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A lot of people think you need to be an expert to teach.

You don’t feel qualified or you don’t feel like you know as much as someone else. But all you need to know to teach is more than one other person!

It’s a common misconception that you have to be an expert to teach. It actually works the other way around: leaders are seen as experts BECAUSE they teach.

You might think teaching is a job best left to the masters. But the masters aren’t often the best people to teach the beginners. Often someone who is a little bit ahead is better able to relate to the struggles of a beginner. The master has already long forgotten.

Teaching establishes you as an expert. It’s a fantastic way to build an audience. But don’t think it stops there. Teaching is actually a great way to get clients too. While clients aren’t necessarily interested in learning how to do what you do, the very existence of educational material positions you as an expert.

Guess who clients want to hire? An expert.

There are so many benefits to teaching. In today’s show, we talk about those benefits and why you should be teaching what you know right now even if it’s not a part of your long-term focus.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • To teach, all you need to know is more than any one other person.
  • Leaders are seen as experts because they teach.
  • When you teach, you develop your skill.
  • Teaching is a way of learning—to be able to teach something, you have to understand what you do more thoroughly.
  • Even with art, teaching builds trust, expertise, and a connection with people.
  • You don’t have to wait until you have an audience to teach—teaching helps you build an audience.
  • People will pay for what you’re teaching. Even consolidating things you’ve taught for free in the past is valuable.
  • Share your process to give people the sense that your brand is premium.
  • Your track record and body of work is much greater proof of your skill than credentials.
  • Teach what you know and teach from experience. Don’t teach what you don’t know.
  • Be willing to admit when you’re wrong.
Show Notes
  • 08:34 Sean: This is one of my favorite topics, because I’m really big on teaching. There’s a twist, though. Cory has a question for this show that we won’t bring in yet, but he’s thinking, “I don’t know about this whole teaching thing. Maybe it’s not for me. Maybe it’s not for everyone.”
  • 08:55 Ben: I get it. There are people in the Community who feel that way, too, and who have the same kinds of questions.
  • 09:05 Sean: The reason I’m so big on teaching is because it establishes you as an expert. It’s a great way to build up an audience and to build a foundation for yourself that you can pivot from to do other things. Teaching is something that anyone can do. A lot of people think, “I don’t know if I can teach. I don’t know if I’m the right person. I don’t know if I know enough, if I’m qualified. I know other people who do it better.”

Reasons You’re Not Teaching

  • 09:43 This is an interesting one. I want to encourage people to teach, but I don’t want to encourage people to pretend that they know something they don’t. Teach what you know.
  • 10:06 Ben: There are many things that I know how to do, and I’m not a big details person when it comes to learning things. I’m very tactile. I don’t bother as much with terminology or the classical/traditional terminology of the subject. I tell people that I’m a musician, for example. I love playing guitar—electric and acoustic. People will start talking to me about different kinds of guitars, naming the guitars, or they get into talking about music theory and scales. I have an organic understanding of some of those things that I apply out of the practice of using those instruments and being around music, but I don’t have the technical understanding to describe that to someone else.
  • 11:21 It’s kind of the same with video. I understand what all of the things on my cameras do to get the shot and get the lighting right. I understand where to put things, but I’m really weak on the terminology side of it. For me to explain that to somebody, sometimes I have to make up my own terms. I’ve had people correct me and say, “Oh, you mean the such-and-such.”

Teaching is a way of learning.

To be able to teach something, you have to understand what you do more thoroughly.

