How to establish credibility
In today’s episode, Anna explores how to establish credibility when changing to a new field.
After quitting my corporate marketing job in 2013, I initially worked as an independent digital marketing consultant. This was a great way to land on my feet and to use the skills and network that I had built up over my career. But although I was earning ‘lots’ of money, this wasn’t what I had quit my job for: I was still missing the deeper meaning as well as the freedom and flexibility. So the pendulum swung in the other direction and I went through my ‘hippie phase’. I decided I didn’t want to work with big corporations any more, I didn’t want to commute to the client’s office, and I didn’t want to do marketing at all. As a result, I turned my back on years of experience, expertise and credibility. I then had all the freedom and flexibility – but not so much money! Eventually, I found a way to reconcile my years in business and marketing with my new passion for coaching and I’ve been able to leverage the credibility of my past while building my credibility in this new field. We’ll be exploring how to build your credibility in a new field in this week’s podcast episode!
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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Hello, hello there and welcome back to the podcast.
Now last week we were talking about how to build an audience from scratch. So when you’re first starting out in a business or maybe you’ve been running your business for a while, but you haven’t really been looking at growing that fan base, community, a hungry audience of ideal clients, who really want to work with you, maybe now, maybe in the future. Because of course we can rely on referrals and word of mouth and so on in the short term, but really if we want to grow the business and be more proactive about building that business and having control over how many clients we have, building that pipeline and so on. We really need to be building that platform online in particular of course, in today’s day and age, but also offline. So if you missed last week’s episode, do you go back and have a listen to that.
We looked at five ways you can build your audience and in fact we looked at very much practical tactics. You may know that I’m a big fan of strategy and I’m usually very much about building foundations and looking at the long term and the big picture, but I know that you’re also really hungry to get going. So check out the five really practical tactics of things you can do, from day one to quickly build your audience. While of course you also do the longer term pieces. Now related to building an audience, I want to talk about building credibility in a new field because let’s think about leaving your corporate career and starting completely afresh in a new field. And that’s something that we’re often doing.
And in fact, you may remember if you’ve been following the podcast for a while, that we looked at some of the fears around leaving our corporate jobs and one of the ones that came in from a listener actually, was the fear of having to start from zero. So you’ve built up this credibility, experience, expertise, network, confidence as well, over a long career of doing whatever you’ve been doing. Most of us have been in the same job probably, certainly the same company, same type of work, same responsibilities and so on and we’ve built all that up. And it’s incredibly scary to let go of that, start completely afresh, get out of our comfort zone of course, which is important. But also quite scary, quite terrifying and start in a totally new area.
So start first of all, as a business owner, by yourself rather than working in a big corporate organisation. Maybe you start in a new field because often when we change, we’re not just looking to do the same work as a freelancer or that could absolutely be a fantastic option. Many of us want to deep down do something else, I wanted to write or you want to travel more, you want to become a yoga instructor, you want to be a speaker, you want to teach shiatsu, whatever it is. And that might be something very different, be a photographer, painter, all sorts of things. Often creative exploits actually, something very different to what you’re doing in corporate.
So both the nature of being a business owner versus being an employee.
And then also then the nature of the work you’re doing and it can be both tempting and scary to turn your back completely on all of that time. So tempting in the sense that if those years have maybe led you almost to burnout and caused you stress. A lot of you complain about the politics of the organisation, the culture. You’ve had a boss who wasn’t very supportive. Maybe the values of the organisation, there’s a disconnect there, certainly working long hours. All the headaches, literally in my case because I used to get migraines, not so much any more. But there’s a negativity attached to that.
So when we quit it can be such a relief to get out of it. And you think, “Ooh, never again do I want to work on these things.” And we have all these negative sort of emotions attached to something that is quite objective. I guess attached to those skills and experience we have. So on the one hand, it can be really tempting to let go of those years in corporate. On the other hand again, it can be really scary to turn your back on that because it’s all you’ve ever known. It is the prestige, the respect, the salary of course, as well that you’ve earned over the years with that experience in that corporate work.
So to share a little bit about my journey, after quitting my corporate marketing job,
back in 2013 I actually initially worked as an independent digital marketing consultant. So as I’ve talked before, this is a great way to actually land on your feet. I really used the skills that the network that I had built up over my career. So over the years of marketing at Procter and Gamble, I gradually specialised in digital, I’d had a really fantastic role heading up the digital team and strategy and capability building over the entire department in the fragrance and beauty industry or category that I was working in. I’d been working with incredible external partners like agencies and internally as well with really senior executives and directors and so on, within the organisation.
