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Season 2, Episode 4

Building Credible Expertise

Episode Summary

Our panel chats about what building expertise and becoming an expert looks like as a freelancer or indie consultant and some steps you can take to better build and demonstrate your expertise.


  • Kai Davis
  • Meg Cumby
  • Reuven Lerner
  • Jeremy Green


Each episode, the panel (and guest) share their picks: a book, app, service, resource, or something else that they’re enjoying and recommend you check out:

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Episode Transcript

Kai: Hello and welcome to The Business of Freelancing podcast. Today we’re going to be discussing expertise and building credible expertise. What it is, why you should do it, and the key questions to ask yourself as you start down or continue your journey as an expert. 

On today’s episode of The Business of Freelancing, we’re joined by Megan Cumby.

Meg: Hello.

Kai: Reuven Lerner. 

Reuven: Hi, everyone.

Kai: Jeremy Green.

Jeremy: Hi, y’all.

Kai: And I’m your host, Kai Davis. To kick off the episode, I’m curious when I say, think of an expert or think of an example of expertise. Who comes to mind for you all?

Reuven: Well, I’m interested in lots of different subjects. I’m sure we’re all interested in lots of different subjects. So I don’t have anyone answer is that in every particular subject, there are two, three, four different people who I can think of as being experts. So if it’s in history, fine. I’ll think of some people, if it’s in programming, if it’s consulting, if it’s in teaching. 

So when I think of who’s an expert, that leads me to think of Okay, well, why do I think they are experts, is it just because they publish a ton? It’s not just that, but it’s because they do have a public profile, they are writing a lot, they’ve been reading for a long time. It’s clear over that long period of time, they’ve demonstrated consistently good ideas that resonate with my interests and my needs.

Kai: When I think of it, similar to you, like a lot of different folks come to mind. In the consulting space two folks that immediately popped to mind. One is Jonathan Stark, and the other is Alan Weiss. They just come to mind because they really are prolific in their content creation. But they’re also focused, you aren’t seeing Jonathan say, launch a book or Alan Weiss, for example. Launch a book about, hey, here are my favorite baking recipes. They’re prolific but within a very confined space. So, that always comes to mind when I think about expertise. 

It’s demonstrating your knowledge, your aptitude, your ability, teaching, and sharing, but in a very focused way, or making sure you aren’t straying across that boundary. You might know a lot about other areas, but as you’re building expertise, it’s kind of niche and focused, and just around one particular thing.

Meg: I hadn’t thought about it that way first, but as soon as you say who’s expert, there’s nothing that doesn’t come up, that’s somebody who hasn’t written something. Like Reuven was saying, very much like as an author of something, even if it is a self-published book, there’s always something or has put out a course, lots of courses. It’s usually a lot of material too. Like, you said that breadth of material, Jonathan Stark’s, the number one off the top of your head, again, with the Indie, consulting.

Jeremy: Yeah, for me, like, that’s a developer. A lot of developers that I know and follow came to mind, like Aaron Patterson, known on the internet’s as tenderlove, and is one of the primary contributors to Ruby on Rails. He writes a lot about Ruby on Rails and writes a lot of Ruby on Rails, which are open-source. By working on these open-source projects, he literally gets to work in the open, and let people see the results of his work. 

Even if they haven’t worked directly with him, you can go look at his commit history in GitHub and see every, all this work that he’s done. He regularly publishes articles about, trying to nail down performance problems. He will sometimes publish articles where he can say, “So I found this thing that’s going on. I don’t know why it’s going on. I don’t know what’s making it happen. But I’ve narrowed it down that this is a way that you can reproduce it, and I’m going to keep looking into it. I hope other people will look into it.”

But he doesn’t try to present himself as the all-seeing all-knowing deity of Ruby that has all the answers at all times, he’s willing to say, “Hey, here’s the thing, I don’t know. I’m going to look at it and try to figure it out. I hope other people would help.” But then he also does publish answers when he finds what’s going on, he’ll publish that stuff. 

