Build Credibility First

Let's say there are two gardeners: John and Jenn.

Both are capable of maintaining your lawn, how would you choose which one to hire?

It is likely not how they look. Not how they talk. Not how many years of experience they have.

It comes down to one thing.

Who do you trust more to do an excellent job?

If Jenn has a website with recommendations from happy customers and her story is featured on the Gardener Magazine, and John has nothing but a business card, you're going to instantly raise Jenn's credibility level and choose her for the job.

Why's that?

Our brain is wired in a special way that we make decisions based on credibility, not perceived value. We build up trust based on the information we see and let that influence our decisions.

Once the credibility is established, whatever a person says or does, it is always better.

This is why testimonials and social proof have become a big part of the online world. I put up this wall from Testimonial built by an indie hacker @damonchen on my homepage to let people instantly find out whether I'm trustworthy.

Kevon's credibility wall

This is what I have on KevonCheung.com's homepage.

But, the important question is:

When tech founders and creators are just starting out, how can they effectively build up their online credibility? How should they think about it?

Break it down to baby steps

This is my way of breaking down how human perceives credibility.

If it is very hard to achieve one thing, and you achieve it, we tend to think you're qualified to get there. And that makes you more trusted.

Here are some examples.

  • It "must be" extremely hard to meet with the President. If Jessica has done that, she must be a qualified person to meet with the President.
  • Or it "must be" difficult to get on Tim Ferriss' podcast. If Dave is on the show, he must be a qualified person to get on the show.

I use quotations on "must be" because it is all about how hard we perceive the task to be. Everyone could have a different level of difficulty. For example, if your uncle happens to know Barack Obama, then it is not surprising that you could easily get a photo with the former President at a country club.

So every achievement is placed on a scale from easy to achieve to hard to achieve. Achieving closer to the easy side means you'd gain a tiny bit of credibility, and closer to the hard side means a ton of credibility.

If we put this concept onto the online world, the scale looks like this:

Credibility Scale

These are the most common achievements for tech founders and creators. Can you point out where your credibility level is right now?

To be able to achieve something on the harder side of the scale, you need credibility from things that come from the easier side.

If your dream is to become a book author and you haven't published any articles or done any interviews, your chance of success is slim because you don't have credibility.

But if you have an active Twitter account with 5,000 followers and have written dozens of articles on this topic, you've built up your credibility to be qualified to launch a book.

This is exactly how I approached my journey to become a writer and content creator 4 months ago.

I started writing tweets and articles which got people's attention. Then I created a free definite guide on #BuildingInPublic which was read by 2,100 people in the first 3 days. With that, I have an email course to help people make real Twitter friends. I then start to speak on podcasts about #BuildingInPublic, storytelling, relationship building, etc.

Remember this.

Work your credibility up by achieving things on the easy to hard scale, one baby step at a time.

Get endorsed by real people

The baby step approach gives you a roadmap to increase your own credibility.

But we live in a world that is run by people, so getting affirmation from real people helps to make big leaps in lifting your credibility.

When someone endorses your name or work, it is a strong signal of trust because they're associating their reputation with your reputation.

And this is not something we do for anybody.

More importantly, this person's credibility level spills over to your credibility level. For example, if Elon Musk says you're the man to watch in the micro-SaaS space. Then you get his credibility level, which is a huge jump.

I was endorsed by Preetam Nath who has 5,000+ followers and is an influencer in the SaaS space. This helped me a lot.

Get Endorsed

Once you get that going. When you can get different respected people to endorse you regularly, you're establishing yourself as "somebody".

To get an endorsement, it is almost always based on strong and mutual relationships.

Building an audience has been a popular trend recently. Everyone is busy growing their social following. Most beginners focus on the follower count, while people who deeply understand how this works know that it is based on meaningful relationships and interactions.

Online success depends on online relationships. And to have those, you have to understand how online relationships work and the techniques to craft them.

Accumulate evidence

Unless you're a celebrity with a manager, no one is going to promote you, except yourself.

You want to take every chance to capture positive things people say about you. It could be a tweet, a post, an email, a written note, or anything.

Do yourself a favor. Be your own promoter.

If you're the type of person that sees this as bragging, then do this with me.

Think of that one person online you admire a lot. What is her online personality like? Does she post endorsement notes given by other people?

