How to position yourself as an expert.

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It’s hard to stand out in a crowd, and Seattle is up to its eyeballs with talented people. In today’s competitive market, whether you are a freelancer or full-timer, it pays to differentiate yourself from your colleagues and position yourself as a thought leader on a subject or in an industry. Here’s how:

Know thyself. First things first, figure out what your area of expertise — your “special sauce” — is. Once you pinpoint your unique talent or knowledge base, you can start to build your personal brand and promote yourself. 

Do some recon. Familiarize yourself with the current market and the competition for your services. Read books on your topic of interest, subscribe to industry publications, skill up and build your network of extraordinary colleagues. They can help amplify your message when the time is right, and you can return the favor.

Get social. Follow other thought leaders on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their own websites. Subscribe to their newsletters. Start a dialogue by regularly commenting on their posts so they get familiar with you and your point of view.

Give free talks. You’d be surprised at the number of outlets both online and IRL that need content and programming. Cast a wide net. If you are a subject expert, give a free talk at a branch of The Seattle Public Library or Town Hall Seattle. If you are a science or art wonk, check out opportunities at Pacific Science Center or other museums. If you are a tech whiz, pull together a presentation for your company’s brown-bag luncheon program.

Publish. Offer to write a guest column, blog post or Q&A for your favorite online outlet. Write an article for Medium or a relevant academic journal. Contribute to a textbook or better yet, write your own book. These days, it’s easier than ever to find an avenue for publication, be it self-publishing or with a traditional publisher. 

Seek out interview opportunities. Sign up for Help a Reporter Out and get a daily email blast from journalists who are looking for sources to interview for stories. You’ll also be in the database so a reporter can easily find you if you are, say, an expert on the local weed boom or middle school robotics competitions. And keep your ears to the ground for any news hooks that relate to your expertise; I once called up KUOW when “As the World Turns” was going off the air because I had watched it for 30 years. They ended up doing a story on me, not the soap.

Believe. Above all, have confidence in yourself and the unique skill set you bring to the table.