If you want to become an expert, you need skills and reputation. If you want a strong reputation, you need to learn how to tell a strong story.
First, Become an Expert in Your Skill
Do the work.* It’s that simple.
Want to be a pro copywriter? Write for 100 projects. No one’s hiring someone with no experience? Do 20 for free.
Want to be a professional speaker? Join a speaking group and start telling interesting stories. Take simple roles, get a side room at a conference.
Want to be a professional investor? Start researching. Send prospective investment reports to interested parties. Make your own investments. Run a public trading account and track your successes and losses.
If you can get paid to skill up (in a job or consulting) do that. If not, do it for free until you’re worth getting paid.
This will probably take a few years—unless you have a unique angle on your skill that no one else (or very few) is focusing on.
*Hopefully, you don’t need a book to tell you to do the work. I’ve linked one just in case. Spoilers: just commit and stop thinking about it.
Next, Become an Expert in Your Reputation
If all you have is a skill but no reputation, you will not expand. If you have a lot of skill, it will not be incredibly hard to build a reputation.
You need people to vouch for you. If you have a few good success stories, this shouldn’t be hard. This doesn’t mean you have to put these people down as references for every time you want to get hired in the future. Record a video of them sharing their experience with you, or at least get a written quote you can put on your website.
You need to vouch for yourself. This is what most newbies are bad at. You’re taught at a young age it’s not good to brag. Or you were around people who bragged too much and so you don’t want to be like them. However, it’s completely necessary to know how to tastefully and confidently talk about your own competency. If you can’t confidently say how you’re going to help someone, then why would anyone trust you to take care of them?
Reputation is not the same thing as having a portfolio. You can be a designer with 1000 splendid pieces, but if you’re not telling a compelling story around any of them, you don’t have a reputation.
Learn How to Tell a Story
Consider this. I have launched a few professional conferences and unique customer experiences. A friend of mine was opening a store and I had a great idea for a launch event. He was showcasing a few pieces of a clothing line he was launching. The line has a tropical theme to the brand. So in the three different stores that were carrying his brand, we did a takeover for the day. We brought in a ton of tropical-looking plants to create a “wall” you walk around when you enter the store.
The wall was outside the store so it hid the store, created some tension, and also set the mood. People walking in were offered a few tropical drinks (e.g. coconut water) and, if they made a purchase, got some simple bead bracelets with the brand as one of the beads.
We also got a few influencers to post about the clothing line on their pages, acting like they just picked up some merch (for free of course) to borrow on their reputation and show this was a cool thing worth wearing. This, combined with a social media takeover of the stores carrying the brand made it feel like a party, drove more traffic to the stores, and led to sales on the first day.
Did you like that story? It’s completely fake, but it sells me (if I was trying to get hired as an event planner). It walks you through costs, benefits, and an understandable execution.
Experts Communicate Through Stories
Stories matter more than pretty photos. You can have a story told alongside a photo, and photos will certainly help (videos are much better). But think story-first. All other media are there to facilitate your story.
The difference between someone who is good at something and someone else who has become an expert is the ability to tell a story about who you are and what you’ve done. The more complicated the skillset, or the more complicated the sale, the more compelling your story needs to be.
Think of your favorite “expert”. Now think: ignoring what they say, what do they actually do to promote themselves as an expert? Maybe they field questions from folks. Why do people phone in to ask them questions? They probably have some success, but the biggest answer is because other people see them as someone worth answering questions.
Do not lie. Do not “fake it till you make it.” But equally, do not think you have to be at an astronomical level of success to start building your reputation.