Trust Marker #4: Authority Piece

Wrapping up the trust markers is the final component.

This is a big one. It’s likely to be a scary one too.

But no matter what, please don’t overlook it or skip it. This can be what takes your freelance business from a struggling one to a growing enterprise.

This is what I call your authority piece.

An authority piece is something that sets you up as an authoritative expert on something.

It’s a unique thing that makes a client sit up and notice you.

Unlike a website that every competitor can copy, an authority piece says clearly who you are and what you do.

Done right, it’s something that comes from the heart and cannot be copied.

Okay, enough squishy, metaphysical stuff.

While an authority piece is powerful, it isn’t that hard for you to create because it comes from you and your strongest expertise. You can create it using most of the skills and knowledge you already have.

Early in my freelancing career, I setup a project management system called Redmine. At the time I just wanted something that would let me communicate with clients and keep track of projects. It is open source and written in Ruby (my primary programming language). If I needed to, I could change the code to match the workflows in my business.

Then Redmine added a plugin API, which let other developers write small pieces of code that would be integrated into the system.

I jumped at this and started writing plugins to customize my Redmine to match how I work and to automate the portions that were clunky.

Instead of just keeping these to myself, I published them online as open source projects.

This meant that anyone else who ran a Redmine system could download and use my customizations for free. And boy, did they…

At first it was just the other developers who were trying to learn how to create a plugin. Then came people in IT who were setting up Redmine for their organization. Finally, news of these plugins started reaching actual business people. The managers, CIOs, and even CEOs of companies who were relying on Redmine.

And they needed their own customizations for Redmine.

Who did they turn to? A generic Ruby on Rails developer or me? The guy who wrote and published many of the plugins they were already using, of course.

These plugins became my authority piece.

They showed that:

  • I had the skills to create software
  • I created results
  • I delivered results (by finishing each project and plugin)
  • I was generous with my work

In fiction writing there is a saying that goes:

Show, don’t tell.

The same works with an authority piece.

You could tell your potential clients how good your skills are. How great you are at delivering, how awesome you are to work with…

Or you can show them by giving them an example of the quality and type of work you do.

Show, don’t tell.

Are you ready to create your first authority piece?

Eric Davis

P.S. Borrowing ideas from other industries can be a great way to stand out from your competitors. They can be simple ideas too, like how I borrowed "show, don’t tell" from writing to describe a marketing concept. Make friends with different people and talk to them about their work. You’re bound to find something you can borrow.