  • 11:59 Sean: That’s a powerful thing about teaching. You have to be able to articulate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You need the terminology. That’s why, in my Learn Lettering course, the first thing I teach is the basic terminology. If you want to have a conversation about letters, you need to understand typographic fundamentals. To get critique from someone else and expand your learning, you need to know what certain things are. If you’re going to teach something and you don’t know what something is, teaching forces you to do research to fill in the gaps of your knowledge.
  • 12:33 Ben: I’ve had that experience before. I put on a free workshop a few months back where I was teaching something I could describe conceptually, but there were some things I had to research beforehand. I did that. I set up the workshop and I advertised it knowing that there were some things I was going to have to fill in beforehand. I knew that I would have to deliver on something, that I would have to be able to describe this. People would be bringing me real examples and problems, and I would have to be able to navigate those with the terminology.
  • 13:15 It was really good in that sense. It didn’t take long. I sat down and did two or three hours of research on the terminology, really getting familiar with it. When you have a conceptual knowledge of something or you understand the tools but you can’t use the terminology, filling that in with the terminology is relatively easy compared to going at it the other route. It takes more time to learn how to actually use the tool. Ideally, you’re doing both of those at the same time. If you’re a person who does understand how the tools work but you have a difficult time explaining them or describing the details, that part of it is not as difficult as you might think.
  • 14:05 Sean: A lot of people have the misconception that people who teach are experts. That means that only experts can teach. It’s not that only experts can teach, it’s that leaders are seen as experts because they teach. That’s why we see them as leaders—it’s because they teach us. It’s not a prerequisite to be a leader, a master, or an expert to teach. Teaching is a way of getting there.

To teach, all you need to know is more than any one other person.

  • 14:42 Everyone’s thinking, “I can’t teach this. I’ve seen so many YouTube videos or read books where these people teach this thing way better than I do. Who am I to teach?” Often, you are one of the very best people to teach, especially the beginners. The master is so far removed from the beginners’ struggles that it’s hard to relate to them. In the beginning, the things that feel obvious to a master are not so obvious. The master is going to say, “Get over it, figure it out, and let’s get to the important stuff,” but that could be a really big hurdle to them. If you were there recently, you understand that better, and you may actually be the better person to teach someone who’s just a step behind you.
  • 15:31 Ben: Before I had all of these babies, when I had my first, I would ask my dad, “Hey, this is what we’re going through right now. This is where I’m stuck.” It might have had something to do with health or developmental things. He would say, “I don’t know…” Now, I’ve become my own teacher, because the experiences were so recent for me. With our youngest, Asher, who just turned one, I have something so recent to reference that it becomes a lot easier. People are afraid that they’ll get out there and start teaching and they’ll be exposed as a person who really doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I think that’s a big fear.
  • 16:22 Sean: Yes. We’re going to get to that one later on, because that’s a question that a lot of people had. I want to go back to teaching when you’re a beginner, when you’re not a master yet. Teach what you know—don’t teach what you don’t know. Don’t look at what you think you should be teaching, pretend to know, and teach it. Maybe you don’t know a lot, but that sentence acknowledges that you know something. Whatever you do know, that’s what you should teach. You want to teach as you go, because the things you teach, the ways that you teach, and the struggles you understand at different levels will change.
  • 17:08 You won’t be the best person, the most qualified person, to teach what you can teach now in two years, five years, or ten years. If you’re not teaching as you go, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunity. You could be reaching different people now that end up growing with you.

Why Teach?

  • 17:30 Ben: This brings in an interesting question for me, and it gets to the question of, “Why teach?” I think the answer to that is different depending on what your goal is in your business, what your focus is. Sean, for example, used to do lettering. He was working with clients and creating his own products. Teaching served multiple purposes for him. One, it gave him more credibility, so he could charge more to his clients. That was one of the more powerful things that it did, but it also brought students to him and became a business in itself. It was an acquisition channel for his services, but it was also its own thing. He wasn’t necessarily trying to pull students from his clients, or visa versa.
  • 18:46 Sean: For me, it started because I was getting five questions a day over email. I was naturally teaching over email one person at a time. “Well, here’s how I did it.” I was teaching over email, five emails a day. At one point, I thought, “Why am I just saying the same things over and over? Why don’t I compile this into a guide and make it available to anyone?” It wasn’t a strategic move. I didn’t know about teaching as something that could establish you as an expert or could help you grow an audience. It was purely reactionary. People were asking me because I had demonstrated that I knew what I was doing through my work, and they wanted to know how I was able to do that.
  • 19:35 Ben: Sean, knowing what you know now, had you not been getting that demand through those emails, would you still advise your younger self to start teaching early on?
  • 19:51 Sean: Oh yeah. I wish I would have. I probably could have even sooner. At that point, I had been creating daily for two years. I wasn’t teaching anything at all. If I hadn’t been getting a bunch of questions, would I have ended up teaching? Maybe I would have learned that it was a good thing to do, but I just stumbled into it. Like Ben mentioned, it had the nice effect of building a huge audience. By teaching, compiling what I knew into a guide, putting helpful information on my website, on the internet, accessible to anyone, people started finding it through Google, and then they started sharing it and it spread and spread.
  • 20:35 I didn’t feel like I was a master. By that point, I was two or three years into seriously doing this, but I at least knew more than the people who were at the very beginning, who were asking, “Can I use the pencil I have on my desk, or do I need special tools?” That’s an obvious question to me. I can help you with that.
  • 21:04 Ben: Sean, you’ve got your store and your products. You’ve also got your client services, so you’re running those two things. Is the time you spend on teaching as an acquisition channel and establishing yourself as an expert at least as meaningful or more meaningful than using that same time toward developing your skill further or making more products?
  • 21:50 Sean: Teaching has so many benefits.

