Expert Consulting-- How to Establish Yourself as an Expert Consultant
One avenue to becoming a successful entrepreneur is marketing yourself as a subject matter expert in something, and offer services as an expert consultant. Although expert consulting is offered through various businesses and corporations, certainly many expert consultants are people with an entrepreneurial spirit.
About a year ago I took two classes with Barbara J. Winter through my local Community Education program. One of the classes was titled Establish Yourself as an Expert. Barbara had great advice and resources to offer. This hub is a summary of some of the things Barbara presented.
Barbara Winter is the author of the successful book, Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love.
She publishes a newsletter, Winning Ways, and has written articles for sites such as eZineArticles.
She is active on Twitter and Facebook.
She does presentations such as the one I attended, as well as webinars.
At one point in time, there was a presumption perhaps that being an expert at something required academic credentials. What we want to take advantage of is a shift to experience-based expertise. To be an expert consultant, we must not only be knowledgeable about something, but enthusiastic with a genuine desire to share with other people. Then, the hard part: We must figure out how to find people who want what we have to offer.
I will illustrate some of Barbara’s key points with one of my areas of expertise and passion, which is computer workstation ergonomics. I worked for the last 6+ years of my Air Force career as an Occupational Therapist in a clinic which served a predominantly outpatient hand and upper extremity population. Most of my clients worked at a desk all day, as did I. The more I experienced the same pain and symptoms my clients described, the more motivated I became to understand these problems!
Qualities and Traits of Experts
Learn to be a Good Editor: Tailor what you say to your audience and your situation. We can’t relate everything we know. As an expert, it is our job to focus information, point clients in the right direction, and tell them what to pay attention to, and what information to trust.
Sometimes We Are Pioneers: We may have newer, better ways of doing things. Sometimes experts have invested years into their niche before offering their knowledge to the public. One of Barbara’s great examples: Julia Child.
For me, contrary to the general medical community, I de-emphasize carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Practically everyone thinks they have CTS. I found that regardless of most clients’ doctor’s assessment, which was usually CTS, I was able to relieve clients’ symptoms, with little emphasis on wrist position, and typical CTS strategies, and greater emphasis on computer workstation ergonomics, particularly upper body posture.
Don't Underestimate the Power of Personality: Other experts may know as much as you do. Some may know more than you. But there may be people who just like the way you deliver the information. This tip really appeals to me. Most friends and clients appreciate my sense of humor. And I have spent my 20+ year career as an occupational therapist learning to explain things in a way that people can understand and relate to. This has been key in getting good compliance from clients.
Build Your Business: What we’re offering does not have to appeal to everyone. We build our own natural monopoly. When clients find the perfect fit for what they’re looking for, they stop shopping.
Becoming an Expert
Be Knowledgeable About Your Subject: Find your own confidence of when you are ready to take your expertise public. Maybe you see someone on TV, or hear someone on the radio, and you realize you know as much or more than they do. Maybe you see information being presented poorly, or you see misinformation disseminated. Maybe you think you can deliver it better.
Don’t shut yourself out because someone else has written books or articles about your topic area. There will always be people who know more than you do. But there will always be even more people who know less than you do.
Be Enthusiastic: Enthusiasm is contagious. How great will it feel to present our expert knowledge, sometimes pioneering knowledge or approach, to as many people as possible? Can we deliver our message a hundred times, to a hundred different audiences and still maintain that “first time” enthusiasm?
Desire to Share: Can we change people’s lives with what we know? Most of us have a genuine desire to share what we know in order to help others. We have found a better way of doing things and can’t keep it to ourselves. We want to help make people’s lives better. I don’t just think, I know I have found a better, more logical way to approach and resolve pain with people who work at a desk. Why would I want to keep this to myself?
Finding Your Audience
Create Tip Sheets: Zero in on a tiny aspect of your subject area. Give basic tips without elaboration. This can be your “freebie”, like an expanded business card. You can print Tip Sheets as bookmarks, or hang tags. Tip Sheets are great spring boards. You can expand each tip into a paragraph and have an article. You can expand each paragraph into a chapter and have a book. Some Tip Sheet formats, such as “How To” tips lend themselves well to online article sites like eHow. Your Tip Sheets can also become the basis for public presentations.
I created a Tip Sheet on my basic computer workstation ergonomic pointers, and expanded the tips into a hub. My Tip Sheet is a summary from my client treatment plans, which I elaborated on in my Computer Workstation Ergonomic classes that I held once or twice a month for my clients. I have now started to teach an Ergonomics class through my area Community Education program.
Barbara recommends creating Tip Sheets on a regular basis. You will be breaking topics down into bite-sized chunks, and you will be building an inventory.
Local Media: Find ways to become part of the conversation. Pay attention to local radio and television. This could be the local country, rock or pop music station, or something more like public or educational radio stations. Maybe your community has a public access TV station, or maybe your local network affiliate has a morning show. You could approach them and say “I think I have some information that would be helpful to your listeners (or viewers).” Or maybe you could say “I just started a new consulting service. I know a lot of your listeners would be interested in …”
Write Letters to the Editor: Look for opportunities where you are qualified to get into the conversation. Look for magazine or newspaper articles where you are qualified to comment, and do so positively. For example, “As an Occupational Therapist with 20+ years of experience, I found your article on “Carpal Tunnel In The Workplace” interesting. I think it is also important for your readers to know that pain can often be greatly reduced through simple posture adjustments.”
Internet: Decide how much you want to give away. In general the information on the internet is free. Create a blog, website, or eBook. Use social networking tools. Just like many of our veteran hubbers, Barbara recommends doing the research and writing once, then modifying and using it multiple times.
I have published articles on many topics at HubPages from my professional expertise as an Occupational Therapist. I have multiple articles on arthritis, rehab after breast cancer, and many pediatric topics. I have also published a few articles at Zujava and Wizzley.
I do not have the expertise to set up and manage my own webpage for clinical topics. I have dabbled in food-related blogs, but get better traffic at HubPages. I have not really used social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook to promote my articles. Obviously I have a lot of work to do in this area. There is a wealth of information on HubPages on these topics.
Writing: Writing for print magazines and newspapers is harder to break into than online writing, as is publishing a book. Sometimes finding a less mainstream, more targeted magazine is a better way to go. There are many pitfalls, in addition to rejections. You lose “ownership” and rights with many major magazine titles. You could also try publishing your own print newsletter. There are also affordable options for self publishing books, such as Lulu and Book Locker. Marketing is another challenge. Again, there is a wealth of information on HubPages on these topics.
Speaking Engagements: Speak to any group or organization that will have you. Speaking engagements are good practice and good exposure. Try local clubs and organizations like the Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, and church groups. Write a summary of your speaking engagement and submit it to the local newspaper. After you have established some presence, move up to panel discussions, conventions, conferences and webcasts as an expert consultant.
While I get paid a small fee for teaching Community Education classes if the classes “make”, by having a minimum of 6 students sign up, I have volunteered to teach for free for 2 to 5 students, just for the exposure. I have also spoken in the past to small groups like local women’s groups or church groups. Ultimately, it is my goal to go into office workplaces and do ergonomic presentations and consulting.