Reuven: I had an interview a few months ago already. A panel of a mix of experienced programmers and new programmers. They were talking about what are the differences between them, and the experienced developer said, “Well, we all get stuck sometimes and we all get frustrated sometimes.” But the experienced developers know that that frustration will pass, and you will be able to get through that trouble. 

The beginning person just says, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, I’m never going to be able to get through this.” I accept, I’m willing to trust an expert, even more. So not just because they hit a wall, they were able to get through it, proving their expertise in many ways. But the fact that they’re willing to almost fail in public or say, I don’t know, this stuff in public, makes them even more impressive to me. 

I do like the fact that now on the Internet, there’s so many people saying, “I don’t know about X, I want to learn about it. I’m going to share with you as I learn it, as well.” I think it gives everyone a better sense of “Oh, not everyone needs to know everything or the world does not all, only sharing perfection.” Which certainly is a common thing in many Internet corners.

Kai: I really like what you just hit on there, Reuven about expertise isn’t necessarily sharing perfection, because I think it’s honestly a bit of an unexpected swerve. When somebody, a listener might think of experts, it’s like, oh, they’re publishing a well-researched perfect book each year. But yes, that is a form of expertise, but so is, being prolific online, writing an article every week, and sometimes the article saying, like you pointed out, “This is a weird thing. I have no clue why it’s happening. But it’s something I ran into on my continuing exploration, and we’ll see if I run into the answer.”

It doesn’t have to be sort of neatly packaged, and well defined as a book or a course, or a keynote speech to be a demonstration of expertise, though, all of those are also demonstrations of expertise or aspects of expertise.

Reuven: I’ll even just go one step further than this, which is, it’s probably happened to you folks that someone has a problem, and you’re like, “Oh, I’ll just search for the answer.” You enter something in Google or whatever, and they’re like, “You see, you didn’t know the answer.” You say, “No, I didn’t know the answer. I just searched.” You’re thinking to yourself, if only they had searched for this such ridiculously obvious thing, then they could have gotten the answer too.

By the way, professional hands, don’t say that to people, they really don’t appreciate it. But basically, knowing how to formulate the question, knowing the vocabulary and the structure, that demonstrates the expertise. So just knowing the space to fit inside so that when you get stuck, how you wriggle yourself out of that box is indeed a form of authority then as well.

Jeremy: Yeah, for expertise, knowing the answers is less important than knowing how to find the answers.

Meg: One hundred percent, and being able to navigate those edge cases that come up and like, “Hello, we can pick a…” To not be flummoxed when you come up against an obstacle, and to like, “Okay, let’s problem solve it.” I don’t know if anybody ever expects anybody to know all the answers, or they probably do. But it’s not realistic to know everything until you’ve actually faced a certain situation.

Kai: One thing that immediately comes to mind, just from this initial conversation, is that expertise really is squishy. We might internally not feel like we’re an expert, but for an external observer, a reader, a follower, a client. It’s like, “Oh, they’re a chapter ahead of me, thank gosh, they’re a chapter ahead of me. They know what the next chapter is.” Meanwhile, we internally might be like, “Oh, I’m only a chapter ahead, how do I get even further ahead?” 

But within that, I think it’s a sign that expertise is really relative. I might know more about per topic, I know nothing about, say quantum physics, then somebody else or a grade-schooler, but compared to Einstein, or just somebody who studied it for two or three years, I know nothing. So it really is relative between ourselves or our clients, or readers or followers.

Reuven: I’m going to just pick up on that a little bit, which is like, when I do training, and when I go to a new company, I’m always terrified. I’m like, “Oh, my God, this company. I know, they’re really smart engineers.” Clearly, I’m going to go in and they’re going to roll their eyes, they’re going to say, “Why are you saying such boring, obvious things?” It turns out, yeah, they might be really smart. But I still know more than they do about this particular subject. 

So in their eyes, I’m like a super genius expert. But if we were to turn the tables, and we were talking about the things that they do day to day, they would be the super genius experts. So it’s 100% a relative thing, and as long as you can run faster than the crowd and gain additional expertise in your area faster than they can, then you will continue to be that authority figure, continue to be able to give them… It’s not like saying it’s all imposter syndrome, and mockery, and fake.

