Building an authority business is a pretty brave decision. Mostly because you're proclaiming to the world that you are, in fact, an authority on a given topic. You're an expert, and your expertise has value. That's a bold statement to make.
Here's how you back it up.
Establishing authority in a field or industry requires a system. It's a pretty simple formula, when you look at it from the outside, but it can become ridiculously complex if you let it. Also, despite what I just wrote, there actually is no one formula for this. Your path to an authority business can meander all over the place sometimes. But here's a process you can follow (and modify to taste) to help you get started on your own authority business, right now.
Become an Expert
Are you an author? A speaker? A consultant or coach? A teacher or guru? Maybe you're all of these things. That would be your role, but it's not your expertise.
As an author, you'll want to define what it is you write about. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? What genre, or what type of topic do you cover? Biographies? Science fiction? Economy? Zombie apocalypse?
When I'm working with clients, I ask them to tell me about the thing they love doing most. What is it that they read about most often? What sort of films or documentaries or podcasts do they gravitate toward? These are all indicators of the field in which you might want to focus your expertise. As Joseph Campbell wrote, "Follow your bliss." Pick something you love, and immerse yourself in everything you can find on the subject.
There are some figures out there that you might want to know.
Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, wrote that in order to be an "expert" in a given field, you should read the top three bestselling books on the topic. That's it. Read what three of the top experts in the industry have to say, and you're already more knowledgable about a given topic than the largest portion of the population. Everything else you read or expose your brain to after that is just continuing education.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of books such as Outliers, wrote that achieving "expertise" takes 10,000 hours of practice. That's not an exact, set-in-stone figure. It's a goal. If you spent just 5 hours a day studying a craft or practicing a skill, you'd achieve complete mastery over it in just under 6 years. But consider—while you're working toward that complete mastery, you're gaining expertise every day.
Five hours a day—if you think about it, that's not much. Maybe you spend two hours in the morning, an hour at lunch, and two hours in the evening. You read, you watch YouTube videos, you listen to podcasts. You write or you practice your skill. You come back to it again and again, and put in the time, working toward that 10K. Chances are, you're probably further ahead than "zero" already, even if you feel like you're just starting. How many books or podcasts or films or lectures have you already been exposed to on this topic?
Every day you put the effort into it, you're already ahead of most of the population, when it comes that field. You're already an expert, in comparison to everyone else.
You don't have to wait for complete mastery before you can start putting your expertise to work. Start writing, start speaking, start consulting and coaching, using what you know right now. Consider that part of your 10,000 hours of growing toward complete mastery, but start right now to add value to the world with your unique perspective.
Get the credentials (or make your own)
Is there a special certification or credential you need? Get it. Don't wait. Don't hesitate. Go sign up for whatever course or program you need to be a part of. If it's expensive, immediately start putting the money aside to pay for it. Take action right now to get that road block out of the way.
Most authority businesses actually do not require any certification or credential at all. In fact, those things typically only apply for specialized fields. And, in most cases, they're not so much "required" as "recommended." Usually by people who work in that industry, and who have a vested interest in creating a barrier to entry.
Chances are, whatever it is you want to do will not require special credentials. In most cases, you can just start doing the work.
If it makes you feel better or more official to have something that establishes your credibility, I recommend two courses of action:
Build an audience — Start a podcast or a video blog, or write a blog on your website. Start posting regularly to Twitter or Facebook. Do all these things with the intention of "giving back" to your budding and growing audience, instead of asking them to come buy from you. In other words, have conversations with the people who are gravitating toward you, and offer them something of real value as they listen, watch, or read. This helps build loyalty, but it also firmly establishes you as an authority in your field.
Create a product — Create a workshop or course, create a workbook for your clients to use, or create a bundle of services you can offer. My personal favorite: Write a book. In fact, you don't even have to be much of a writer to get a book for your business. Swing by Happy Pants Books and my team can help you write and publish a book, and you might not have to write a single word.
These two things, individually, would be enough to help establish your credibility. Together they're two of the most powerful tools I give to my own clients.
You don't need official credentials to show people that you know what you're talking about. You just need to know what you're talking about, and talk about it often, in as many ways as possible.
Hang your shingle
Don't wait. Don't hesitate. Don't drag it out. Once you decide that you want to do this work, start doing it. Start writing that book, start asking people if they need a speaker, start offering to coach someone or consult with someone about your topic of choice.
You may or may not make any money doing this right away. Chances are, you have a day job you're trying to leave. Let that be your funding. Spend your time away from that job building this other part of your career, and keep refining it until it's "the thing you do."
It's important to start telling people, right away, that this is something you're doing. You'll find that people can be incredibly supportive, and can often be a source of leads for clients, resources for your personal growth, or just moral support when things get tough.
It doesn't matter that you're not already successful at what you're doing. It only matters that you're telling others and yourself who you are and what your goals are. You're making this work part of your identity, and this is how you own it. Hang your shingle, and start doing as much as you can, right away.
Establish "Perceived Value" — ie Fake it 'til you make it
This step is really about bringing all the pieces together. As you grow into your expertise and authority, you'll find that there are some people who just don't buy it. They can't see you in this role. They don't consider you an expert.
You may actually be one of those people.
That's ok. Every expert started at zero at some point. Your value, in this industry, is going to come first from how you and others perceive your expertise. That's why it's important to start putting yourself out there right away, to claim ownership over your own authority. It's important to start.
As you move forward into this career, you will sometimes have to "fake it." You'll have to "fool yourself" into being confident in what you know. You'll have to keep telling yourself that you're a champ a this, that you really are an expert. You'll have to keep reminding yourself that you've read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, and absorbed all the wisdom.
The funny thing is, after a while you fool yourself so well that you suddenly realize it's all true. You really are an authority in this. You somehow became "ready" while you were pretending to be ready.
The important thing is to start.
Start reading those three books. Start putting in those five hours of practice each day. Start offering your expertise to an audience. Start asking people if they'd like to pay you for what you do.
Small steps. Tiny improvements. But eventually you've walked long enough that you'll notice a few folks coming along for the journey. You'll see things suddenly change, and you'll find yourself marveling that there was ever a time when you weren't an authority on this topic.
Go claim your authority. The world needs you.