You don’t have to be an expert

Matt Donley Choosing Your Topic

Many people dismiss the idea of building an online how-to business because they feel like they aren’t an expert at what they do. But that’s not necessarily true, and even if it is, it’s not the most important requirement for starting an online business.

Your job is to organize and present information

You Don't Have to be an ExpertThe value you provide has less to do with what you KNOW, and more to do with how good you are at finding information, learning it, and formatting it in a way that is easy to understand and follow. You don’t have to know everything about your subject, you just need to know enough to be able to identify and distill good and valuable information.

You’ll find out that the more you write about your niche, the more you will become the expert. In many cases, there is no shortage of information on a topic online, or in books. Sometimes, that’s exactly the problem. There might be so much information about something that people get overloaded, and don’t know what’s most important to learn. People can relate to you more by sharing your journey as you learn about a topic.

Your job is to be able to identify GOOD information, format it in a way that is easy to understand, and present it to your followers so they can learn. If you can become known as a resource on your topic, you will eventually gain trust, credibility, and authority in your field. This is the key to being able to build a business around providing free, how-to content.

Not knowing is sometimes an advantage

There are times when not knowing how to do something can be an advantage to you. For example, On my 3D modeling website I might write a tutorial on how to use a certain tool. Let’s say, it’s the “Gizmo tool”.

If I haven’t used the Gizmo tool very much, I’d poke around with it, and see if I could figure out how it works. More than likely I’ll get stuck on something, and have to do some research on Google to find an answer. At that point, I’ll stumble across a forum where there’s a whole thread of people saying “Why the heck does the Gizmo tool get stuck when I’m trying to use it on round objects?”

Upon further research, I might discover that you need to hold down SHIFT to use the Gizmo tool on round objects.

As you can see, there are always going to be things that people get hung up on when learning anything. Most likely, if one person has trouble with it, there’s going to be someone else out there with the same exact problem. So by going through the motions from the perspective of a new user, I’m able to capture these obstacles that are most common for people learning the software.

If I had been an expert user, I might not think twice about holding SHIFT to use the gizmo tool, and it would never occur to me to put that in the tutorial. It would be so obvious for me.

Even though I didn’t know the answer when I began the tutorial, I take the responsibility to do the research to make sure I’m providing the most accurate, helpful information on that topic.

In my opinion, the best tutorials are those that take the person by the hand and walk them through each and every step. That way, even if they’ve never done it before, they’ll be able to pull it off. The closer you can get to a new users’ perspective, the better you’ll be at writing the tutorial.

You can gain credibility by borrowing experience

Another strategy for gaining authority, trust, and credibility is by interviewing known experts. This can be in the form of a podcast, video, blog post, or any other medium you can think of. If you were to produce 100% of your content all by yourself, the burden of proof that you are credible lies on your shoulders.

But if you can have other experts in your field contribute content to your business in one way or another, that’s instant credibility. You can essentially borrow all of their experience and knowledge, and attach it to your brand to a certain degree. It’s a permanent endorsement from other experts in your field, and that is very valuable. Gary Vaynerchuck talks about this with Pat Flynn on the SPI podcast.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have relationships with any experts in your field right now, you should think about how you can build relationships with them over time. They may look at you as a nobody right now, but just wait until you start getting all your amazing content out there. 🙂

So make sure you spend time researching your topic on Google and social media to see who the experts are in your field. Build relationships with them over time, share their content, reach out to them (social media/email), help them out. Eventually, you might be able to ask them to guest post or record a podcast interview for your site. All the while, you’ll be learning, and YOU will become the expert.