Credibility, like trust, can be hard to earn – but very easy to lose. Establishing your professional reputation and building credibility is about more than having a sharp website, well designed business cards, or numerous ebooks and webinars to your name. It’s about delivering value to your clients consistently, and always improving your skills.

If you’re just starting out in your career, or this is your first foray into entrepreneurship, this may seem daunting, but here are 3 Golden Rules that will guide you in building professional credibility.

1) Stick to what you know

I love marketing. I love branding. I love discussing how companies pull together campaigns to sell even the most mundane products. But I’m no expert. Which is why I haven’t hung out my shingle as a brand or marketing consultant – I just don’t have the chops to back it up, even if I do have the passion. Establishing professional credibility is best done when you have a strong foundation of expertise in your field.

2) Admit when you don’t know

To me, one of the scariest things is when someone always has an answer to my questions. Always. Building credibility can mean admitting when you don’t know the answer to something. It shows that you’re not driven by ego, but instead by a desire to give the best advice or service to your client. That said, if you’re finding yourself repeatedly lacking the knowledge needed to address customer concerns or questions, revisiting Golden Rule #1 is recommended…is there another area of expertise you may be better suited to working with?

3) Find out, and follow up!

Admitting that you don’t know something is only one part of building credibility. What really cements it – and strengthens your reputation and likelihood of earning repeat business or a referral – is a timely follow up to your client with the answer. Leverage your network to find someone with the expertise. Research or experiment to create your own response. Ensuring that you’re constantly enriching your skill set and increasing your value to your clients is the best way to confirm your professional reputation.

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