When you teach, you will develop your skill.

  • 21:55 That’s what the whole, “Those who can’t do, teach,” phrase misses. When you’re teaching, you’re improving yourself. You’re auditing yourself and your processes. As you recreate a piece or build out a marketing system as a demonstration, you’re improving. It’s more practice for yourself. Also, as you teach, you establish yourself as an expert. This is the most valuable part about teaching. It’s the difference between you going out and chasing clients and begging them for work and people coming to you as an expert.
  • 22:38 They see you teaching, so you’re demonstrating what you can do. People who teach are seen as experts. It’s as simple as that. It’s not that experts teach, but that people who teach are seen as experts. Let’s say you want clients. People think, “Why would I teach when I want clients? Clients want me to do the work, not show them how to do it themselves.” That’s true, but it’s not just that you’re attracting people who want to learn how to do what you do, it’s that you’re demonstrating your abilities. Clients come along and they see 25 pages of blog posts. They click on one and scroll through.
  • 23:16 There are pictures, images, steps, and all of these things. They’re not really even reading it. They’re just glossing over it. They don’t actually care how to do what you do, but if you’re teaching, you’re an expert. They say, “I want an expert on my project,” and they’re going to pick you over the person who only puts out their work. Teaching is one of the greatest tools for getting clients, even if you’re not interested in acquiring students.
  • 23:42 It does have the effect of building an audience of people who are interested in learning how to do what you do. That leads to things like eventually being able to sell an online course, do a workshop, or things along those lines. If you want to do client work, that’s diversified sources of income. As an entrepreneur, that’s what it’s all about.

Teaching as Storytelling

  • 24:06 Ben: What if your business is not focused on clients, but it’s focused on customers? Take away the client aspect of your lettering, Sean, and say that you were mostly just building your store and your products. How does teaching serve that as a business model?
  • 24:33 Sean: The alternative is that you focus all your efforts on the products and putting them online. If nobody knows about them, how are they going to sell? What often gets people is story. Story can come in many forms. It can come in the form of telling the story of the inspiration behind the product, the story of the creation or the manufacturing, the story of the design process, the story of who this is for, or the story that’s in the form of a case study or testimonial about someone who’s been impacted in a positive way by this product.
  • 25:18 All of those things are forms of teaching. They’re forms of storytelling. Someone who would never have searched for or found your product otherwise might be interested because it’s a story, because one of their friends shared it, or because the story emotionally related to them.
  • 25:40 Ben: This is a broadening of the definition of teaching in a good way. I might even call it education. You’re educating your future audience by showing them your process, all of the behind-the-scenes stuff. I’ve heard the argument, “You show them too much behind-the-scenes and it takes away from the magic.” I think that the opposite ends up happening. I watched a video that Real Thread put out.
  • 26:17 Sean: They’re a t-shirt printing shop specializing in water-based inks.
  • 26:24 Ben: In the video, they were showing the machines that they use. They took you through each of the steps. Watching that video, I wouldn’t be able to go to their shop and say, “Okay, I’m going to do a shirt now,” but it was really interesting and really well done. It was fun to watch them, to see them so focused and in their element.

