You're Not An Expert, Shut Your Mouf!

Last Update: June 01, 2022

I had a discussion in the Live Chat here at WA a few days back that was very intriguing. It was the idea that if you are not an expert at something, that you shouldn't be qualified to help others in that given niche. In other words, if you are not an "expert", shut up.

This is misguided for many reasons, so I thought I would spend some time elaborating on the idea of expertise, and what defines that within the online world. Can you be an expert in a new niche? How could you ethically qualify yourself as an expert? What even is an expert?

Lots of questions around this topic are confusing, complex, and often times misunderstood. Let's dive into this topic.

Can YOU Be An Expert in a New Niche?

10 years ago I wrote an article on "organic milk benefits or children". This was a trending search at the time, and I wanted to monopolize on this for a case study. This article predated me having children (I have two girls now), so I didn't have a lot of familiarity with this segment. I also didn't have any experience within the Dairy industry, though my mom worked as an account for a dairy when I was much younger...which didn't equate to any useful knowledge, other than FREE buckets of ice cream on the regular.

So what I did, was I spent some time researching the content. I learned about organic milk, and I learned about the benefits of it over non-organic, and then I investigated why this would be beneficial to children, whom I learned consume milk at a much higher rate than adults.

Then I wrote the article based on my research (see below)

The result, an article that ranked #1 in Google for well over 8 years and received 10,000's of unique visitors. It drove a great deal of Adsense revenue, though that was not my intent (it was done more as a case study). And at the end of the day I was able to help a lot of people understand the organic milk benefits for children, and attain a much higher level of knowledge about this topic ass a result of my article.

Would you deem me as a child expert, or a dairy expert, or anything remotely close to an expert at this topic? No. Was I able to help people, and did Google view my article as being the best one available on the topic for 8 years running

The answer is Yes.

Most people view an expert as someone that has spent 10 years perfecting a practice. As Malcolm Gladwell indicated, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. While that may remain true for becoming an expert violinist or expert in a niche in an online business doesn't have to be expert at the trade.

I can create a basketball blog, and the top one in the world, without playing in the NBA. I could help people learn how to shoot a free throw, and become a well-skilled player. I could effectively review products/services in the industry and provide detailed insight.

I can become a million dollar food YouTuber without going to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, France. In fact, I would argue that going to that school and even thriving as a chef doesn't make you any more qualified to teach the subject from someone that creates well researched, and easy to understand content created on Youtube.

And that leads me to the concern of "ethics", and the relationship between expertise and authority.

    How Could You Ethically qualify yourself as an expert?

    There is a great concern about the ethics about offering "advice" on a topic, that perhaps you haven't spent 20 years involved in.

    For an example of this, that runs in parallel with expertise and authority, is our Judicial system and in particular, judges. Most people don't realize that a judge is a lawyer, that has been moved up the chain of command to become

    Lawyers get their expertise in a particular practice. They could be a defamation lawyer, a divorce lawyer, and land titles' lawyer. The thing is, it isn't dependent on their expertise on a particular subject rather their understanding of how the legal system works. It is unlikely that within 90% of the cases they get, they will understand the actual case law, as they will be irrelevant to their experience. They could be a divorce lawyer, judging a defamation case. So they are not experts, rather they are authorities.

    Now this is just one example of many. The thing is, if you understand how to research, you can effectively and ethically become an authority in any niche. Your goal is to teach people, to help people, to inform people, and to help them solve their existing problems.

    I can't sew. I can teach people how to sew online. I can't play a guitar. I can surely help people learn how to play a guitar online. I am a borderline decent chef, I could create a thriving food blog (and even Youtube channel) online.

    And in the process, I could create MUCH better content than what is out there. I could inform people better. I could offer better product reviews than current exist. I could help people, and in the process create a brand that people trust.

    Without an ounce of prior knowledge. And done so ethically.

    So you become an expert with experience in a craft, but you become an AUTHORITY by helping others gain experience at a craft. You can become both of these as you immerse yourself within any niche. If you are already an expert at something, you will still need to learn how to educate people and help others gain expertise. That is your ultimate goal.

    So Again, What Even is an Expert?

    That is the question I want you to once again, think about. What is an expert? YOU are an expert, at anything you want.

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    Recent messages
    kizakovic Premium
    Kyle, thank you for clarifying and demystifying the issue that plagues most bloggers. Thanks also to the others for their comments and especially to LDSewell for supplementing Kyle phenomenally, sharing his experience with the rest of us, and adding value to the post.
    It is common knowledge that public education with its poor program has not contributed much to the education of the population. That is why self-education is the right path for someone who is really eager for knowledge. Especially nowadays when so much information is available. But such a huge amount of information requires both criticality and the ability to distinguish the quality and verified information from bad
    which is also the lack of self-education and gathering information on such a huge medium as the Internet.

    This article-post and the comments with it are very useful and motivating.

    Thank you all for your contribution.
    Kyle Premium Plus
    Self education, and the capability of educators are things that are going to remain very important moving forward. We can educate one another, we can speed up the process of educating one another...and we can become authorities in the process.

