Becoming an authority in your field is not a requirement to have a successful consulting business.
In fact, based on my research, I’d estimate that 90%+ of independent consultants choose not to build their authority.
You can remain an “invisible expert”, unknown to all but your referral network, and have a successful business. This works if your network contains the right people, and you take active steps to keep growing that network, and you learn how to ask for referrals effectively.
You could even choose the “dark side” and use outbound techniques, like cold calling, email outreach, and LinkedIn messaging.
If you do choose the path to authority, it’s not an easy road.
You will need to specialize. As the saying goes: “the recognized authority… in their field”. There’s no such thing as a “generalist authority”.
You will need to pick a viable niche when you specialize. It must be a problem that someone will pay to have solved.
You will need to develop your distinct point of view. This evolves over time.
You will need to publish your thinking — in public — on a regular basis. This helps with point of view, growing an audience, and developing your niche expertise.
If you do these things correctly, in time you will become a true domain expert, and become known as that expert to a wider audience.
You will be asked to share your knowledge — perhaps invited to guest on podcasts, speak at conferences, or write a column or guest article.
Some benefits of choosing authority include the ability to command significantly higher fees, less time spent on client work, and the ability to choose alternative business models.