No, you are actually giving them useful information because you do know more than they do, and you can gain new knowledge faster than they can because of the infrastructure you’ve built with your experience.

Jeremy: Yeah, and I think it’s worth saying that the goal of building expertise isn’t necessarily that you have to establish yourself as the preeminent figure in the world on any given subject. You just have to have enough expertise that you are useful and can help people solve problems. You don’t have to be an expert compared to whoever it is at the pinnacle of that field, you have to be an expert compared to the people that want to hire you to solve their problems.

Kai: That’s a great segue into another question. So why do leads or clients look for expertise when they’re hiring somebody to help with a project or problem or solve an expensive problem in their business? Why or how is expertise a differentiator or an attractor?

Reuven: I had this interview, probably a month or two ago with this guy, his name is Yuval Levin. He’s like a political right-wing political science person in the US. He made the statement, which have continued to resonate with me, which is, on the internet, people have this feeling of well, all information is available on the internet now, so expertise is not that valuable. 

But actually, the information is not what people are missing, it’s the insights, it’s the depth of experiences, is knowing how to filter out the wheat from the chaff. So you as an expert are coming in, and you’re saying, “I’m going to solve your problem faster, I’m going to know which of these sites is going to give me the right answers or better answers in the right direction.” At the end of the day, it’s like everything else with business, you’re going to help them save money, or make more money. 

So they’re going to be able to put out their project faster and thus make more money, or they’re going to be able to deal with fewer people and save money or both. So knowing that you are the person able to do that, like, well, why would they not do this? Right? They’re basically printing money, thanks to your expertise.

Kai: I like it. In my mind, part of it has always been expertise is almost a trust signal. If there are, signals of expertise around somebody’s books, conference, blog posts, a lot of shitposting, on topic on Twitter. It all  stands out and says, “Oh, this person is demonstrating what they know, this person is showing like, Oh, they have this depth of insight.” To your point Reuven, and they’re able to sift that wheat from the chaff or figure out the quick and easy way through it. 

An example that pops to mind. I have a colleague who specializes in Search Engine Optimization. A client came to him and said, “I’m freaking out. I’m in Google Search Console, I’ve got all these errors. Is my site down? What do I do?” It’s like a seven-figure business. My colleague is like, “No, Google pushed an update, and half of the back end stuff broke, ignore all those warnings, they’re meaningless, and just like junk spam, for another six months, don’t even worry about it.”

Just being able to have that level of insight and say to the client, like, you don’t need to worry about this and go from a ten panic to a zero panic, is a sign of the value, being able to know “Oh, you don’t need to pay attention to that, you can safely ignore it.”

Meg: I think too like sort of time back, like, hey, coming across such case, like, knowing what path might be best, or might be better aligned for what goal not like, should I do that? You can go and find out like, should I do content marketing? It’s not a simple yes or no, well, what are you trying to do, like helping having somebody, help them work through what they’re trying to achieve? 

Then be able to suggest, well, if you’re trying to achieve this, then this is probably the path you want to go or this way within that domain of expertise you’ve got. There’s another reason why people just look for like they… If not for certainty than for somebody with more experience to act as that guide. It’s like, well, I can’t tell you exactly what you’re going to come across this path, but I can tell you, this one’s got fewer rocks than that one.

Kai: So if we think about building expertise in relation to lead generation or client services, the business of freelancing in a sense, what are the different ways to build expertise? What work in public or high valuable content makes sense to be producing? How would we recommend a listener get started or move forward?

Jeremy: That may be dependent on your field, and the nature of your expertise, and the type of clients that you’re trying to attract. One thing that has worked for me a few different times is speaking at conferences, developer conferences, and that is normally not what you hear people recommend, you do in terms of turning speaking engagements into gigs. Normally you don’t want to be speaking to your peers, you want to be speaking to your prospects or your potential customers. 