I’d almost been a consultant myself within the company because I’d been advising various brands across Europe and even globally on digital marketing. So that was a fantastic way to use all of that. And just to take that externally and I did land on my feet and I earned ‘lots of money’. I earned about as much, if not a little bit more than I’d been earning in my corporate job and I was really lucky to have some really interesting projects. I took basically what I knew what I had done at Procter and Gamble and repackaged that and did something quite similar in different ways, working on a website and eCommerce launch in one case. Working on online retailer brands and product stores and all sorts of things.
I won’t bore you with the details, if that’s not something that interests you, but nonetheless, it was a great way of course, to transition out of the corporate 9:00 to 5:00 for me. However, although I was earning that money, although I was using my skills and network, that wasn’t what I’d quit my job for. So you may have heard me say before, I wasn’t super clear on why I left, but I was looking for those three Fs that I’m always talking about. Freedom, flexibility, fulfilment, so I was looking for deeper meaning, doing really meaningful work, being passionate about it, feeling that yes, I was really making a difference. I was looking for freedom, creative freedom, independence, being able to choose how I was doing, the work, what I was doing, working from home, not travelling to a client’s office, flexible hours, all these things.
So there’s a lot that I had wanted to create in my life
and I hadn’t done that by quitting and going straight into this marketing consultancy. So, at that stage I was using pretty much my exact background and so, and I was just working independently, so it was just a little sort of different in terms of logistics. And yes, I was able to travel between contracts and so on. But basically I was doing the same work, just for different companies. And the pendulum then swung in the complete opposite direction because I went through what I like to call my hippie phase. I decided I didn’t want to work with big corporations any more. I didn’t want to commute to the client’s office. I didn’t want to do marketing at all.
So as a result, I then turned my back completely on those years of experience, expertise and credibility, and I discovered coaching and I did that training and certification and I put up my coaching website. Talked about this a little bit last week and I really went out there as sort of a career coach, I guess, life coach, and again, sort of forgot all about, didn’t talk about all those pieces of marketing and so on. I still kept it a little bit on my LinkedIn. I did some work there, I was a little bit too scared to let go of it completely. But for all intents and purposes, I thought that the new direction I was moving in wouldn’t have any of those elements at all.
And then at this other extreme of the pendulum,
I had all the freedom and flexibility that I was after, but not so much money because again, I’ve talked about this, I wasn’t really taking the business seriously, in the sense that of course I was working really hard and so on, but I wasn’t looking at the numbers, I wasn’t thinking of conversion rates and all these things that I helped other people do in the past. And I was really just sort of going for the freedom and enjoying the work and so on. So those were the two extremes. One was taking all my skills and my credibility and so on. And that is a good way again, to transition out of the 9:00 to 5:00 ,to land on your feet, to just package that up in a different way.
And that’s already a great way to again, get the freedom of flexibility essentially because I was my own boss, even though I was working with other clients. As I said, I was able to come in for maybe three months, sometimes longer, seven months, nine months I think was even the longest. Often they extended my contract, which was good, but also almost became like a full time job. And then in between I was able to then travel, so I didn’t have the politics of knowing that I was part of an organisation for years and years. I still knew that I had my own business sort of to go out into and I could make a decision to stop when I wanted and so on. But I still had their salary.
So fantastic, but again, at one end of the spectrum, fully leveraging my skills, expertise and past experience. Then it swung to the other end of spectrum, where I let go of all of that and I started from zero. And that’s why, as I talked last week, it took such a long time to build the audience because I just didn’t even mention, I think that background. It was very much just I’m a certified coach and this is what I can help you do. And of course I had the experience of having gone through that myself and yes, I had the training, but I didn’t have a lot of expertise I guess. And certainly not that other people would see if they looked at me. They’d think, “Oh, I thought Anna was doing marketing. How come she’s suddenly doing this career coaching?” That seemed very strange, if they knew me.
So two ends of the spectrum and over the years I’ve really found a way to reconcile those two ends and sort of balanced them more in the centre as it were. So taking my years in business, marketing, branding, online, digital on the one hand with my new passion for coaching and my longstanding passion for writing and so on and wanting to do that meaningful work, helping people and so on. And I’ve been able to both leverage the credibility of my past on the one hand, while taking the business in a new direction. So it’s a constant balancing act and sometimes I feel like I’m talking maybe too much about the life coaching career, vision piece and some people remind me, “Hey, you should still be talking about your business and marketing expertise because that gives you a lot of credibility in that area.”
