It feels weird to call yourself an expert. Egotistical, even. It’s much better to leave that designation to a third party.
For years I was of that opinion; frightened by the word expert. Afraid of what it meant. Afraid of the responsibility. Afraid of the reactions. Afraid of the unknown.
Then in 2010 I landed a dream speaking gig at a marketing conference. This was a big-budget conference, and they hired copywriters to write bios for each speaker. It was my first time having a written bio.
The writer (patiently) interviewed me for 30 minutes as I rambled on about my love for Google Analytics, AdWords and digital marketing in general. It was like suffering through Smeagol talking about his precious. We get it, you are psycho for Google.
Miraculously, that writer was able to pull those thoughts into a coherent narrative. They turned my passion into a positive. They turned my ramblings into enticing copy, making me sound interesting to the audience. They must have been drunk, because at one point they even called me an expert.
It was the first time I remember being called an expert.
At first I was shocked.
Eventually, I started to believe it.
Don’t wait for the words to catch up
If Jeff from 2010 had the perspective of Jeff ’17? He would self-declare his expertise 5 years earlier; the day he signed that first AdWords contract and started delivering 10x improvements for clients.
Confidence in his expertise would bring results faster. Along with the spoils of notoriety, recognition and opportunities.
But it didn’t happen that way. It took 5 years of peak-performance, paired with third-party validation to consider myself an expert.
That’s five years of missed opportunities.
All expertise is local
This post was inspired by a tweet I came across this morning.
A lot of amazing people don’t speak at conferences because they think speaking requires being an expert. It doesn’t. At all.
— Saron (@saronyitbarek) August 29, 2017
The rest of the morning was spent trying to interpret the deeper meaning.
Was the author implying that most speakers are terrible? Or were they implying that all you need to deliver a good talk is passion? Maybe a little of both?
No matter the interpretation, the message rings true.
Expertise is relative. Expertise is local. Expertise is confidence that you can get the job done; on stage or delivering work for clients.
Are you confident you will get the job done? Then you have the necessary expertise.
That doesn’t mean you have all the knowledge. You never will.
But it means that you are resourceful enough to solve problems.
If you are still in business, then you are an expert
Here’s your third-party validation: You are an expert. Or you are well on your way. Anything else is a limiting belief.
In the digital marketing world, there is no governing body of expertise. There is no board of experts that reads over your credentials and provides you with an expert seal of approval.
It all comes down to your ability to deliver. If a client asked you to deliver on a project, would they be happy with the results?
Your answer should be “absolutely,” as long as you put in the time. As long as you make the effort.
Consultants often confuse knowledge levels with their ability to deliver results. They become afraid to charge what they are worth, because they don’t feel they have enough knowledge.
Here’s a secret: You will never have all the knowledge. But you can always Google the answer. Don’t waste time waiting for perfect, when most clients are only expecting good enough.
Yes, you should always seek knowledge. Yes, you need to grow. No, these are not the same as expertise.
Don’t sell yourself short
Are you capable of producing the results your client seeks? Then you are an expert.
When it comes to delivering work to clients, all expertise is local. In a one-to-one situation, you are the expert in the room.
Think about it: a prospective client wants to hire you for one of two reasons:
- They don’t have enough time to execute their plans, so they are buying yours.
- They believe that you have the expertise to get the job done, so they are buying yours.
When a client seeks your expertise, rarely are they pitting several “experts” against each other in a battle-royal, cage-match situation.
They are looking to work with someone they trust.
Can you be trusted?
Everything else is superficial
Don’t worry about people who have been doing it longer or are more decorated. There is very little chance you will be going head-to-head with them in the same room.
Don’t worry about years of experience. There is no governing body of expertise. No agency scoring system. An expert is an expert.
Everyone is equal in the eyes of results.
Stop focusing on levels of expertise; they don’t exist.
Stop focusing on acquiring every piece of knowledge; our brains are incapable.
Throw everything out the window and focus on answering one question.
Can you deliver results?
Great post, Jeff. “Everyone is equal in the eyes of results” is one of the best quotes I’ve read in a while. Thanks for your continued insights!
I really like the distinction you make between effort + results and knowledge + expertise. It’s exhausting to chase knowledge in hopes of building your “expertise”.
Thank You Jeff.
There was so many good points to take home, helping to get over those “not good enough for that job”,”not having UNI degree, to do that job” conditioned thinking patterns.All thanx to this “let’s compare them against eachother” ideology what society has thrown upon.And all so happily following it.