That’s the advice that you hear a lot, but I’ve had great success giving very technical talks at developer conferences, and having that turn into gigs. I gave one years ago about using Rails and the Ember project together. That was kind of fairly niche. 

But I’ve had three different prospects come as a result of that talk, two of which turned into jobs. Both of those, the client said something to the effect of, “Well, we don’t need to do any technical interview or anything, because I saw you talk, I know what you’re talking about, we just have to figure out if we can come to a working business relationship.”

So that made my life a whole lot easier in terms of getting those clients from prospect to client because they were coming to me saying, “Hey, we believe that you can help us and we want you to help us, what will it take for you to help us?” This is just such a much easier conversation to have than if you’re going to them saying, “Hey, I’ve got this thing that I think I could help you with.” Or trying to convince them that you’re a good fit. If they’re already convinced you’re a good fit, and just want to work with you, then life gets a lot easier.

Meg: It’s interesting. There’s two parts, there’s the building of expertise and demonstrating that expertise, but those things are not mutually exclusive. That like teaching what you know, actually solidifies what you know. Yes, I’ve seen this a lot in the developer world, even though I’m not a developer, I get exposed to it a lot. So but yeah, like really teaching what you know, you’re going to really solidifies it because you have to explain what you’d like, why things are, why those, why it works this way, why this is a thing you need to know. It’s an interesting thing that that accomplishes both goals.

Reuven: Absolutely, absolutely. Speaking and writing. I also want to vie as you guys did, there’s the building up of your own expertise, which is certainly important. But then there’s also the building up of your image and reputation as an expert. Yeah, it’s been just said, they don’t need to be mutual exclusive, I find that they go hand in hand, a lot of times, that when I propose a subject to a conference, very often, I only know two thirds or three-quarters of what I’m actually going to say, Oh, don’t tell the conferences.

Jeremy: Wow, you know more than I do.


Reuven: Right. I use it as a way of forcing myself to learn more about a subject. Then I’m also in the listener’s shoes of being able to learn about it, understand it better. So I’m building my expertise, but then when I get up in front of people, yeah, it’s definitely like Jeremy, I’ve definitely gotten gigs as a result, when people say, “Oh, this is like, this would be interesting.” They sign up for our mailing list, they buy things from me. So it’s definitely very much self-reinforcing. 

Even though, I know that, like when I speak to my technical peers, they are not necessarily the buyers, the direct buyers of my training, it has definitely happened that they will then go to… Either come to me and say, “How can we get you involved?” Or they’ll go to their training manager and say, “I saw this guy at a conference, we should contact him.” Now, it’s rarely that direct. But over time, if you reinforce this image as an expert, it will happen, it’ll happen more and more.

Jeremy: Yeah, I just want to touch on what Reuven was saying there about how prepared you have to be to propose a talk. I’ve proposed talks that I knew very, very little about because I thought it would be fun to learn about that thing enough in order to prepare a talk. 

Certainly, I’ve proposed lots of talks that I knew almost nothing about, and sometimes they don’t get picked up. Then I don’t end up going all the way down that rabbit hole and learning all the things. But then when they do get picked up, it gives me an excuse to make myself go down that rabbit hole and learn those things. Like Meg and Reuven, we’re both saying that it’s this kind of reinforcing cycle of demonstrating and developing expertise at the same time.

Meg: Separate from that from the teaching part, not separate, but, but more on the building side. I think about this, that doesn’t involve, let’s say, aside from creating content and talks and all this, like teaching what you know. In terms of the approaches to building expertise, there’s of course, reading in your area of interest or specialty, reading things that connect with that, and learning more. Then actually doing the…

I think about when I started my service, it was very contained, and there was like, “Yeah, I’m going to just do this thing.” But as you come across more and more challenging situations, you’ll learn how to make through that and your expertise expands by doing the things like, “Oh, now I can help people, advise people over this hurdle, or this other thing that connects with this core thing I used to do now I know more about how to get those goals and what else it connects with.”