When you teach about your process, it can be magical and give people a new appreciation for the finished product.

  • 26:58 Sean: I agree that, in the broad sense, education is valuable. I would even stick to the stricter definition for cases like that. If they gave you a step-by-step on how to screen print a shirt, you see them as experts. You see them as someone who cares about the process and the details, maybe even details that you don’t know about. It’s like the issue of comparing photographers. We lost our wedding photos because our photographer formatted the card and lost all of the photos.
  • 27:39 Meanwhile, all these other photographers are cringing because they keep five backups, minimum, for every wedding that they shoot. Guess what? I don’t know. The customer doesn’t know if you’re not educating them. When Real Thread or someone else puts out an educational thing that’s step-by-step, “Then we sew on the hem tags. We go over this part twice because a lot of people have noticed that their tags get ripped off after the third wash,” guess what? Maybe some other manufacturer does that, but I don’t know because they don’t teach it. I see that and I go, “These guys care about quality.”
  • 28:18 Ben: When I think about that, I don’t feel like that’s necessarily teaching me as if I’m a person who’s interested in doing what they do.
  • 28:26 Sean: No, I’m talking about step-by-step how to screen print a shirt. All the details. Washing it, setting up the designs, everything—literally teaching, not just the story.
  • 28:42 Ben: As a consumer and a customer of theirs, I would love to see that. If faced with a decision between purchasing something through them or another shop, by them teaching, I would choose them. You have to get creative when it comes to how to teach as a way of getting customers. If I’m just a person who purchases Sean’s products, him teaching me about the design process is extremely interesting to me, and it makes me more likely to purchase that specific product because I’ve seen the process. My relationship to that information isn’t, “I want to know how to do that,” but it’s, “I want to understand how it happened, because then I feel more connected to the product.”
  • 30:00 Sean: It certainly can be that. It can also be even less of a close relationship.

Someone doesn’t even have to interested in the information you’re sharing, because it’s very presence establishes you as an expert, and experts do good work.

  • 30:16 If they do good work, they create good products, so people will want those products. There is a trust-building effect of the teaching that bolsters the confidence of the customer.
  • 30:26 Ben: It influences their quality perception.
  • 30:30 Sean: Which affords you the ability to charge more, if you want.

Teaching & Art

  • 30:44 Ben: We went from students, where the connection is obvious, to clients, which has a pretty strong connection, to products.
  • 30:58 Sean: A lot of this relates to Cory, because he has been in all of those realms. He can tell us where he wants to go. He’s a videographer, he’s made films, he’s done client work, and he’s considered different kinds of products.
  • 31:15 Ben: I think Cory is asking the question from the standpoint of art.
  • 31:20 Sean: No, I’m saying that he has done all of these different things. I want to know, from your perspective, Cory, having done all of these things and having heard what we’re saying, knowing where you want to go, what are your aspirations and your thoughts on all of this?
  • 31:52 Cory: Like Sean said, teaching establishes you as an authority and an expert in that industry, but you’ll bring in more people than just the ones in that industry. That’s really cool. I’m on Kyle Adams’ newsletter, for example, and I’m not looking to be an icon designer, an illustrator, or anything like that, but it’s so interesting to me. He’s very articulate, and maybe one day he’ll sell a print of one of his icons. I’m not looking to be an icon designer, but I’m so bought into what he’s about because he’s been teaching that I’m likely to buy one of his products in the future.

Because teaching can inspire people in a variety of industries, you might be reaching more people than you realize.

