It seems like there are “experts” everywhere: writing experts, marketing experts, fashion experts, organizational experts… The list goes on to infinity. But what makes an expert an expert? How do we define an expert? Let’s go to the dictionary!
noun ex·pert| \ ˈek-ˌspərt \
:one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject
noun mas·tery| \ ˈma-st(ə-)rē \
: possession or display of great skill or technique
Hmm… It seems like “mastery” of a skill is harder to define. For example, if you’ve earned the highest ranking belt in some form of martial arts (like karate), then sure, the title of “mastery” seems well-earned and fitting. YAY!!! You’re an expert! No arguments from me! However, if you organized your grandma’s basement once-upon-a-time, have you really earned the title of “expert” in organizational skills? How many books do you need to write before you’re an expert in writing? What makes someone an expert in fashion? At what point does this “expert” thing happen. Do you go to bed one evening, not an expert then write a certain amount of words the next day and BINGO, you’re an expert in writing? Or does this expertise sneak up on you?
I’m not trying to be facetious. I’m practically the poster-girl for Imposter-Syndrom. I’m always learning so I can’t ever imagine thinking of myself as an expert, nor would I pretend to be one.
But…that’s not really the point of this post.
No…the point is that I believe there are a LOT of “experts” on the Internet, peddling their “master classes,” charging a TON of money…who aren’t really “experts,” not in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary sense of the word.
I’m not talking about the website, Masterclass. I think that they do a great job vetting their “experts.” They’re pretty affordable for what they offer. I picked up Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass at the start of the year and felt like it was well worth the money. (He’s written more than 30 books in nearly every genre…so yeah, I’d say he qualifies as an expert.) At the time of this post, an all-access pass to Masterclass.com is $15 a month or a single class is $90. Each class is approximately 15-20 episodes, plus a PDF workbook. If we look at Neil Gaiman’s writing class, it’s 19 episodes plus the workbook. At $90, that’s $4.50 per episode, plus $4.50 for the workbook. That’s pretty affordable. In fact, I saved $5 a week, for 19 weeks, to justify the purchase of this class. YUP! I’m THAT girl. LOL
Meanwhile…I’ve seen “experts” in writing, marketing, and all kinds of other things asking a thousand dollars (or more) for their “master class.” What’s worse is that some of these “experts” try to berate and guilt their followers into forking over their hard-earned money. “It’s only $99 per month.” for ONE class! Really? Let’s get real. I could take a class at my local community college, pay less, and put those credits towards a degree.
If someone has the guts to ask for a thousand dollars (or more) for a class, more power to them. The problem is, I’ve vetted some of these armchair “experts,” especially the ones in the writing world. Some of these “experts” only write books on how to make money writing. Some of these “experts” do write other books under a pen-name…but they aren’t well-written or well-edited. Again, there are exceptions to every rule, but it almost seems like the folks that charge the MOST offer the LEAST, and have the LEAST amount of real-life expertise.
Why does any of this matter?
There are a LOT of folks, sitting at home, feeling bad about themselves because they’re afraid to get started on their dreams because they aren’t an “expert.” Meanwhile, there are scammy folks who would be happy to take our money, who may not know more than you or I do!
Anyone can write a meme, make a video, or teach a class…this doesn’t mean they’re an “expert.”
If an “expert” tells you that there’s only one way to do something…you need to ask yourself, “Is this true? What makes this person an “expert?” ESPECIALLY if you’re thinking about giving this person your money. Could you borrow one of their books from the library first? Do they offer information on their website? For example: famous, prolific writers often have an entire page (or more) on their sites for new writers. (Because they really are experts and they want to help. Neil Gaiman has YEARS worth of free advice on his blog and seems consistently humble.) Meanwhile, a lot of these scammy “experts” mostly offer generic advice for free. Many haven’t been an “expert” for very long. Keep this in mind when you see these infomercial-style talks.
What are your experiences with “experts?” I’d love to read your stories in the comments below.