Reuven: Those things you did in the beginning, presumably, which seemed hard, or you to work a lot out, now, those are second nature. So, someone who sees you doing it, they’re like, “Oh, wow, obviously, Meg knows what she’s doing, because she did this stuff really easily.” You do, do it easily now, but because you put in the time.

Meg: Yeah. You can build upon, think about it even when I was brand new at doing testimonials and case studies, I was building on expertise I had built up over a decade and communications and journalism, and writing. It built on other acts. So yes, it was like this funneled into this very new thing that I was doing, but I had done the elements of those things before, and so just evolving. 

You can, even if you’re starting with something new, it’s you can build on what you’ve got before, and sell that. Even when I was new, I’d say, yes, this is a new service, the back end, whatever it was, but I’ve got 10 years of expertise in this other area, or what have you.

Reuven: I also found that when I have clients who trust me, based on what I’ve done so far, they’re also willing to trust me when it comes to something new that I haven’t done yet. One of my biggest clients, I’ve done courses with them for years. If I come to them, I have come to them with ideas for new courses, they say, “Great, we’re really interested in this. The first three times you do it, we’re going to consider a pilot. So if it fails, fine, we’ll understand. But we’re going to hope that it’s going to succeed, we’re going to hope that the surveys you get back at the end of each time you do it during this trial period will get better and better.”

Sure enough, I did a new course with them. It was probably two-three years ago already. The initial results were xo xo and they said that’s fine, we understand. So they basically trusted that over time, I was going to get better. They were willing to use their budget and their employees as guinea pigs to some degree because they figured that even those initial experimental bouts were going to be more than good enough. That’s an amazing feeling to have, and everyone wins from that.

Meg: Which weirdly touched on one other point about demonstrating expertise is being honest about where your expertise hits up against the wall and say we’re starting to… I have had to do that with clients. Sometimes I’d be like, “Well, we’re starting to hit up against the limit of where, my expertise is right now, but I’d be willing to explore this area. Again, nobody can know everything, and just like, “Oh, this is a bit of a new territory. But let’s see what expertise I do have in the areas I do can help you navigate this area that is a little bit adjacent.”

Kai: No, I love that, in a sense, being a confidence expert is being willing to say, “Oh, that is something I do not know or I’ve tried it before, I am not the right person to help with that.” In a sense, it avoids turning into like every manner, and every person, of course just handed me all the different things I could tackle them I’m an expert when the truth is expertise is meesh. It’s focused on a specialization, it’s in a small area.

Somebody who is an expert on Node.js, and the latest and greatest there, most likely isn’t an expert on C++ or any other or some other programming languages because they’re focused on the area where their expertise is. Same with Search Engine Optimization, writing, or any other area that one might be in.

Jeremy: To go back to the open-source developer thing that I touched on a little bit earlier. Anything that you can do to have projects, where you’re doing what you do, but can have the deliverables or the end result of that project be public or publicly available, that’s going to help you. Like, if Meg has testimonials that she’s written for some of her past clients that she can point new prospects to, that is going to help them understand what she does and the value that she delivers. 

Like for me, as a developer, I have some side projects that I’ve developed over the years that I just imagined a thing and then overtime working on it. Now there’s a new app that lives on the Internet, and that demonstrates to people that I can take an idea from just an idea and turn it into a concrete thing and deploy it to production. Take it from start to finish in ways that you can’t really demonstrate if you don’t have something that you can point to, to say, “Yeah, I did that the whole thing, all of it.”

So that helps, and it doesn’t even really have to be necessarily connected to… Well, for me, some of my apps, they don’t necessarily have to be connected to what a new prospect would want me to do. They just have to be a Rails app, and the domain knowledge for whatever they’re looking to do isn’t as important as the domain knowledge of, “Yeah, he can go from nothing to there’s an app on the Internet.”

Kai: Switching topics for a second for a listener who’s saying, “Hey, I’m buying into this expertise. These people on this podcast seem like they know what they’re talking about. They might be experts on this.” What are the questions, we’d recommend somebody ask themselves, or what are the initial steps, tactics, or strategy-wise, to either start building expertise or be better at building and demonstrating expertise? 