And sometimes on the other hand,
I focus too much on this is what you need to do, branding, business and so on and I miss the broader, sort of more holistic life coaching piece. So it’s an ongoing balance, but it’s a great way in which to leverage that past credibility while taking the business in this new direction, which is really exciting. So when you quit your corporate job to start something else, you do not have to and probably shouldn’t arguably turn your back completely on all those years of experience. Probably when you first leave, when you’re first doing it, you sort of want to completely forget all about that. Start with a completely blank slate, on the one hand or like me, you might make the opposite mistake, which is just take exactly what you’re doing in corporate and then just make that into a job.
And probably, for many of us at least, the right answer is somewhere in between. So it is continuing on the one hand, maybe with freelancing consulting with elements of that previous work you did in corporate, on the one hand, while then building sort of your passion business for longer term. And that’s a great way to transition more gradually out of your corporate work and into this new business. So first of all, you do not want to turn your back on all that experience and expertise. You can find creative ways of looking at what you were doing before and how that’s relevant. So I’ve written in the past about what I learned in my consumer goods role, not even just the digital marketing, but in terms of working at Procter and Gamble.
So of course managing a brand, incredibly important strategy, having the strategic approach to everything we do, both in the business and in terms of marketing. Lots of transferrable skills, softer things like problem solving, presenting and pitching, decision-making really driven by data, leadership, coaching, actually budget management, and having ownership of the PnL and so on. Not to mention systems and processes and of course, a powerful network that I developed there. So knowing the things that you can bring with you from your previous job or your current job is incredibly powerful when building your credibility in new area. But I also wanted to just come to the end of the episode, throw out some ways in which you can establish your credibility in a new field.
So first, as I said, don’t turn your back on your past credibility,
but there are ways again, to establish your credibility in a new field. So number one or number zero I guess, would be find the ways in which to leverage your past credibility and then five ways. So let’s look at those. So the first one is, and I’ll get this out of the way right away, get a formal qualification. This is I think where most of us will go naturally. We’ll assume that’s the first step. I need to do an MBA, I need to do a two year course and this, I need to qualify as a formal practitioner in whatever this new area. And I did that. It was very important, both for my own confidence, for learning the ethics and the different frameworks for connecting with others in the area, getting that network, building up in a new sort of peer to peer environment.
And certainly for some clients and definitely corporations and so on, having the acronyms, the initials, the letters after your name will definitely help. And in some areas you actually do need, there might be a more regulated industry than coaching is. You actually might need to have that formal qualification in order to practise. So yes, of course one way to build credibility is by getting that formal qualification. However, there are many other ways and certainly at the beginning, when you’re not yet sure if this is what you want to do and you don’t know if you’re going to enjoy it, you don’t know if it’s going to work. You might not want to invest a lot of money and time into a four year university programme. You might want to find sort of a softer way to explore.
And of course the second way then to establish your credibility,
is to get experience. So within coaching for example, a lot of us will start out by doing free discovery calls. You often see in Facebook groups, maybe on LinkedIn, “Oh, I’m just qualifying.” And in fact, this works not just for coaching, but again, shiatsu or yoga or whatever it might be, “I’m doing free or discounted calls, first 10 people.” And in exchange, and that’s number three, you’re going to ask for testimonials. So again, the second way is to get experience. That is a way to get credibility and to demonstrate that credibility of course, you then get testimonials, reviews in return and of course nobody else needs to know that you’ve done that work for free.
You can take screenshots of the testimonial they’ve written for you on your Facebook page, on Google, wherever it might be. I now take reviews from my podcast, my book on Amazon and so on and then you can share those. And that’s a really fantastic way for other people to see the incredible work that you’re doing for others, right? So it’s not just me saying, “Hey, I’m really good at coaching.” It’s 10 clients saying, “This is the result I got. I really appreciated, I really appreciated that I did this,” and so on. So getting the experience possibly for free and then getting testimonials and again, getting experience. It could be offering to design a website for free for a couple of your favourite organisations or something like that. Designing a logo, who knows, if your graphic designer. So think creatively.
It’s not about undervaluing your work and not charging.
