If you have a brand, sell products, or provide skilled services, on top of an outstanding product, you need to be believable in order for clients to want to work with you.
As someone who has run his own graphic art business over the last eight years with an interest in working with the very best, I’ve taught myself a good deal on this area.
You need to be credible.
Credibility is another way of saying ‘believability’.
As such, you want to do as much as you can to boost your credibility in the eyes of those people for whom it is important. Showing that you are the real deal is key.
Acting like a professional is a big part of being credible, as is having a strong, well-executed brand, but so is a thing called ‘social proof’. Social proof is evidence that other people like and trust you, and this is huge for being believable and trustworthy.
Don’t think that potential clients and buyers do not look at your Twitter or your website testimonials and various accolades before they make a decision to work with you.
They do, and it is becoming easier and easier to do so. I certainly know this because I have hired freelancers myself, and this is exactly what I’ve done to help with my decision.
Social proof can come in many forms, one of which is a testimonial from a past client. I would strongly encourage you to place testimonials appropriately throughout your site and in other forms of marketing like email newsletters if you sell via those channels.
Always be looking out for written or even spoken, recorded testimonials from the people you have worked with and proudly showcase them, especially with images of clients, and/or their logos.
You can take it a step further and build testimonials into ‘case studies’ showing people the process of working on a previous project, with images and how it lead to a successful outcome. This is all really solid stuff for persuading prospects to work with you.
Other forms of social proof include showing your social media, blog or newsletter follower counts, especially if they are large, and showing awards you’ve won, and previous clients you have worked with.
Always think about how you can go BIG with credibility. Work to get hold of the best endorsements from well known people if you can.
Imagine if you had a celebrity endorsement on your website’s front page? You don’t always have to have worked with a client to get their testimonial or endorsement. They may have received something awesome from you in the post for example.
Many people may disagree with this, but here goes: Do work for a low fee or for free with a great client, influencer or famous person.
You might even make an agreement with someone to get hold of their (honest) testimonial in return for your work. This is a strategic move because you get the endorsement as payment. Make sure that you communicate that this is a one-off for your benefit, so that you don’t gather a reputation for working for less.
An illustrator I worked with has attracted the attention of several celebrities through his specialism in movie posters, often doing paid commissions directly for stars like Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. Here’s one of the celebrity testimonials he has on his personal website:
“Paul, Thanks so much for your awesome Star Trek posters. Your work is most excellent!”
-Star Wars director J.J. Abrams
Get creative in what you choose to include as credibility-boosters for your image, such as showcasing the logos of big brands that you have worked with or the publications you have been featured in.
All this will really get people’s attentions switched on as they associate visual big name value with your brand.
Other things you want to be doing to boost credibility:
Become an Expert in a Particular Field
Developing your expertise in something related to – or other than your skillset, will extend your value and boost your credibility.
Having expertise in something that compliments what you do is valuable. In my case I’ve spent a long time working on becoming an authority on the process of marketing small creative businesses, and teach through my other blog, as well as the courses and books I write, in addition to illustration work.
What this has given me, apart from a nice side income, is greater visibility in the creative world and much more credibility as not only a writer and speaker, but as an illustrator as well.
Many potential clients will be aware that I’m not just limited in my skills to artwork, but can provide additional insight on things like web marketing and positioning, which can in turn help them too.
Make sure you develop your expertise in an area that you are naturally drawn to, and commit to mastering it. This could lead to all kinds of opportunities for you over time.
Become an Influencer
Along a similar vein to developing expertise in something as one way of building credibility, think about how you could become a leader in some way.
Influencers are people who take charge, lead people and make a positive contribution to their industry and the world.
Influencers are not only restricted to experts, but are also connectors of people. You can influence by connecting people, either behind the scenes or more overtly, by setting up events, starting things, running things, online and offline, and getting people together.
Simply writing regular content for a blog on a niche area, or just talking about what you’ve learned from your own experiences will position you as an influencer. This is something that will increase over time as you contribute more and help more people.
Influencers tend to attract large followings, because they have assumed the role of a leader, another excellent side effect.
Put energy into regularly asking people to refer or recommend you to others who might be interested.
A lot of the work of building trust will have already been done for a prospect if someone else they know or respect had already recommended you.
Being referred by someone is one of the strongest forms of social proof there is, so do your best to encourage that behaviour in the network of people you know.
Make full use of the people you already know and those who know you by pitching yourself when rapport is good, but also don’t allow the opportunity for asking to be referred slip by unacknowledged.
When you complete a new project with a client, ask them who they know that could be interested in working with you.
Ask your friends and family, and ask prospects who haven’t even worked with you yet.
Ask people with audiences of their own, such as well known bloggers, whether they would like to interview you. Being on the receiving-end of an interview puts you in a great light. A lot of these guys are looking for good content and would be pleased to be asked.
This will open you up to a wider audience, but you can also feature the interview in your own channels as well, to boost your credibility on your website.
When I was launching my first ebook ’10 Steps to Powerful Online Self Promotion’ several years ago, I was unknown in the creative world, let alone regarded as a credible authority on marketing.
So I had to build my credibility and recognition quickly.
Over a few weeks, I developed rapport with several well known bloggers who had creative audiences I knew would find my book useful. Being interviewed on nine or ten websites very quickly got me out of the darkness and into being a trusted resource for the right people.
Your self promotion activities should be on a large scale. You need to get out of obscurity and move your name towards perceived omnipresence, at least in your corner of the industry.
This means being seemingly everywhere because of the energy you put into promoting your name.
All your tweets, interviews, guest posts, reach-outs to individuals, blog posts, videos and newsletters will add up, and they will bring you more and more exposure. The more people see your name around, the more credibility you will cultivate and the more opportunities will come your way.
Think of the impression a brand like Coca Cola makes on the world. Is their brand omnipresent? Absolutely. How about credible? Yup. You see their logo everywhere.
Is it tiring and even annoying to see their brand a lot? Not really. Not for me anyway. Will their omnipresence be good for their credibility? Absolutely.
Do they sell more by being omnipresent? You can be sure of it.
Obviously they are operating at a different level to independent freelancers like you or I, but think about how you can push your effort towards being unashamedly visible.
Don’t just compete. Be the first to mind when people think of the service you can provide by getting your brand out there.
I really encourage you to set aside at least one half hour, five days of the week or more, to marketing-type activities like these. The consistency and accumulation of exposure will all get you closer to omnipresence in your market.
Yes, simply by being seen, you will build value in your name and your brand, and you will begin to be trusted. Familiarity breeds trust, not contempt. We’ve all experienced how we tend to trust a familiar face than one that is not. The same applies here.
“You must get everyone to know you and be thinking about you.”
-Grant Cardone, entrepreneur
…At least, everyone relevant. Those you’re aligning your products and services towards. Your mission is to be getting those guys thinking about you often.
I once had a reader of mine say that I was in one of their dreams. I knew I was doing something right.
Get in people’s dreams inception-style.
Additional accolades like competitions and awards won, examples of books you’ve written, places you have spoken at, or taught at are all good things for supporting credibility too.
Building up a credible image will not happen over night of course.
Becoming credible in the eyes of potential clients and buyers is a gradual process. By constantly adding and updating the bits and pieces that increase your credibility, you add a ton of value to your perceived and true value as a business owner.
To your success,