You May Already Be an Expert… You Just Don’t Know It

Hierarchy of the Self-EmployedThis is part four of the Hierarchy of the Successfully Self-Employed series.

Sam Donovan is an expert.

Allow me to demonstrate…

Sam: “You shouldn’t think that just because I’m looking at you while you’re talking to me, that I’m necessarily listening to or caring about what you’re saying. It’s just something I do to be polite. I was lying on a beach in Bali. I got a phone call. I got on a plane for fourteen hours. I was hired to raise this show’s audience share three points. Just between you and me, I’m going to raise it three and a half. I’m not lacking in confidence as far as that’s concerned, and because of that I can say this: I honestly don’t give a damn if any of you work here or not.”

Granted, Sam is a character on the short-lived, yet brilliant TV show Sports Night. But he’s an excellent representation of an expert — he’s:

  • There because he provides results.
  • Well aware of his value.
  • Confident in his expertise.
  • Paid well (because low-paid work-for-hire folks don’t lay around on beaches in Bali).
  • Arrogant.

Okay, arrogance is optional, but the other traits are crucial.

expert pyramid
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Non-Fictional Experts

Take a moment to picture someone you consider to be an expert.

What makes them an expert? Aside from the traits listed above, what makes them an expert is that they say they’re an expert.

Let that sink in.

An expert is perceived as an expert because they create that perception. The expert traits are just the framework. I know lots of freelancers and contractors who have as much, if not more, confidence and capability as the experts I know.

What separates the experts is that they:

  • Know their value.
  • Can easily demonstrate that value.
  • Aren’t afraid to ask to be compensated well for that value.

Now, picture your expert again. Would they:

No. Experts don’t play that BS.

Become an Expert in the Blink of an Eye

So how do you make the leap from being a freelancer or contractor to expert? You just do.

Maybe not what you were expecting, but it’s the truth. Becoming an expert is a gateless gate. But there are some prerequisites.

First, I’m going to assume you have skills.

Second, If you’ve read this far, you’re way ahead of most people. It means you really want it, and are willing to do what it takes to get it.

Third, you must know your value, and can clearly demonstrate it. If you can save someone $100,000 a year, why are you charging $10,000 for the project?

Finally, you have to ask for it. Nobody is going to anoint you with the title of expert until you do it yourself.

Expertise isn’t about just talents, abilities, and approach. It’s about mindset. The perception you create is what the world is going to see.

The Problem with Being an Expert

Once you are an expert, your dance card suddenly becomes overwhelming. Nobody likes turning down a gig, or money. But even for an expert, there are only so many hours in the day.

So how do you remedy this problem?

The guru knows…

Hierarchy of the Successfully Self-Employed Series


  1. WOW! Thanks for that. I have been told and told that I need more confidence by those who know me very well. But by those who are mere acquaintances – they think I carry myself well and have a lot of confidence. You’re article really made me realize that I AM an expert!

  2. Great article Tony! There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence; and we need to pay close attention to that line! I am a sharpening trainer and I train people to start small businesses. I have been told I am one of the “experts” in my field. I do draw a crowd, and I do know my skill; but I’ve done my best to shed any semblance of arrogance!

    The reason for the shedding the arrogance? I once spoke at a NASA meeting (National Appliance Service Association, not the real NASA!!). The speaker before me took almost all of my time and I was mad! I had 10 minutes to demo my equipment and I did it! But at the end, I said, “I did great! Give me a hand!” I meant it as a joke, but it came off as arrogant. I know this because one of the attendees in the front of the class stood up at the end and I heard him say “Arrogant” under his breath as he shook his head. I was in my late 20’s at the time; he was in his mid 60’s. Did that cause me to loose a sale? Most likely! I also wondered how many others felt the same way!

    Now, when I speak, I try to show skill and confidence during my presentation. Confidence builds trust, arrogance breeds contempt! Be careful with arrogance, it can bite you in the wallet!

  3. Jesse – You go get you some 😉

    Jim – Great point. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, and it’s usually associated with intent. That and whether the guy knows what the hell he’s talking about. Too many people who are arrogant, are also wrong :).

  4. Tony, here I disagree with you. Arrogance is not a positive it’s a huge negative. Confidence is a positive. Arrogance gets you into huge trouble. Why? Because you think you know more than you do.

    I’ve interviewed over 15,000 people and you know what? There is NOTHING IN THE WORLD WORSE THAN ARROGANCE AND WHEN I SEE IT…I RUN FROM IT!!!

    Confidence is quite different…because with confidence comes humility…and humility keeps you grounded and keeps you aware of your competition, ahead of the game, always learning, and smart enough to know that you don’t know everything. Arrogant people are actually stupid enough to think they know everything.

  5. Ev – Hey, thanks… you gave me a great idea for a post (you too Jim) 🙂

    Seriously, this topic deserves more than a quick response, since there are a lot of misconceptions about it. Especially related to the role of an expert (or guru for that matter). Stay tuned, it’ll be coming next week.

  6. Tony, you make a great point when you say, “what makes them an expert is that they say they’re an expert.”

    Having been a freelancer, consultant, and independent contractor, I can agree with most of your characterizations and viewpoints.

    Crossing the divide into becoming an expert requires a change in mindset as well as expertise in your skill set and real knowledge of your industry. I’ve known some people, over the years, who thought they were experts, but they got by on bluster for awhile, until they were unable to deliver what they said they would. Then the never-ending series of excuses and blame placement would start.

    To remain an expert, you have to deliver the results you say you will.

    I’m enjoying this series.

    Act on your dream!


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