But at the beginning it may well be worth doing some cheaper or even non paying, pro bono work to build your network, build that credibility and so on and get the experience. So number two, get experienced. Number three, get testimonials. Number four is actually creating and sharing content and I talk a lot about this. It’s one of my passion areas I guess that is. Again, bridging my old world and my new because it’s something I worked on a lot at Procter and Gamble and with previous clients. But I’m sure you have seen, if you’re at all active in social media and particular, probably LinkedIn, where people are posting short form posts or maybe articles, sharing, liking, commenting and that’s a really quick way actually, of course it takes time and consistency.
But it’s an easy way to actually build your credibility because you’re sharing your point of view,
you’re engaging with others in the area. You’re also building your network, you’re getting your name out there without having to necessarily have your own blog, podcasts and all these things. Last week we also talked about guesting on someone else’s podcast for example, before you even have to create your own podcast. So again, creating and sharing whether it’s a comprehensive white paper on something. Of course, if you do something more comprehensive, that could be great and really a sort of flagship piece of content that you then share. But even again, smaller things, liking, commenting. Instagram perhaps could be right for your business.
You’re sharing your thoughts, sharing your experiences, again, maybe sharing those testimonials and so on as an Instagram story. But that’s a fantastic way to build your credibility in a new area. And the great thing about entrepreneurialism and building your own business is that actually, your traditional CV matters less. Now, it’s not to say that nobody cares about your past and your experience and your credibility from a more formal perspective, but ultimately, we care if you can get us the results, right? So it’s much more around, “Oh, I’ve seen Lucy writing this incredible stuff about whatever it is. And I really loved her tone of voice. So actually maybe she can help me with my copywriting.” Or, “Oh, I saw those incredible logos and designs that Terry was doing on her Instagram and oh, they look like they could really fit with my brand,” or so on.
Or you might recommend for someone else. So whether it’s images, videos, if you get to the point of being comfortable with that, short posts, start super simple. But creating and sharing content is a great way to build your credibility. And then finally, this is a bigger one, but I think it’s one that a lot of us have as a dream. And certainly for me it was, it’s write a book. So I must say that writing a book is a dream that many of us have. And it can be anything from literally a 10 page ebook, PDF. That’s what I did when I first started. I think I wrote four or five, I had and I’m sure some of you still have them on your computer.
Using The Wheel Of Life, which is one of the tools that I learned about in my coaching. Something about goal setting, I believe. I had one about turning your one day into day one. I had one about money and I also have one that I still share a lot, which is Learning To Say No for example, right? So building a little PDF ebook, whether you give it for free or you charge 3 pounds, 10 pounds, whatever it is, is a fantastic way again, of getting that credibility and seeing people will read it like, “Oh wow, I hadn’t thought about this before.” And clearly Amazon expert in this area, for example. But of course that can extend to actually self publishing a book on Amazon and that’s a whole other topic.
But it’s something you don’t necessarily need to go the full hog to get your New York Times bestseller list, get an external publisher. Of course, that feels like something that’s that extra little bit of gloss and credibility and authority and so on. But actually, and again in today’s world, publishers anywhere will rely on your social media following, you’ll need to be very proactive in building your audience and marketing and so on. And as a business owner, you have a lot more control over the process, the content, the strategy for the book. Not to mention the money you’re getting from it, if you’re writing and publishing it yourself.
So actually, self publishing a book is a fantastic way to then say, I’m sure you’ve seen people saying, “I’m a best selling author,” and so on, on LinkedIn and Facebook and so on. So that’s obviously a great way to build your credibility and then use that as a platform, maybe for speaking, for getting on people’s podcasts and so on. So again, a few tactics there, a few strategies, depending on how you look at them for the longer term in terms of building credibility. So remember, strategy zero is not to turn your back on your previous role. And to really leverage the skills, experience, and qualifications you have from before. Find a creative way to make that relevant and that’s also what makes your brand so unique.
And then number one is, get a formal qualification if needed,
or if you feel that is something that would make you feel better. It’s also important to feel confident and well equipped to do the work you’re going to do. Get experience, get testimonials, create and share content, and then specifically, write a book. And in fact, that’s what we’re going to be talking about next week. So we’re going to be talking about how you can write a book that will actually, specifically help your business. So we’re not talking about a Stephen King novel, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter, children’s fiction, whatever. We’re talking about actually writing a book that will help you in your business. So look out for that next week and I look forward to seeing you then.
Bye for now.
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