How the Library Can Help Freelancers Gain Expert Credibility
Presumably, as a freelancer and entrepreneur, you are an expert in your craft; you have knowledge and skills that the average person doesn’t have, and you make a living by using them. But how are potential clients supposed to know that you’re an expert? Certainly, there are the obvious ways: A website, referrals from past clients, and the myriad marketing strategies both online and off. These ways are good, they are traditional — they are also potentially time-consuming and expensive.
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I’d like to offer another option, one that is simple and straightforward, that serves your community and gets you potential clients, and best of all, one that clearly positions you as an expert in your field. I’m talking about offering a public program at the library.
Think about it, the majority of today’s libraries have expanded their role as a provider of information well beyond books. They elevate the culture by inviting musicians into the library to give concerts, storytellers to inspire imagination, and professors and other experts to educate. I’m assuming that you are in business because people need what you do and know. So why not offer a unique gift to the general public? If you can provide value without giving away the farm, doing a library program increases awareness of your craft and educates potential clients, all at a place that is basically synonymous with credibility. You’re just leveraging this trust when you appear there as a subject matter expert. Plus, you can get the feel-goods because you’re doing something kind!
Generally speaking, librarians have to put on at least a certain number of programs every quarter. As a librarian myself, I’m happy to share with you the secret of how to get your librarian to say yes to your program. For the most part, it is the following criteria that will determine whether a librarian will like your pitch:
- The program has to be valuable to the community as a whole and/or to a specific demographic. For example, many libraries invite an expert on Medicare to explain annual changes to seniors. Showing an understanding of the needs of the area tells the librarian that you’re not just approaching them randomly.
- It has to be community-minded, meaning there can’t be a sleazy pitch or any type of hard sell involved. Librarians are very protective of their patrons so if they detect that a presenter is providing useless information or only selling something, they’ll shut it down. Remember, it’s by being there that you’re gaining social proof from the library, interested audience members will have a chance to hire you after the talk.
- It has to have crowd-drawing potential. Lots of people want to do programs at the library but the librarian’s time is short. They don’t want to spend time organizing programs that will get a paltry audience. Part of your mission, then, in pitching the librarian is to assure him or her that there is a potential audience for your program and that you will devote effort to getting the word out.
I didn’t mention anything about your expertise or ability to communicate it, because I’m assuming you already have those covered. Beyond that, be prepared with a 2–3 sentence description of your program and a short bio so when the librarian asks for publicity material, you have it at the ready.
Hopefully, you are already thinking of library program possibilities. However, in case you need a little nudge, here are a few fictional examples (that you can steal): A web designer or content strategist may present a “Blogging for Business, Pleasure, and Profit” seminar. A handyman or other builder can present “How to Hire a Hassle-Free Contractor”. A wedding planner can deliver “Top Tips for a Beautiful No-Worries Wedding”.
Anyone can get in on the action: Project managers, SEO strategists, organizers, bookkeepers, caterers, writers and editors, photographers, lawyers, and notaries are all among the freelancers that have interesting and useful inside information to share. Don’t keep it to yourself! Get out there and add public speaker to your list of accomplishments.