Seven years ago my husband and I both realized we were ready to leave corporate America and become our own bosses. Our goal was to build viable businesses out of our passions: his passion was designing and listening to high-end audio gear and mine, investing in the stock market.
I had built my own wealth by investing in the stock market and I wanted to teach others – particularly women – how they could be successful investors too. So I studied for the Series 65 Investment Advisor Representative exam, passed it, and became affiliated with a boutique wealth management firm in La Jolla.
I went from a corporate job making over $200,000 a year to one where I received no salary or benefits. My only compensation would be through attracting clients who wanted me to teach them how to invest their money or wanted me to directly manage their investment accounts.
Who would let a middle-aged woman with no professional money management experience manage their money, especially since there are experienced financial advisors on every corner? Financial advisors, real estate agents, tax preparers, attorneys, and therapists ask themselves the same question when they are just starting out and have zero clients.
When you’re just starting out, the answer is to position yourself as an expert…even if you don’t feel like one!
Here are six methods I used to position myself as an expert and differentiate myself from my competition:
Write a non-fiction book that solves an ideal client’s problem.
In Every Woman Should Know Her Options: Invest Your Way to Financial Empowerment, I shared my story of how I made my first stock purchase with a $1,600 inheritance I received from my grandmother when I was 24 years old. I then explained what I did over the next 15 years to grow my investment portfolio to $1M before I turned 40. Can you imagine how many clients I have worked with over the past five years who contacted me after reading my book?
Be interviewed on video and share it on social media.
Yes, you can get on television but takes discipline, confidence, and perseverance. These days you don’t need to be on a television news program to gain credibility. Do a Facebook Live interview or have someone record a video of you discussing issues that will educate others and make them want to work with you. Share it on social media.
Find opportunities to write articles about your expertise.
I’m doing that right now for the Hera Herald! Ask to write a guest article for a publication read by your target audience. Submit blog posts for other professionals’ websites. You can even write and publish articles and posts on your own LinkedIn profile.
Offer to speak everywhere (for free).
There are paid speakers and unpaid speakers. Associations and clubs are always looking for unpaid speakers. Strategically find a way to get in front of your target audience and knock their socks off.
Continue developing your expertise.
Once I was managing other people’s investment and retirement accounts, I decided I was ready to expand my service offerings. I studied for the exams to become certified as a divorce financial analyst (CDFA). This allowed me to advise individuals and couples going through a divorce and help them make important financial decisions regarding asset division and child and spousal support.
Become a center of influence by referring to others.
Referring strategic partners is the most effective method for building your client base. When a woman who is contemplating divorce contacts me for a consultation, I provide connections to whatever professional she needs including a mediator, divorce attorney, estate planning attorney, tax preparer, mortgage lender, real estate agent, and coach or therapist.
I don’t give out three names: I hand-select one professional in each category based on who I think would be the best fit for her needs. Then I make an email introduction stating how much I think the two of them would enjoy working together. When you consistently refer clients to other professionals, you become a center of influence. All these professionals know that I’m the first call a woman should make when contemplating divorce or beginning the process.
Seven years ago I wasn’t an expert in my new field. After engaging in the six methods of positioning myself as an expert, I truly am an expert now. I make more money than I did as a VP in corporate America, and am able to sock away tens of thousands of dollars more each year for retirement than a W-2 employee is permitted to under the tax law. I have accomplished so many things I never dreamed I would do, have helped hundreds of people navigate the challenging financial issues in their lives, and receive more new client referrals each week than I can manage.
Stop thinking that your competitors are more attractive to prospective clients than you are. Blow them out of the water by positioning yourself as an expert even if you don’t feel like one yet.
Laurie Itkin is a financial advisor with Coastwise Capital Group and a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA). She is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Every Woman Should Know Her Options: Invest Your Way to Financial Empowerment.” In the book, she describes the steps she took to grow a $1,600 inheritance she received at 24 into a million-dollar portfolio before she turned 40.
Laurie specializes in educating and empowering women of all ages to take control of their money, become successful investors, and grow the money they work so hard to earn. She specializes in teaching conservative options strategies to reduce risk when investing in the stock market. She also provides professional money management for clients without the time or inclination to manage their own portfolios. Individuals and couples contemplating divorce hire her to help them navigate the financial impacts of divorce including property division and child and spousal support.
Laurie regularly appears on San Diego’s Fox 5 News as a financial expert.
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