3 Reasons Why Expertise Costs Money

Piggy bankOn the web, the battle rages on every time a example of paid content or expertise comes on the scene.

I’m not talking about sponsored posts or tweets – that’s a different argument that we’ll have to have another day.

I’m talking about projects like Third Tribe, or other membership-based learning communities. Or ebooks that aren’t free. Events, either live or on the web. Or time to consult, advise, speak, whatever.

There is a ton of information out on the web that’s free, and it’s given us a bit of an expectation that things we find on the internet shouldn’t cost us anything. But I just don’t understand the griping and whining that happens when someone decides to charge for their stuff.

There are three big reasons I pay for things, have charged money for my expertise and services, and think you have a right to try and do the same:

1. Experience Requires Investment

What you know didn’t get there by accident. Whether it was formal education or learning in the trenches, you paid for your education. You paid in time, in effort, perhaps in money. The stuff that’s in your head and the practical, tangible experience you’ve accumulated over the years. It all cost you something.

Employers pay for that expertise in the form of a salary. Audiences pay for books written by people who have detailed their experiences or knowledge. University tuition costs money. And you can argue all day long about how to determine the value of learning and how to filter out the good from the bad. But the fact remains that experience and knowledge can be worth money, and those that have it have reasons to put a pricetag on it.

2. Concreteness and Context are Valuable

Events cost money to produce. Curating ideas into organized information and content takes time and a certain amount of talent. Making a tangible product or executable services requires time, materials, and management. And doing the research to combine and present information or expertise through the lens of my business can be beneficial.

I’m also willing to pay for some filters to be applied, like knowing that my fellow community members have also invested money to be here, so we’ll all try and squeeze the most value from the experience and contribute in kind.

3. Mistakes Cost Money

Many times, I pay for someone’s expertise or knowledge because I’m paying for the mistakes they’ve already made. I’m buying shortcuts, to a degree. Perhaps they’ve already learned how to apply theoretical knowledge in my industry to a practical solution. Perhaps they’ve failed three times before the fourth time was a charm, and I’m getting the benefit of seeing those potential obstacles before I hit them myself.

Precedent isn’t always proof, but the value in a case study or experienced perspective is that it can help me better navigate the situation that *I* might be faced with, and benefit from someone else’s hands getting dirty first. I know that there are plenty of things I don’t know that I’ve gladly paid for so I can shorten my learning curve and add other people’s context and experience to my ideas.

Value is undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder. Only you can choose for yourself whether spending the money to learn something new is a good risk, and whether you’re likely to walk away better equipped than you were before. Sniffing out the snake oil is partially your job and the due diligence of a business weighing their potential investments. That’s been the truth since the days of hair tonic being hawked on the street in tents.

Don’t think you’re going to get your money’s worth? Don’t pay.

But just because a single endeavor might not be worth the money doesn’t mean that the idea of charging money for something is out of line.  And that means that MLM and “make money online” scams will abound – the opportunists have always existed. Bad apples don’t spoil the entire barrel.

Let’s remember that we live in a world of free enterprise, thank goodness.  And the good side: there will always be a great deal of valuable, helpful, and truly useful information, events, and people across the web that cost a few bucks to access.

We have to put filters on and do some homework. But having the opportunity to earn a living based on the knowledge you’ve built over your career and how you assemble, share, and apply it?

That’s more than okay with me.

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What’s Left Without The Tools

It’s not about the tools. We all know this, right? We say it all the time. But what do we mean?

If we strip out the tools and look at function over form, what do we find? We start to get at the reasons behind using the tools. The potential impact points. The motivations for them, on both sides of the equation. For example:

Communication and Service

  • Faster response or resolution time
  • The accountability and visibility of transacting business in public
  • Increased ability to track touchpoints
  • Connections with names and faces (both for familiarity and accountability purposes)
  • Exponential information carrying through networks
  • Peer-created knowledge bases

Access and Entry Points

  • Direct lines to individual people and personal touchpoints
  • Routes to more immediate and more focused/relevant information
  • Deals, discounts, and cost savings opportunities
  • Insider information and sense of exclusivity
  • Meeting in community-determined territory (instead of, say, having to go to the company website to get information or contact)

Feedback and Voice

  • Ability to express and distribute an opinion publicly, and with a reasonable expectation that it will be heard
  • Increased mechanisms for acknowledgment and action on that feedback
  • Gain a sense of contribution to and impact on ideas or decisions
  • Ability to vet companies or experiences via unfiltered peer networks
  • Ability to vet customers or employees through their online behaviors
  • Strength in numbers: collective wisdom, or momentum behind a movement

Creation and Sharing

  • Ease of publishing and creating
  • More immediate, connected, and free distribution networks
  • Platforms and laboratories for thoughts and ideas
  • Ability to act as an “insider” to others (through access points above)
  • Geographic independence of networks and affinities
  • Potentially more significant footprint for niche interests

When you start talking about why people gravitate toward social tools, and then take it a step further to delineate why and when they use them for business versus personal aims (and when the streams cross), then you’re getting somewhere. Then you’re making progress toward mastering what you’re trying to deliver and why instead of fretting over mastering the delivery mechanism itself. You’re focusing on the end, not the means.

In fact, when you’ve really thought through the former, the latter starts to make itself much more clear, and it can adapt to accommodate the inevitable ebb and flow of the technology itself.

I haven’t thought of all of them, of course. Not nearly. I’m just getting started here, but this starts to beg all sorts of questions. As a customer, what do I net by connecting with you online that I wouldn’t get by simply transacting with you and being your customer in the typical sense? As a business, what value am I infusing into the entire customer ecosystem  – the moments between the sales – that can I can not only recoup, but build upon for long term growth?

See where I’m going with this? See why this upends the discussion a little bit, and why it might be helpful to start your thinking here? What does this get you thinking about?

image by MASH DnArt

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