The first one that comes to mind on my side is really taking a look at your target market. A) Making sure you have one and you’re not marketing to all businesses under 500 employees. Thank you. 


Kai: Small businesses, technical definition. But taking a look at your target market, making sure it’s crispy and specific.  Then going a step further and saying, okay, for my ideal buyer, in this target market, maybe it’s an individual, maybe it’s a company, maybe it’s an established enterprise company. What type of signals, trust signals, expertise signals, authority signals do they look for because there is a difference? 

An Indie buyer will be looking for different things than, the CEO or CFO of a Fortune 500 company, even if they’re buying the same thing, SEO, development, social proof, testimonials, whatever it might be. What comes to mind for you all? Where would you recommend somebody start on this journey?

Reuven: I decided a number of years ago, probably four or five, six years ago, that I needed to get my name out, that maybe my clients were happy with what I was doing. But if I really wanted to succeed in doing Python training, I needed to write more on my blog. I realized that this was not going to lead directly. No training manager, even at the nerdiest of companies is going to be looking for Python blog posts. 

But I wanted to be able to get to the point where if they talk to me, and if we’ve had one of our conference calls with a technical person, I could say, “Oh, here’s my website.” The technical person, being a technical person would go to my website, say, “Oh, wow, this is impressive.” So I decided to just start writing about things that I found interesting in that domain, demonstrating my technical chops with Python. 

So someone who went to my website would find 20-30 blog posts that showed, yeah, I know what I’m talking about. It was stuff similar to what I was teaching and the same style. Obviously, it’s not spoken. So, once you figure out who you’re trying to write for, you can simply try to write about your problem domain. This not only is good social proof, but like proof what you’re talking about, but it forces you to write better and more sharply and more articulately about it. 

That gives you better expertise, and thus when someone asks you a question, you’re going to be even better/able to answer their questions, demonstrating that yes, they were right to hire you. So it’s this nice circle. It becomes addictive also to do this writing like, Oh, well, I’ll find another problem and write about this. It’s easy, right? It’s easy to do this in small chunks. So I would say that’s not a bad place to start because it wins on a number of fronts.

Jeremy: Yeah, writing is a great wave, conference talks are great. It’s a personal thing, like, some strategies are going to work better for some people than for others. Some people are going to do great giving conference talks because they like to be in the spotlight, and they like to be up on stage and see people looking back at them and, being paid attention to.

Other people would be just mortified at that thought of getting up on a stage and speaking in front of 500 people. So, if that’s you and you’re not feeling like public speaking is a thing that you’re going to be good at. You don’t have to start with public speaking. You can start with writing some blog posts or doing work somehow that you can publish. If you’re an illustrator, you could just start doing some illustrations and post them on a site, post them to Twitter, let people see them.

Really, the important thing is to find ways that will work for you and that you’re comfortable doing to demonstrate expertise, and that just getting started demonstrating expertise in a way that is comfortable to you, is way more valuable than trying to focus on what’s the right way to do it, or what’s the most high value way to do it. You can always look for what’s a higher value way later, but getting started with something that you’re comfortable with is important.

Meg: For sure, yet, what’s the easiest way to start is a good way to… I think Kai, what you said about starting with a bit of a self-audit of like, “Okay, what am I an expert in? What do people come for? What are people referring other people to me for? I think about oh, my gosh, I probably could last five or six referrals I’ve gotten, what if I pulled up those emails? Especially when they email to someone like that here, “Meg, meet Joe?” How are they referring to me? Like she is an expert in? I have made that, that’s something I’m going to do, is actually look at that. How are they describing my expertise, and that’s just an interesting part of the self-audit. 

Then, in terms of building more… If it’s easier to start with, like, hey, read a book, or some articles on a topic in your area of expertise that you’d like to learn more on, and then write about that, write a recap, if that’s easier to start, rather than or write about a problem you’ve recently solved in your client work. Just like, “Hey, I came up…” Think about the last couple of edge cases or problem-solving you had to do, and then write about that, that might be an easier way to start.

