Reputation Equity: Why building an online reputation is important for Freelancers?

Reputation Equity

Online reputation is a communal consensus of sorts that you have been on a certain platform for a long time and have contributed towards it. It might/might-not establish you as an expert or authority figure, but it certainly does vouch for your seriousness, dedication and attachment to the platform, or what I affectionately call The Engagement Period.

Ask anyone who has worked towards developing an online reputation, will tell you there is no shortcut to it. It takes a lot of digital blood, sweat and tears!

The end result is what I (again) affectionately call: Reputation Equity.


Let me give you the bad news, it takes a minimum of 1-2 years to build a decent online reputation equity. Folks with stellar online reputation equity would have spent more than 4-5 years building and maintaining it.

So what exactly is Reputation Equity?

Reputation equity is a mix of other non-monetary forms of equity. My personal formula for Reputation equity is as follows:

Reputation Equity


The formula: Reputation Equity = [Social Equity + Patience Equity + Knowledge Equity + Network Equity + Pro Bono Equity] / Selfishness is explained as follows:

To explain each of the variables:

  • Social Equity: How you are connected on the various platforms and how engaging (or social) you are online, do you engage often and can be relied upon to reply back or converse with. Too many platforms might be difficult to handle, too few and your visibility might be restricted. Keep a healthy balance of half-a-dozen to a dozen platforms where you regularly interact and contribute to.
  • Patience Equity: Your patience level and how tolerable you are with helping other, waiting for others to respond back and most importantly your patience in how things will grow and fan out.
  • Knowledge Equity: Perhaps the most influencing factor. Your domain knowledge, i.e, what you are good at. If you are a subject matter expert and you bring that a particular set of skill-set / expertise into the equation, you are guaranteeing to have a strong Reputation Equity:
  • Network Equity: How vast or extensive is your network directly proportional to your area of specialty. If you have 10,000s of connections from all over the place, you have what I would call a loose network. If you’re connected to 1000s of people and they are mostly in your area of specialty, then you have a strong network. What makes your network authoritative is when subject matter experts have you in their network. It is not about how many people you know, but rather how many people know you.
  • Pro Bono Equity: How much time are you willing to spend to help others for free, without asking for anything in return? That is what Pro Bono equity is all about, your ability to donate time & effort.
  • Selfishness: This is what really affects your Reputation Equity, and here is the best part. You don’t get to assign this score. Others do. If they deem you to be very selfish, then your Reputation Equity goes down drastically. If then deem you to hardly selfish, then your score shoots up.

What does it take to build an online reputation?

Building an online reputation starts with first highlighting a platform you want to genuinely want to associate with. Nomenclature not withstanding a platform could be a portal, forum, Q&A site, Blog, Online Community, SIGs, Mailing List, Social Media platform, Audio/Video channel, etc.

Any online digital workspace where your contributions can be aggregated and acknowledged.

Having opted for an online platform(s), your next goal is to regularly set aside time everyday to contribute and engage. This is where many aspiring folks underestimate the commitment required. It takes a minimum of 1-2 years to build an online reputation, for subject-matter specialists, the time line is more like 3-5 years.

There is no short-cut to this timeframe. None.

You would have to take into consideration all the six elements of the Reputation Equity equation and work on them.

Some noteworthy points:

  • Content is King (or if I may borrow a term from Poker, it is Royal Flush).
  • Don’t ever attempt to buy You cannot.
  • Build your network.
  • Help others, especially newbies/NKOBs
  • Read a lot.
  • Comment and engage.
  • Don’t hold back praise.
  • Google is your friend, value your time and that of others.
  • Don’t be confrontational just to be different. Feel free to disagree.
  • You cannot fake it till you make it.
  • Accept constructive criticism.
  • Never BS or lie online. You will be torn to shreds.
  • Karma works on the internet.
  • Understand that there is a difference between critiquing and criticizing.
  • Remember that white-paper you read, or the video you saw? Or the PowerPoint presentation you downloaded? Someone made it. Take a minute out to thank them.
  • Contribute information on to the web.
  • Opinions are like a**holes. Everyone has one.
  • Don’t let the attention get to your head. Be humble. Humility is your greatest asset.
  • Continual learning. Obsolescence sets in very quickly.
  • Remember there are over 180+ countries in the world. Be cognizant of that.
  • Try to publish as much open-source material you can, so that others can use it.
  • Apply a creative commons license to your work, so others know that they can use your material without getting into trouble.
  • Stop thinking about SEO and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) – think unique, informative, helpful content.
  • Focus. Focus. There is a reason why we say, Jack of all trades, Master of none. The internet is looking for Masters, not Jacks.
  • It is alright to be the unsung hero!

Why is Online Reputation important? How does Reputation Equity come into play?

I could write paragraphs and paragraphs, but nothing explains it as well as the picture below. Let us say you want to hire a logo designer for your company, which one would you choose? A or B?

Reputation Equity

Unless you’re playing Bingo, one would assume you will opt for Logo Designer B. Long-term, engaged contribution by Logo Designer B helps make your choice in deciding easier.

Reputation Equity

Reputation is built using many variable, one of which is Content. The key component, whether you are a novice, rogue, expert, conman or genuine is the content that can be attributed to you.

Content, when placed and spaced over time is something you cannot find a way around. There is no way (generally), a person can suddenly try to hack the system by putting out more authoritative content in a short measure of time. Google knows this all too well.

Spaced out contribution and original content is one of the key variables on how you would be ranked in Google, amongst probably 1000s of other variables.

Reputation Equity also has other rewards. Others would want to associate themselves with you. Your administrative rights on forums might be elevated. You get complimentary access to conferences or other events. People will want and value your opinion. Other experts will be willing to help you out as well (provided you promise to do the same). The good stuff happens when people can discover your work, your contributions, recommendations by others and in general find you above the noise.

The best time to start is today…

The old age Chinese saying “A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”. Nothing sums it up better than this statement.

If you don’t have Reputation Equity, you will struggle for business, communication and attention. Rather than fretting over the past and present, hone in your energy and skills on the future. You must have a picture in your mind of how you would like to look online in say one year from now. That is the very minimum of a goal, you should set.

Have a social media strategy in play. Mark your calendar every day (including weekends) on how you plan to spend time contributing and working on all the five elements of the Reputation Equity formula. Set aside time for reading, writing papers, updating and interacting on social media, sharing, commenting, authoring new content, working on short, medium and long term projects, etc. Set aside all the little task lists that would help shape your digital identity and online reputation and slowly nibble away at them. Even if you spend 30 minutes a day, that is a whole lot better than spending no time at all.

One year down the road, I promise, you will be a much more accomplished person online. Just don’t give up.

In closing, I want to leave you with these two images that have had a huge impact on me:


This page was last updated on November 14, 2015.

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