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How to Become an Authority In Your Industry

By on May 2, 2016 in How To
How to Become an Authority In Your Industry

You know those people in your industry who always seem to get all the limelight? They're constantly interviewed, featured, quoted, and praised as "thought leaders" and "industry experts." How do they do it? What do they know that you don't? If you're looking to step off the sidelines and become a vocal authority, here are some simple, straightforward steps you can take to get there.

Never Stop Learning

This is the single most important piece of advice in this article. Don't try to fake your way through the steps below. If you want people to read what you write or listen when you speak, make sure you know what you're talking about. Unfortunately, this task is never finished. Learning is not something you do for a few years until you earn a degree, it's a way of life for people who are looked up to as experts.

To help you get into the habit of learning regularly, check out this selection of twenty amazing educational sites for designers and developers.

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Write As Often As Possible

If you don't think you're a very good writer, it's time to start practicing. If you want to be seen as an expert, your ability to wield the written word should be solid. You don't have to become the next Hemingway, you simply have to learn to express your thoughts and ideas in a clear, concise, and entertaining manner. Here are some writing tasks that will help you establish yourself as a thought leader.

Start Your Own Blog, Guest Post on Others

The blogging community is such a great place for potential growth and creative conversations, so start using it. Getting feedback through comments and forums on builds your knowledge and makes you more of an authority on your subject. Fair warning, commenters can be brutal, but they'll definitely help make sure you're putting in your due diligence before hitting "Publish."

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Chris Coyier started CSS Tricks as a simple way to share what he was learning and it has helped catapult him into the spotlight as an industry leader.

When you first start, it may seem like no one is listening, and it's because they aren't. Don't get discouraged though. Dig in and write about topics that challenge you that you know others struggle with as well. Make your content as valuable as possible to your readers and publish consistently.

Also, don't operate in a vacuum. Read other blogs in your industry regularly, leave comments, and find ways to connect with the people who run them. Guest blogging is the best way to get your name spread around and build an inbound link portfolio back to your site.

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Lyza Danger Gardner boosts her personal brand by regularly contributing to well-known, authoritative sites like A List Apart.

Write, Publish, and Distribute an eBook

"Author of Insert Book Title Here" looks great in your bio. Most people assume that if you wrote a book on something, you must be an expert! The truth is that unqualified people write books every day, but regardless, you'll want to leverage this general assumption in your quest for fame.

Think about your eBook as an extremely in-depth blog post (you could even collect your posts into a book). Each topic has its own chapter and each one should build toward the larger message of the book. It sounds like a daunting task, but once you get a rough table of contents going, the previously impossible will suddenly seem quite doable.

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Mark Boulton made his book, "A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web" available free online, which gets it featured in lots of roundups and blog posts.

Create a Video Course

In-depth, educational video courses are a fantastic way to build your personal brand. Several educational video platforms like Skillshare and Udemy have really taken off lately, and they're the perfect method of distributing your course to the masses and earning some dough while you're at it.

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Jessica Hische is one of my favorite lettering artists. She teaches courses, speaks at events, and is featured on podcasts regularly.

You could also go the self-publishing route. The self-published hand lettering courses of Sean McCabe have recently become the stuff of legend and are a great example of someone establishing himself in a niche via video course.

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Speak at Conferences

Speaking at conferences is a huge way to boost your reputation in your industry. It's a simple psychological trick. People are sitting down, in the dark, watching you, brightly lit, elevated above them, lecturing, joking, showing off an awesome slideshow. The entire environment is structured to build you up as the most knowledgable person in the room about a given subject.

If you're terrified of public speaking, join the club. Everyone is nervous on that stage, but they push through it and take advantage of every opportunity until it becomes routine.

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UX expert Jared Spool is one of the most accomplished conference speakers around. His Lanyrd profile has 117 past speaking engagements in 9 countries!

How Do I Get Started?

If you've really nailed the steps above, conference speaking invites might just start pouring in on their own. Most of the time though, you'll have to put in some work. Seek out small conferences looking for volunteer speakers. Forget about money, you need experience. Once you've done a handful of small events, you can start contacting larger conferences to see if you can sit in on a panel, host a workshop, or give a lecture. After you've done a few big conferences, the paid speaking offers will start hitting your inbox.

Try Podcasts Too

Conferences aren't the only place where you can put your oral skills to work. Being a host or guest speaker on popular podcasts can introduce you to audiences much larger than what you'll see in a typical conference hall.

Who Do You Look Up To?

Do you consider yourself an authority? If so, why? If not, who do you consider an authority in your industry? What personal brand building lessons have you learned from experts in your field? Share your thoughts below.


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