I know a little something about you.
You have ideas and knowledge in your head - knowledge that you've accumulated through years of learning from others, years of trial and error, years of practicing your craft.
Everybody does - I mean, everything you know now, you've no doubt learned one of two ways. Either you've spent the time and effort to figure out what works on your own, or you've learned from others who spent their own time and effort to find what works, and then shared that knowledge with you.
But there's a funny thing about knowledge - on its own, it's worth very little. It isn't valuable until you share it with others who could also benefit from it.
The real value of knowledge comes from its potential for use by someone - whether that's you, or your clients, or your customers.
There're a few different ways you can pluck value from the knowledge you have:
- You could apply that knowledge for someone else's benefit, in return for which they pay you for your time and efforts;
- You could apply that knowledge for your own benefit, by creating systems and tools to improve your efficiency, or products that help others; or
- You could share that knowledge for someone else's benefit, and charge them for access to that knowledge through courses, books, or workshops.
Of course, the first option will always be the easiest, and the least risky - but the big downside, of course, is that you'll always have limited time in which you can do this. But, if you spend time sharing that knowledge with others who could also potentially use it, you can share that knowledge with near-unlimited people for very little effort, jump that time-for-money gap and make the knowledge you have much more valuable.
If you're a freelancer, sharing what you've learned and experienced can help establish you as an expert, and help you stand out in a crowded market. When a potential client feels like they've already learned something from you, they naturally assume you can help them more, and they're much more likely to come to you for one-on-one help.
If you're selling a product, sharing your knowledge is one of the best ways to build an audience and a strong brand. Mikael Cho, the founder of freelancer network Crew, writes:
“When you create content that is practically useful, it helps build an audience better than any other type of content.”
By sharing actionable content that can be quickly applied by your audience, it'll lead not just to them sharing it with others outside your immediate audience, it also increases trust within your audience, making them much more likely to buy more of your knowledge in the form of products.
There's no need to be an expert to start sharing what you know. In fact, it's better if you don't think of yourself as an expert. Remember, you're not teaching - you're sharing. That means you don't have to be right, and you don't have to have all the answers - you just need to share what you're learning and experiencing with those who are a little behind you. The information is still valuable to those learning it - but by thinking about it as sharing instead of teaching, it can help you get over that initial hump of feeling like you're not an expert.
Remember, too, that the things you find valuable aren't necessarily the same things your audience will find valuable. As you learn more and gain experience, you become accustomed to the potential of what you know. Maybe that software bug that would have taken you hours to find a few years ago seems trivial now, but there are a lot of people that aren't at the same level as you, and could benefit from learning how you fixed it.
It helps to think about what you wish you’d known a year or two ago, and teach those things. Even if they seem obvious to you now, there will always be many people out there that are struggling to learn the exact same things you did.
As you begin sharing what you've found valuable, you'll start to notice where your knowledge overlaps with other peoples' problems. People will ask you questions, and share with you what they're struggling with. Some things you might not be able to help with, but you'll no doubt come across some things you can help with - even if it's stuff you know, but no longer find valuable yourself.
You can't know the value of what you know until you share it with others - but you don't need a huge audience to start finding out what's valuable. Start by sharing what's valuable to you, and you'll naturally find others that could also benefit from that knowledge. The more you share, the more you'll start to see just how much valuable information you do know, and the easier it will become to keep sharing.
It doesn't even matter, really, how you share your knowledge. In fact, let's make it easy: Do you enjoy talking? Grab a free copy of Audacity and a microphone, or fire up that webcam. Do you prefer writing? Open up your favorite writing program.
Once you've done that, spend half an hour writing or talking about the latest thing you've learned in your work. It doesn't really matter whether you hate the sound of your own voice, or you think your writing is terrible, or even the specific topic you're talking about - just get down what you've learned, and how it helped you. Stick to one problem, and one solution.
Next, think of one specific person you know - just one - that could benefit from what you've created, and share it with them. This could be privately - via email, for example - but if you're able to share it on a public blog, on YouTube, or on a podcast, for example, you can also share it with others that could benefit from your knowledge.
Start with one person that finds your knowledge valuable - then look for another, and another. Keep sharing what you know, and pretty soon you'll have a group of people with a common problem you can solve - the beginnings of your first audience.
“On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.” - Clay Shirky
Great work can't happen in a vacuum. Don't worry about how big (or small) your audience is, or whether you know what's worth sharing. Focus on sharing what you know and what you've learned in a way that helps others - there's always someone a few steps behind you that you could help.
Go find them, and go help them.