Kai: Or even just using I love what you shared there, Meg, even just using questions you’ve been asked by a client, by leads, by prospects, by community members. It’s very similar to the 30*500, e-bombing brainstorming approach where you’re taking actual questions, writing responses, and over time, he might just start with one or two. But a couple of months later, you have to say 15 articles that might be short, but just say like, “Hey, here’s a question I ran into in area of expertise. Let me share my answer to it.” Over time, that authority definitely compounds and stacks on itself and helps you build up a larger base.

Meg: For sure. I got a question recently that I need to turn into an article. It was from somebody’s private Slack community, they’re like, could you answer about video testimonials? I was like, “Well, it’s not a service I provide right now, but here’s some thoughts about how you can make it easier.” Based on my experience with just doing video interviews with people and how it’s goes. Oh, man, there’s an article already written for participating communities, huge, huge help for building expertise, I think getting exposed to those questions. Those online communities where your people that are facing those problems are, it’s a long play. It’s definitely more to in the building expertise rather than the get clients right now.

Reuven: If you’re in a technical area, and you don’t have a community, necessarily where they’re asking questions. I always say, I have this professional secret where people are asking me questions every day in class, and so I can take the best nuggets, either turn them into blog posts, or tweets. But if you don’t have that, if you’re just looking for something in mind, you go to Stack Overflow, find popular questions. 

Don’t answer on Stack Overflow, answer it on your blog, or your site, or your Twitter account. If you do that enough, people will start realizing that… Don’t copy the answers that are already there, right? That’s not what I’m saying. But over time, you could be seen as an authority, and someone who people will then turn to for answers and want to follow.

Jeremy: There is maybe some value in answering them on Stack Overflow. For a while, when I was trying to learn Ember, I went on this spree of every day spend an hour or two answering questions about Ember on Stack Overflow, to force myself to… I would try to find ones that I mostly know the answer to this, but there are parts of it that I need to research. That was twofold. I learned a lot about Ember over the few months that I did that and got a lot better at working with the framework. But I also had some leads come in from Stack Overflow or people said, “Hey, I saw that you had answered dozens of questions about Ember, and we’ve got a project. Do you want to work on it?”

Reuven: Wow, that is fascinating.

Kai: That’s wonderful. The word curiosity has kept coming to my mind throughout this conversation where it seems like to develop expertise. Curiosity isn’t a requirement, it’s like a blocker, but it’s a very valuable skill or perspective to foster inside of yourself. If you’re like, “Oh, this Ember stuff, it’s kind of boring to me.” Well, if you want to develop expertise, figuring out what you’re curious about, in or around that specialization or area feels like almost like the flywheel here to misuse that term. 

If you’re curious, you’re going to seek out questions, answer them go a little deeper share, “Hey, I ran into this weird thing to reference our earlier point, and I’m not quite sure what the answer is. But this is what I do know.” Then keep getting a little more curious along the way, as you learn more, whatever your topic or whatever your area of focus might be. If you aren’t curious, it definitely makes it a harder path to climb.

Reuven: If you’re curious in our business, then you’re going to have a lot of trouble. Because the nature of what we do is always, as I mentioned before, like running ahead of the pack, you’ve got to know more than they do. That means constantly learning, and that means enjoying the learning new things. If you see it as a chore to be improving your skills, bad.


Meg: Agreed. Yeah. There’s something to acknowledge that, especially if you’re a solo person, it is hard to find the time to do all of the things like you’re supposed to make time for learning more and building your expertise and marketing. You’re your bookkeeper, and you’re doing the client work, and Oh, by the way, self-care is a thing, and you might have a family too, that needs tending to. So, it can be hard, but if that’s where like, if for this piece of it if you can be curious about it, and actually at least enjoy the process and enjoy building up the…

No, not everything’s going to be like, the happy fun, it’s never going to be hard, but at least enjoying the process of building up that expertise, it’s going to make it more likely that you’re going to do it. Also, even if that’s it’s not an immediate benefit to you that you get an immediate benefit of Oh, I learned, that’s awesome. That just clicked for me. That’s neat. I’m going to put that file that away and use that when it’s helpful.

