How to overcome the “I’m not an expert” fear

doubt and fear ahead

By {grow} Community Member Sarah Santacroce

When I speak to my clients about the benefits of blogging, I often get a pair of big, frightened eyes looking at me. ‘Sarah, I’m not an expert, who would care to read my stuff?’

According to Wikipedia an expert is “A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” OK, that’s pretty impressive. What probably scares my clients is the word “authoritative” which, means a) Able to be trusted as being accurate or true; reliable, clear, authoritative information’ and b)’Considered to be the best of its kind and unlikely to be improved upon.

Fair enough, that scares me too!

Reframing the discussion

What if we replaced the word “expert” with “specialist?”

My clients seem to prefer that!  It’s not as exclusive, and if someone calls themselves a specialist, it tells me that they specialize in this topic, and has valuable knowledge and skills in this area.  You don’t have to know absolutely everything, because of course there’s always room for improvement.

In fact, even pretending to be an expert can be a negative, right?  Let’s face it, the person who pretends to know everything is just fooling themselves.  I’ve always been more impressed by someone who admits that she doesn’t have all the answers, but promised to look them up, do her research, and then report back to me.

Let’s focus on your specialty

So how does that specialist title sound to you?  Not that scary anymore, right?

You truly are a specialist at what you do, now you just need to let the world know about it. There’s no better marketing method than to position yourself as the expert/specialist and then writing about what you do.

Funny enough it’s often the same people who are scared of not being an expert, who are also not comfortable with selling their services. Well, that’s the nice thing about blogging — you don’t have to sell! You are just sharing your knowledge, educating your audience without bluntly selling your services.

Through your content people will get to see that you know your stuff and when they are ready to buy, they will contact you !

A few examples

Still not sure what you should write about? Let me give you a few examples:

  • If you are a coach, write about your coaching approach, about the most frequently asked questions you get from potential clients, a series of coaching tips, a list of inspirational quotes.
  • If you are a stylist, write about the different colors and which color fits which body type, about the latest winter fashion, about Coco Chanel or your favorite fashionista.
  • If you are a nutritionist, write about the different food groups, about your best recipes, about the good fat in avocado, about the holiday over-eating.

Do you see where I’m going with this? There’s an endless list of topics for every specialty. What are you curious about? Write about it. You just need to get over that fear and start thinking “Yes, I’m a specialist at what I do and I’m going to tell the world about it!”

I call myself a specialist in Social Media, Online Presence & Internet Marketing, NOT an expert. Far from that in fact!   I learn new things every day and there’s people out there who are way more experienced than I am. And yet you are reading my blog post 🙂

What do you think?  How are you overcoming the fear factor in blogging?

sarah santacroceSarah Santacroce is a Social Media, Internet Marketing & Virtual Event specialist. She helps small business owners and individual entrepreneurs to find their place in today’s online world. Sarah is a Swiss national, but thinks with a global mind. Read Sarah’s latest blog posts.

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  • Sarah. I was expecting a post talking about how everyone is an expert at something and that you are too, and am glad that it isn’t. (Actually – what was I thinking, this is Mark Schaefer’s blog, isn’t it?)

    Anyway, you make a valid point, being labelled ‘an expert’ causes anyone to to break out in hives. Especially when they are not one (in that particular area). ‘Specialist’ is much more acceptable and sounds legit too. However, to me, the term also sounds like some special form of training or qualification should back that up. One can become a self made expert but need some formal degree or experience to call themselves a specialist. That’s the way I see it. What do you think?

  • Thanks Marya, yes, you make a good point. Specialist comes with specialized training. I think in the old days ‘expert’ probably did too, but it’s been overused and ‘abused’ so nowadays has this bad after-taste, just like the word ‘guru’ or ‘ninja’ 😉

  • Sara Vincent

    Thanks, Sarah! I’ve faced this problem in trying to build a team of cloud computing bloggers for the I’ve also confronted it myself when I started blogging for the same. Playing with semantics a bit does make sense to reduce resistance. I suppose, though, that there’s also a flip side where you have people who *think* they are specialists — which can also be dangerous. Any insight on talking self-proclaimed specialists down?

  • Thanks for stopping by, Sara. You’re right, there’s a risk with everything online. As suggested by Marya below, specialists should come with specialized training, some kind of certification or qualification that they are willing to display when asked for. What do you think?

  • Great post Sarah. Too many times when we talk or write about business we are too focused on numbers and mathematical formulas and we forget that customers are first of all people so the choice of words and their psycological effects are essential to get good results.I think to have a comprehensive. kwnoledge of social media is rare just for the nature of social media, for the fact that almost everyday there is something new and a possible changement who could revolutionize social media.I do agree when you write that when you blog you’re not selling your
    services, at least not directly.

  • Indeed, Alessandro, Social Media changes everyday, so there will always be someone who knows something more or something new. Thanks for your comment, I appreciate your time !

  • Pauline Baird Jones

    As a fiction author, this is so challenging. The obvious thing is to talk about books, but that isn’t as easy as it sounds and if you’re not careful, you start getting flooded with book review requests. Being able to write a novel, does not an expert book reviewer make. LOL But authors do study the human condition. LOL And you’re right, being diffident about my skills has made me diffident about selling. So I just blog about things I find interesting. This post gives me hope, though I will admit I never thought of positioning myself as a specialist. Will need to mull my “specialty” now. Hmmm….