Chances are she is genuine and kind and you absolutely enjoy her presence. And chances are she occasionally posts endorsements on her social account.

And you still like her. Why?

As long as you're humble in your everyday life, one or two brags in a while aren't killing your reputation. They're happy you want to share with others. Just don't overdo it.

Fake it

Can you boost your credibility artificially? Yes. Almost everything in our world can be faked.

You could pay someone to write a book for you. You could pay to get featured on most media. You could create a new company and call yourself the CEO.

The truth is most people do it and it is part of the game of our society. It is a rat race to see who can get more credibility quickly.

But ... if people can fake it, people can also find out it's fake.

So, my advice is to not let this influence how you think about building your credibility. Take no shortcuts.

If you use the method above and plan your baby steps, work hard to achieve harder and harder things, I can guarantee you that you'll have strong credibility and it will be long-standing.

This article was originated from my blog where I write about building business, #BuildingInPublic, storytelling, etc.

I went through the hard lessons to figure this out. Is this how you hackers & creators think about your new projects or products too? Love to hear your perspectives about this!

  1. 3


    I was nodding my head every other sentence.

    Thanks for writing this, great lessons in there.

    About trust, I would just add one more thing.

    I think trust is a tribal instinct.

    We trust people who are in our tribe. What Seth Godin calls -- "People like us, do things like this"

    It's very important to first recognize the tribe you want to be a part of, and then go about building trust there, and get endorsements from people of that tribe.

    You don't want the "credibility spillover" of someone whose tribe you don't belong to.

  2. 2

    Really helpful advice and reminder. Not faking it and being honest is one of the best things we can do. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. 2

      Very welcome :) I'm glad you enjoyed reading it!

  3. 2

    Build a product/create content people are interested is probably the first step :)

    1. 1

      Yes hahah! No matter what you build, that's def important! Otherwise even a tweet won't take off.

      1. 1

        I'm glad that your style & information creates traction and your happy to share it. I have to become an expert first, before I could build credibility. I think it depends also on the target audience your product aims at. In your example, your trying to promote your "building in public"-guide. Which is fine, so your target audience is exactly where you are: Twitter, indiehacker etc.

        For me, I'm thinking about a SaaS that helps companies to boost employee engangement. Main target audience are people working in the HR-department of a company. I have to find out where HR-people spend their time on the internet. Twitter might be one source, but there might be other. Anyway, what I'm actually trying to say is, that your "road to success" is applicable "how a person becomes famous in a certain community". But not necessarily applicable for a product. Sorry in case I'm bashing here. Please don't take it personally. You get a lot of positive responses. I only realized some bits and pieces that changed my way of thinking and writing here helps me to sort my thoughts :)

        1. 1

          Hey Hannes, all good, I'm always open for a productive discussion :)

          I think you're absolutely right. My example is applicable in my case, but for other people creating other sorts of products, the scale will show different things.

          I think you can still create some credibility if you target HR. E.g. I know HR are active on LinkedIn and Slack groups like PeopleGeek, PeoplePeople. If you can first go in there and be active and share good content e.g. articles, that's also the "easier item on your scale". With that, you become a credible person in the community. Do you think this would work? Or not really?

          1. 1

            hi kevon. Agreed.

            I think it is necessary to distinguish how you want to appear in front of the target audience. If you want to promote yourself, then credibility is important. If you want to promote a SaaS, then the product itself is important.

            E.g. car manufacturer are know for building a car, not driving it.
            That means for my example (SaaS for employee engagement), I personally may not have to become a credible person known for "employee engagement" in a HR-related community. The product has to be good and if then a credible person of that community picks it up and recommends, then I have a win. I think that is a form of "influencer marketing". Your post covers this in the paragraph "Get endorsed by real people". Thanks for the conversation. It affects me;)

  4. 1

    This is great Kevon! I really like the part you said “ Do yourself a favor. Be your own promoter.”

    Upvoted! Thanks for sharing✌️

    1. 1

      Thanks Darren :D!

  5. 1

    Really nice sharing there, Kevon!

    I've included a few of your blog posts on my GrowthHunt.co


    1. 1

      Awesome! Thanks for including my writing :)

    1. 2

      You make me happy - glad it inspires a little!

  6. 1

    This comment was deleted 7 months ago.

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