I recently received an email that ended with a line that looked something like this: "Since you're such a thought leader in the freelance writing space, I'd love to get your opinion."

Wait a minute -- what? A thought leader? It's a buzzword you'll hear a lot today, but it was never a term I had dreamed of assigning to myself.

But, after some further thought, I realized something: As arrogant as it might make me feel, I guess I could put myself in that category. I have skills, valuable experience, and helpful insights to share on the topics I'm passionate about -- and, isn't that the very definition of a thought leader?

After that brief ego-inflating session, I began to think about exactly how I positioned myself in this way. How did I establish myself as a supposed thought leader -- without necessarily intending to do so?

Here are six tactics I used to gain some respect, legitimacy, and authority in my chosen field.

1. Creating valuable content.

Forging a reputation as a thought leader all starts with creating content. Whether it's articles on your own blog, guest posts on another site, or a newsletter that you send out periodically, think of some way that you can get your voice out into the world.

Obviously, I make my living as a writer -- which means I have tons of content out there and available. But, in order to establish more of a personal brand, I also started my own website and a newsletter where I could share tips and advice for other people who were hoping to pursue careers as writers.

Not a writer like me? Don't worry -- that's not a requirement of pulling this step off. The important thing is to have solid insights to share, whether that's through long-form articles or even simple tweets.

2. Providing advice.

Answering questions is another effective way to establish yourself as a thought leader. By sharing your expertise in a way that benefits others, you not only brand yourself as an expert -- but also someone who's willing to help and build other people up.

If nobody's reaching out to ask for your advice quite yet? No problem. Turn to platforms like Quora or Reddit to find relevant questions you can provide a thorough and helpful answer to.

3. Engaging with others.

While it's tempting to think that thought leaders just broadcast their own beliefs and opinions to anyone who will listen, fostering more of a collaborative atmosphere is a great way to gain some credibility in your chosen field and incorporate more of a community into your brand.

Pose a question on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or, leave a comment on someone else's blog post or article with your own two cents (respectfully, of course). You'll start a conversation, while also proving that you're open to other viewpoints.

4. Having an opinion.

In order to be considered a thought leader, you need to be just that -- a leader. People who establish authority don't just spit out the same things that have already been said 100 times.

No, they're not afraid to stray from the status quo or even share a point that's a little controversial.

You don't want to say anything that makes you uncomfortable. But, if there's an issue you want to take a stand on, don't be afraid to do so.

5. Getting personal.

Thought leadership involves branding yourself in a certain way. However, the very concept of branding can feel a little impersonal -- as if you're a car or a handbag, rather than an actual living, breathing person.

People admire thought leaders not only for their insights, but also for who they are as people. So, it's not a bad thing to let people in on those little tidbits that make you who you are.

Whether you're training for a triathlon or you're an avid baker, it's more than alright to give people a look into the entirety of you -- and not just your professional side.

6. Investing the time.

There's no way around it--establishing and maintaining a reputation as a thought leader requires some commitment.

Be forewarned: You won't just slap up one blog post and see an immediate payoff. Instead, it's going to involve some time and some consistent effort.

Continue chipping away at it using these different tips and tactics. After a while? You might just be pleasantly surprised by the reputation you've built for yourself.

Published on: Sep 25, 2017