  • I think you’re doing the right thing, Pauline. Just write, since that IS your specialty 😉

  • Laura Toepfer

    It’s so hard for people to claim their authority, I think. And that’s another good word to use: “I’m an authority on this subject.”

    Another thing that has helped me is to remember that I am expressing my opinion–and that’s all right. I can change my mind when I learn more. In fact, I would be concerned if no one else had any thoughts that challenged my own. Simply remembering that you don’t have to be 100 percent right, just as right as you can be with the information you have at this point in time, is useful.

    One thing I might suggest for people who are fearful of claiming expertise is to start by thinking about the things, people, activities, directions in their field that they like. You can simply start by writing about “here are some things I think are good” and then explain why. Who’s written a helpful book? What’s a good product to use? These are all opinion pieces, but with a consumer-centric focus, making you helpful to the reader as a knowledgeable guide.

  • Well said, Laura. I actually prefer people know who openly admit that they don’t have all they answers, or that they’ve changed their mind about something. So indeed very good advice: you don’t have to be a 100 percent right. Thanks for sharing your opinion with us!

  • Thank you for posting this. It has given me a new confidence about what to possibly post on our blog spot.

  • Kathleen Kinser Atkins

    This is a great post, Mark, and such a timely one for me right now! My husband and I are offering our very first teaching workshop for other wedding photographers here in Knoxville. Needless to say, there has been a small bubble of people who have criticized us for doing this (yet they have never offered workshop themselves). Great quote: “it’s often the same people who are scared of not being an expert, who are also not comfortable with selling their services.” I guess if you put yourself out there, this comes with the territory! This blog post is inspirational, thank you!

  • SuzanneLCarter

    Your post is very timely as I recently received a request to write a guest post about women in business. My immediate response was to decline it as I thought I am no expert on this topic as I read so many posts by people who I feel have far more knowledge and experience than I do. However, I talked it through with my colleagues and I realised that well, I have been working in the professional business environment for over 25 years and if I really think about I do have something to say! So, you are right when you say that you don’t need to be expert in order to impart your knowledge and advice to others.

  • Great post Sarah! And very timely too. I’ll be sharing this in my Social Media Marketing and personal branding class I teach @UW Madison starting next week. (Mark’s book is required reading 😉

    I run into this all the time with students when I tell them they have to blog for class. They often say “but I’m not an expert at anything so I can’t start a blog”. Upon lots of digging, most discover they actually are very well versed in particular areas, but they get caught up on the word “expert”. I love shifting the title from “expert” to “specialist”. I’m definitely going to see how this change impacts their demeanor. Thanks for the tips!

  • This is a great way to look at blogging. It breaks it down to a very simple formula. No one ever said that a blogger had to know everything about their specific industry. I think this is the fear that leads to writers block. If you change it up a bit mentally, it really opens up a world of possibilities. Thanks for the good ideas.

  • glad you liked it, thanks for stopping by, Rich

  • 🙂 Excellent, glad you can use it for your class, Don ! Keep me posted how they reacted to it !

  • Go for it Suzanne, I’m sure your post will be very valuable to all of us women!

  • Glad you liked it Kathleen and you’re very right, many people will criticize you, but don’t listen to them.

  • Our president, Trevor Westwood, recently wrote a blog on how he isn’t an expert in our industry and how that benefits our customers. Great to see others feel the same way too!

  • Sarah,

    I am very good at SEO, Video marketing but still i don’t consider myself as expert. What i feel is the learning is endless . How do i overcome this ? Should i call myself as expert?

  • “an expert is somebody from out of town”
    Defining someone as an expert depends on who your compared to?if it’s the people you service you probably know a lot more about the subject your hired for so expert is relative you are and they are not,compared to someone with higher skill level maybe not so much.besides now a day’s anyone and everyone online calls them selves an expert in what they do and many are poorly trained and don’t know squat…

  • Adebola Adegbulugbe

    Thanks Sarah, some great advice here. I’ve just started a blog after months of procrastination. This sort of takes the terror out of blogging for me.

  • Thanks for this. This is my hangup. I’ve been researching and studying social media for years. I even purchase others programs to make sure I’m up to date, and when I do, I realize I know more than the program I purchased. Your post helped! I am going to move forward and share what I know! Thanks!

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  • Robert

    What if you’re not a specialist either? What if you’re a teenage high school student who has not found their passion, and doesn’t have the ‘valuable knowledge’? Does that mean he should not blog?

  • Ameera

    Thanks Sarah.. This is exactly me.. But my situation is worse.

    I am passionate about child care and planning to open a business in that field.

    My knowledge in the field includes taking care of my 19 month kid only!

    I want to start a blog to gain popularity before starting the business.

    Do you think I can start one or not??

  • Great post Sarah. I like both, expert and specialist, and want to point out that it’s all about perception. If you have taken the time to research and learn more than most about your niche I feel you can call yourself either. Your life and work knowledge is what makes you an authority. 🙂

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