    Really glad you enjoyed this article! ;)
    SCannella Premium
    This is perfect! I think the feeling of imposter syndrome can creep in like we haven’t been doing this forever, or the niche we’re selling we aren’t an “expert” and don’t belong actuallly doing this. But we do belong doing this if we are sharing real info, and being honest. And I’ll take help from anyone. We can keep what helps and leave the rest
    Kyle Premium Plus
    An expert is your ability to help someone accomplish something. That is not dependent on you being skilled at something, it is dependent on your ability to be able to help others.
    SCannella Premium
    mrtbone Premium
    The obvious is black and white, night and day...
    "...goal is to teach people, to help people, to inform people, and to help them solve their existing problems."

    I certainly don't have a problem to do that (thanks for the advice btw Kyle) but I can understand if certain ones think it'is unethical then all the best to them as they venture off into new endeavors.
    Kyle Premium Plus
    It is unethical to have a lot of experience, and assume you can help others learn the same. It it ethical if you have or don't have experience, and you focus on helping others accomplish something, learn something new, or capture information that they don't currently have available to them.
    west2000 Premium
    What an intriguing question that I know I have asked myself as well...what qualifies anyone to truly be an expert in something. Your analysis has helped simplify that idea for me now. Being able to teach someone to learn a skill is probably the biggest takeaway that would make someone an expert...not necessarily defined by time. Learn to research, grab your confidence and become that expert. Thanks, Kyle!

    LDSewell Premium
    One of the most important things to learn in life - is to learn how to learn.

    How to systematically research and gather information on ANY topic. Then how to analyze it all and make it make sense to other people to which you disseminate that information to.

    I joined the Navy and became an Operations Specialist (OS) when I was 17/18 years old. The job was exactly that - to collect, process, analyze and disseminate tactical information.

    This is also where and how I became an Instructor for the first time long ago.

    I had only been aboard my first ship for a little while when I was told there were a couple of new guys checking in and I was assigned to train them on specific topics.

    At first, I protested that I was just out of school and still learning myself, and basically didn't know much yet. The response was " You know more than they do..."

    That was an epiphany and a key moment in my life.
    I conducted my first-ever training session - it went great. They were appreciative and even asked a few questions which I answered.

    That was a long time ago (I am 58 now so you do the math if you like) and I have been an instructor ever since on a variety of subjects and topics both in the military and out.

    I have taught real estate principles, real estate investing, truck driving fundamentals, and all kinds of trucking-related courses both in-person and online. I set up and ran a truck driving school and an internal driver training program for a motor carrier (trucking company) for many years.

    During all that time, I trained thousands of people face to face. Since then I started teaching online courses and have trained thousands more with my courses.

    So longer story a bit shorter - I do agree with you.

    All that anyone needs to be able to teach others is more information than the other people currently have - AND the ability to clearly communicate what they do know.

    I would add to that HONESTY. Which is one thing that is too often lacking with too many people online especially. In other words, people can not teach what they do not yet know and their potential students can usually smell BS a mile away.

    Besides that there is no legitimate reason to try that - people are simply better off teaching what they actually know through either their own in-depth research, study and or experiences.

    Then as they develop more knowledge their level of teaching will increase. At first, maybe they teach only introductory information, then intermediate, then advanced, and finally mastery level training.

    How long it takes to gather that kind of information depends on the motivation of each person to seek it out and learn what they need to know to be able to be an authority and or instructor (specialist) on said topics.

    Having said all that - there are a few things people should NOT be teaching until and unless they have real-world experience sufficient to be able to do so.

    That would include how to drive a tractor-trailer or fly an airplane or ride a motorcycle for example. There are specific things there that come from experience doing it and without which any instruction can be (and often is) fatally flawed - and which can literally be fatal to the unsuspecting student who relies upon incompetent instruction from an incompetent instructor.

    Beyond those such things - all other topics can be taught by anyone at varying levels.

    Even the topics that are critical skills related (life and death) can also be learned in time with effort and once learned properly can be taught effectively.

    As to the term "expert" - it is far too often overused. It is also totally unnecessary in any business-related arena, in my opinion.

    Sadly most people who announce themselves to be experts are usually anything but - yet simply trying to use the term to sell whatever they are selling.

    Regardless of what terms one prefers - the more important thing is gathering the required information and learning it to the level necessary to teach it at the desired level.

    And to do that honestly without smoke and mirrors and BS.

    Personally, I prefer the terms Instructor, Consultant, Specialist, Authority, and Coach.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking article Kyle.

    Best regards,

    L.D. Sewell
    VickieBiku Premium
    Thanks for adding to this topic.

    Learning to learn and being honest are hugely important.

    And I like your alternate terms! In my current role I've been termed a specialist but have always struggled with imposter syndrome because I'm self taught.

    If there's anything I've learned here it's that in a way, were all self taught.
    LDSewell Premium
    My pleasure - and thanks.

    The "imposter syndrome" you mention is also something that is very common and we all experience to a point.

    Yet when we push on through and do the things we need to do to become better at our chosen craft (thing/subject/topic etc.) then we become confident through doing it.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with being self-taught (which really means self-directed education as we all do get information from other people/sources).

    That is indeed a critical skill, and one that will serve you well in all aspects of life.

    Best regards,

    L.D. Sewell
    Kyle Premium Plus
    This is excellent L.D. and thank for adding such value to the overall discussion. This is a complex topic, and a lot of people are confused about their ability to DO versus their ability to help others DO. There is a big difference, and you can be great at both, or you can be great at just one of these.