All entrepreneurship begins with rebranding. Maybe you’re leaving a corporate job to launch your own business. Or you were a tech entrepreneur and now want to start a retail venture. Or you’re trying to establish yourself as a businessperson after staying home with the kids for a few years. In all of these cases, the goal is the same: to show others, as rapidly as possible, that you should be taken seriously in your new identity.
Related: Finding a Voice for Your Brand
Here are a few ways to rebrand yourself as an entrepreneur -- fast.
Understand possible misconceptions. When you’re starting out as an entrepreneur, people will -- fairly or unfairly -- judge you based on your demographics and your history. Be aware of the misconceptions others may hold, so that you can systematically overcome them. If you’ve spent decades in corporate America, they (i.e., potential customers or investors) may worry you’re too bureaucratic and risk-averse to be successful. Think about ways you can mitigate those concerns -- from the systematic (making decisions quickly and decisively) to the symbolic (limiting red tape). If you’re a college student or recent grad, they may worry entrepreneurship is a fad or something you won’t take seriously in the long run, so go out of your way to demonstrate your tenacity.
Take on leadership roles. One of the fastest ways to establish your credentials is to take on leadership roles, like becoming a board member of a professional association. The fact that your peers have elected you as a leader makes a powerful impression on others -- a psychological principle known as “social proof.” This is a particularly helpful form of fast tracking because many associations actually have a hard time recruiting leaders. If you raise your hand for a critical but time-consuming responsibility -- such as membership chair or secretary -- you’ll often be able to walk onto the job and have an instant source of credibility in your new area of specialization.
Create content. People who knew you before you started your entrepreneurial venture -- the ones you really need as clients and referral sources -- may be the most skeptical of your abilities in your new realm. What does he really know about that? they might ask. Dispel their doubts from the outset by creating a robust online portfolio, chock full of so many articles, podcasts or videos that they can’t help but be impressed. Think of the questions customers are most likely to ask and then answer them in detail. Create “think pieces” explaining trends in your industry and how you expect them to evolve. Interview experts in your field, so that you elevate your own stature by appearing next to them. Write “how-tos” so precise, only an expert could have explained them that way. Film demonstrations of how to do things better, faster and more easily. Review related products, services or books about your subject area. Curate Pinterest boards gathering useful information or build an Instagram photo stream lovingly capturing the essence of whatever you’re focusing on. In the process, you’ll show the world you know what you’re talking about.