Jeremy: Yeah, you definitely should enjoy the process of learning because your expertise is more of a journey and less of a destination.

Meg: Obviously, again, if you don’t know, if you don’t enjoy what you do, maybe there’s another topic, click it, you don’t have to, like, “Oh, no, I don’t enjoy this.” Maybe there’s something else that’s adjacent to your current path that you might actually enjoy. So, not to get discouraged if you don’t like it right now. There’s probably something else.

Kai: Let’s each share our picks for the week, what we have to recommend to listeners. Meg, why don’t you start us off?

Meg: Sure. I’m going to pick the tiny NBA, which is a book that recently, Alex Hillman of Stacking the Bricks 30*500 put out and it’s awesome. I have only just cracked it open. Not because it’s a long book, because he estimates it probably only would take 20-30 minutes to read it cover to cover. It’s just a lot of… In fact, the subhead is like 100 very short lessons about the long game of business. 

It’s almost like a collection of business really, really, really well-curated business meditations. A lot of short, Alex’s thoughts and after a long time of all the lessons he’s learned, after all the… And all the businesses he’s done, and just make you think about what you’re doing in your business and how it applies. That’s the biggest comment I’ve seen online is that it really makes you think. So yeah, if you like the idea of reflecting on your business, I’ve already seen the value of it, just even reading a couple of them.

Kai: For me, I definitely want to recommend this article Stock and Flow to about a decade old at this time, but from the wonderful websites Snarkmarket, written by Robin Sloan, and it’s such an interesting article to me because it really is talking about the episode topic, demonstrating expertise with the content you put out. 

Robin breaks the content down into two different types. You’ve got stock, which is say a book you just published or like a heavy epic article on a topic demonstrating that you are the expertise maybe they’re the expert, maybe it’s a movie something just like large and heavy. But then you also have a flow which is the daily stream of stuff going out across the fields, maybe those are tweets or read blogs or a short daily letter you’re sending out. But I think it’s a great paradigm for thinking about what you’re putting out there to demonstrate your expertise. I just love it as a focusing lens for thinking about this type of topic. So we’ll definitely have a link here, and I encourage you, listeners, to check it out. How about for you Reuven?

Reuven: I recently discovered a fun podcast called This Day In Esoteric Political History. It comes out two or three times a week. It’s at thisdaypod.com. It’s usually about 10 minutes, 15 minutes long. They now have bonus episodes on Sundays, since it’s US election season where it’s a little longer. But they find something sometimes really serious, sometimes really, but often very frivolous. 

Like two recent episodes were about Jimmy Carter and the killer rabbit and the scandal of Obama wearing a tan suit. Then they have some others in which they had someone… I forget her name, but the first congresswoman whose husband wrote a public letter demanding that his wife come home to take care of their family. 

So they have all sorts of wild crazy stuff in there and it’s really fun to just get a taste of some well political history and their analysis and they have lots of cool guests come on, help them analyze as well. So it’s at thisdaypod.com as well as on Twitter, thisdaypod.

Kai: Perfect. How about you Jeremy?

Jeremy: I’m going to go with the leisure pick this week. It’s a video game I’ve been playing on PS4 called Ghosts of Tsushima. You play as a Samurai who in feudal Japan, who’s trying to repel the Mongol invasion. It’s a good time waster run around, swinging a sword, shooting a bow and an arrow, if you’re into that kind of thing. I don’t know what all platforms it’s on, but it’s at least on the PS4.

Meg: Yeah, my husband’s been playing it. It’s a beautiful game.

Jeremy: It is, it is. The scenery in the game is really amazing. 

Meg: Yeah.

Kai: That brings us to the end of this episode. Thanks for joining us. Be sure to subscribe to The Business of Freelancing in your podcast app of choice, and if you like the show, leave us a five-star review. If you don’t like this show, also leave us a five-star review. We’ll be back next week with another episode of The Business of Freelancing