “expert” status is all about niche. By being specialized in a certain area, you will have an easier time predicting future industry trends, innovating solutions, and creating unique content that will serve your niche market in innumerable ways.

Be searchable

“Expert” status is also about searchability. For a long time, having decent SEO was enough to get your website noticed, but now people are hunting for quality, and having an expert reputation will do wonders for your online presence. Copyblogger even insists that being an expert will help improve your SEO ranking.

Be knowledgeable

As previously mentioned, being an expert is about having an extended knowledge base (preferably in your niche), which does require either a certain amount of experience or specific research. A few good ways to stretch your knowledge include sharpening your skills using online training like Lynda.com, or learn from other experts through webinars, events, and blogs. Again, even a 20-minute commitment can move you forward faster than doing nothing at all.

Pro tip: You can set up Google Alerts to notify you of industry events and trends.

Have a different opinion

Many experts are well respected not only because they know more, but also because they think outside the box. Brazen suggests that sought-after experts are ones who feel differently about industry trends and aren’t afraid to share their opinion. It’s not about being a contrarian for the sake of being different, of course, but having an alternative point of view can be a benefit in the right circumstances.

Use social media

A big part of being known as an expert is being known, which means being active on social media and connect with other potential clients and industry experts. Many social media channels provide ways to interact with other experts, including LinkedIn and Twitter. Visual social channels like Instagram can provide the perfect outlet for showcasing your portfolio of work, too, which can further create buzz about your skills.

Pro tip: Track trending hashtags related to your industry and tweet at other industry experts using those hashtags.

Use traditional media

You don’t need to be a PR person to pitch yourself to the media, but traditional outlets like magazines, newspapers, and TV are often overlooked in favor of online channels. But speaking engagements or an article published in a local newsletter (especially if it’s an opinion piece) can be a great way to promote yourself to local businesses or to find clients in old school (but effective) ways.

Believe in your “expert” status

Finally, it’s important to believe and present yourself as an expert. Even if you’re new to the business and still don’t “feel” like an expert, you can still “fake it until you make it” (which actually works, by the way). “Expert” status comes down to believing in yourself, and knowing that you have what it takes. Self confidence is the key to success, so don’t forget to throw some respect your own way every now and again.

Final Thoughts

“Expert” status can do some wonderful things for your career. You can work with some of the biggest names in the business, improve your bottom line, and set yourself apart from the competition.

But becoming an expert does take a little work and planning. You’ll have to expand your knowledge base, sharpen your skills, and connect with other industry experts.

You’ll also have to make sure you spend time marketing yourself using both traditional media and social media channels to get the word out there. After all, what good is being an expert if no one can find you?

Just remember that it does take time and effort to truly stand out from the crowd, but in the end, it’s worth it.

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