  • 32:47 What if I don’t want to be known for teaching? What if want to be known as X person, not as the person who teaches X? That was my question.
  • 32:57 Ben: Can you define for yourself what being that X person is?
  • 33:02 Cory: I want to be known not just as a filmmaker, but as someone who produces good films. I want to be remembered that way. How do I establish myself as an expert and be known for my work?
  • 33:26 Ben: Part of what I was trying to do was to create a hierarchy of connection between teaching and the main thing, if teaching isn’t your main thing. When it comes to students, teaching is your main thing. You may have other things that you do with what you know, but primarily, your focus is on teaching people. I’m speaking generally. With clients, there is a really strong connection between teaching and establishing your authority. With products and customers, there’s still a pretty strong connection. For art, it’s not necessarily about people purchasing what you’ve made. A product solves a relatively obvious problem.
  • 34:35 The stuff in your shop solves a pretty obvious problem—the need to be motivated and inspired. A film or an album of songs is more artistic in nature. That’s where I was having the hardest time establishing a connection between teaching and the main thing, and I think that’s the root of the question. Being known as a great filmmaker is about creating beautiful art. What role does teaching play in bringing an audience to that art?
  • 35:23 Sean: You have logic and you have emotion. On the client’s side, teaching is pretty obviously logic-related. You see this person as an expert, you want to hire an expert, cool. You can also make the connections with clients and customers, which we did. When it comes to art or entertainment, it’s emotional.

Even with art, teaching builds trust, expertise, and a connection with people.

  • 35:58 I’m leaning towards saying that teaching is even more beneficial for artists and entertainers. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s beneficial in a different way because of emotion. My posters, prints, and t-shirts are pretty obvious. It’s a message and it’s right there. If you have paintings, abstract art, music, maybe even lyric-less music or music that is less about the message and more about the experience, it’s an emotional, holistic thing. For the people who are bought in, they’re very bought in. The people who are not bought in couldn’t care less. There’s this barrier.
  • 36:45 Some people go into museums and stare at one piece for an hour, and some people never step foot in one. How do you bridge that gap? Do you say, “Well, there are people who love art in the world and people who don’t”? I think there’s a bridge, and that bridge is emotion. For people to care about something that you’ve made, art or entertainment, in many cases, that entrance point begins with caring about you as the creator. With myself and people I’ve observed, they may never have actually consumed a piece of art or entertainment had it not come from a certain source.
  • 37:35 They may not have even consumed or seen that art in the same way if it had come from a different person that they didn’t know or care about. As an artist, one of the best things you can do is to create a connection between you and the people in your audience. Teaching is a great way to do that. Teaching invites people into your process. It promotes transparency. It opens up a different side of you. It helps people get to know different facets of you and appreciate the process and the result of that process even more. If Cory wants to make a film and he wants people to see it, there are a few options.
  • 38:21 The film name, the title, could be exactly what people want. If it is what people want, people will come watch it just because of the title, knowing nothing else. Or, they could come to this film because it’s your film and they want to see it because you made it. That begins with caring about you. There are a lot of ways for people to care about you. One, I could be related to you. I happen to be Cory’s brother, so I do care about him. Other people care about you because they’re your friend. More people in the world could care about you if you share with them, teach them, meet them for coffee every week, invest in their lives, and if you share part of your story and make yourself vulnerable.
  • 39:16 Cory: The two words Sean hit that resonated with me were “transparency” and “process,” as well as “sharing.” Those were three things that stood out. I want to achieve that, because I want to share with people. I said in the beginning that I wanted to be remembered and known for my films, but I don’t mean that I don’t want to have any other connection except releasing films. I want to be very connected with people. I want to be open, sharing why I wrote the film, what it means to me, what I want it to do for other people, and things like that. I can’t disagree that teaching what you know, not just what people want to hear, produces great results.
  • 40:03 Not only does it connect with your audience, but bigger people in that industry might reach out to you because you know what you talk about. There are all kinds of benefits from that. I still don’t want to be known as a teacher. I think how I’m going to solve this problem is that I’m going to give transparency and process, and I’ll say, “Here’s what I learned today,” or, “I’m working on this and learning this.” I’m not going to use the wording, “You should do this with cinematography, you should direct this way,”—teaching wording. I’ll just say, “Here’s what I’m learning.” If there are other filmmakers who want to learn more from me, they’ll read that as if I’m teaching. For people who don’t want to learn from me but are interested, they’re connecting with me. For my goals, I think this approach fits best.

