It’s a very noisy market place, particularly if you are just setting out to establish yourself as an independent Portfolio Executive working with several clients. Just do a quick search on Google or LinkedIn, the market for people seeking to sell their expertise is very crowded.
 
You’ll soon see just how many small consultancy practices there are with perhaps one, or possibly two partners, or the huge number of people offering website development or business coaching.

So how do you stand out from that busy crowd? You may have heard about positioning yourself as an influencer.

This article looks at the pros and cons of this very current tactic, as made popular by Daniel Priestly amongst others. In principle you develop a specific opinion on a particular aspect of the market in which you operate and build a profile as that person. You then promote yourself on social media, build a website, go out and do speaking opportunities at events and write your book.

Is this right for you as you build your Portfolio Executive business? Being an ‘influencer’ sounds very impressive but there’s a huge amount of work involved. I’ve seen people try to do this with mixed results – so let’s look at some of the issues.

Becoming a ‘go to’ person

Often there is huge emphasis on ‘writing your book’ and around that book you’ll then need to produce a whole set of collateral that builds your profile as the ‘go to’ person around a particular point of view of your market place. It can be very compelling.

If you see people who have become key persons of influence, it appears to really work for them.  They can charge a premium for what they do, become well known in their industry and build a really powerful personal brand. On the back of this they can create all sorts of value for themselves and for the people who work with and through them.

But, is this a good idea? Very often it is, but it’s not the only idea. Nor is it a ‘quick win’ strategy – far from it.

How to decide if it’s right for you

Sadly, I have seen people get caught up in the industry that surrounds this idea and spend an enormous amount of money with very little financial return. There are some criteria in my mind as to whether this is actually going to work for you, and they are quite simple.

•    Do you really have a distinctive view of the marketplace you want to serve?
•    Do you enjoy building a public profile?
•    Are you happy developing lots and lots of distinctive content?
•    Is this right time, in the development of your new business, to invest in all of these assets?

The long road to a successful business model

Here is a real life example that shows the time and effort that goes into becoming a person of influence. I have a very good friend who was a journalist and then got involved in social media and then moved into consulting. He’s written a number of books and has built a really interesting proposition. He has turned what was a relatively low value training offer into something which is now a successful franchise, but the journey to get there was very, very painful.

He was already a natural writer, but there were times on that journey when he had to step back into employed work because he just could not make it work financially. Although he has now written three books, the first one cost him money. He describes it as ‘a good but expensive business card’, but it never paid for itself in the amount of business he got.

It took him nearly five years to find a business model that worked for him, and he already knew a lot about social media. He was very personable and a natural networker and yet he still struggled.

He had a lot of stuff going for him, but he could not actually find a business model that worked for him for a considerable period of time, and during that time he had to make some quite painful decisions like selling his house and moving into a rented flat.

Is the influencer route right for you?

It is possible to build your business around being an influencer, but just be absolutely sure that it is right for you. And be wary too – there are a lot of people very happy to take your money! You could very easily spend several thousand pounds getting assistance to write your book, or a thousand pounds a month getting support for your social media, or five, maybe even ten thousand pounds on a great website and even more money on building a set of videos.

Most importantly, you could very easily spend a huge amount of the time that would, at this crucial stage in the development of your business, be better spent on going out a winning those first clients, refining your proposition or testing the market. It’s actually through doing this that you’ll really develop that rich, detailed understanding of the market from which you can develop a point of view.

In conclusion

Based on my experiences and those I’ve seen try to build a business around being an influencer, I want to end with a cautionary note.

Being an influencer might be a popular strategy but for every success story, there are many others you won’t see because they are still struggling to make it work. So, don’t assume that this is the right strategy for you at this stage in the development of your business – or that it will generate you the money that you want to make. The lesson to take away is that even though you may have great skills in speaking, writing and communicating that alone isn’t enough to build a viable business as a key person of influence.

In the early stages of your Portfolio Executive career, you are better served by focusing on meeting the needs of your clients, learning from solving their problems and gaining recommendations. In fact, as you do this you’ll also develop the real insight you’ll need to become an influencer – but you’ll do it on the back of a successful business.

If you are considering possible strategies to becoming a Portfolio Executive and want to explore the options, why not review our webinar and find out how we can help you develop a strategy that will work for you.

Charles Mclachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.