Teaching As a Catalyst

  • 41:34 Sean: What Cory just presented is also not a bad approach. I want you to think of teaching as a tool, and I want you to have the visual of rolling a boulder at the top of a hill, where the top is sort of flat, to the edge of the hill. What happens when it gets to the edge? It continues. It has momentum. It goes on without the pushing. Teaching is the pushing in the beginning, the thing that gives you that initial momentum. You don’t have to teach for the rest of your life, but it can build your initial audience, which becomes a catalyst. Once you have, say, 1,000 people, anything you do is going to have momentum because you have this catalyst.
  • 42:38 You could have 10 friends spread it, but when 1,000 friends spread it, then 10,000 people see it. When 10,000 people spread it, 100,000 people see it. That can get you going. Now, because all of these people care about you through the initial tool of teaching, the first, second, or third film does really well. A bunch of people see it, love the film, and their entrance point is the film and then Cory. They want to see the next film after that because they know who you are. That’s part one.
  • 43:11 The second thing is similar, but I would encourage you to see it in stages. I no longer want to be known as a letterer, but it got me to where I am. Now, more than 50% of people who encounter or know me don’t even know that I do lettering. They think of me only in the context of this show,, and my focus on business and marketing and building Community. You’ve done a lot of things in your past where, during that season, you were known for that thing. That doesn’t have to be the thing you’re known for forever. Don’t miss out on a potential boost because you don’t want to be known for the thing that gives you that boost.

Overlapping for Artists

  • 44:25 Ben: Cory, am I right in understanding that you weren’t thinking about teaching as a form of monetizing your skills, but as a way of acquiring more influence or resources?
  • 44:42 Cory: Right.
  • 44:44 Sean: He’s just thinking about it as an audience catalyst, not to mention that, by the way, if 1,000 want to learn from you, you could put out a course and make $20,000 to $30,000. Wouldn’t that help your film production budget?
  • 45:03 Ben: Part of me felt like it would make more sense to put out courses and stuff like that if you were wanting to build a teaching platform. I was thinking about this in the context of the Overlap Technique. The Overlap Technique requires that you do something to make money when your art or your passion isn’t paying your bills. It takes time to build up the amount of influence you would need to make money off of teaching, so there’s some overlap going into that. Assuming that you’re at a place where people would potentially buy a course from you because of the things that you know, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend your time overlapping with something you’re using for your passion anyway? Maybe that goes against the idea of not overlapping with something you’re using as your passion.
  • 46:16 Sean: The Overlap Technique first starts with covering your bills and establishing a foundation using time or skills that are unrelated to your passion so you don’t burn out on it. Within the passion, you have what I call the Trifecta: client work, products, and teaching. Once you’re pursuing your passion, you can do any one of those things. I encourage people to see client work, products, and teaching as tools. Think of them as a hammer or a screwdriver in your tool belt. You don’t have to use client work, products, or teaching for the rest of your life—you can interchange the parts of the Trifecta whenever you want.
  • 46:57 Ben: Maybe that’s not overlapping, but it’s part of the Trifecta. In that sense, teaching is one of the things that comes later in that process. It takes time to build up that audience and get to a place where you can actually sell a course to make enough money to support you.
  • 47:21 Sean: You don’t necessarily have to wait to teach. I often see the natural pattern being client work, products, and then teaching. If you’re starting something completely from scratch that is your passion, doing client work and going through this process gives you experience and skills that you can teach. I imagine that there are people who have those skills already, and they’re stuck in a day job. They could start out by teaching what you know already.
  • 47:55 Ben: It wouldn’t necessarily be enough to pay all of your bills. Most of the time, if you try and make the content evergreen, what you’re teaching is going to have some residual effect. The more your audience grows, the more powerful that is. It’s practical in nature. The amount you could make teaching an audience outweighs the amount you could make selling a piece of art to an audience of a similar size. There’s more residual power there, but that means that you don’t have to spend a majority of your time teaching.
  • 48:53 You don’t have to even spend 50% of your time teaching, if you can put together something really valuable. As your audience grows and you gain more experience, as the things you know increase in value, what you’re able to provide through teaching can become really valuable funding for your artistic pursuits. Going back to teaching vs. art, maybe it makes more sense, if you’re wanting to do courses, not to let that live on the same platform as your artistic platform. As the filmmaker, you don’t sell courses on your film platform. As the band, you don’t sell song-writing courses on your song platform.
  • 49:51 Sean: I don’t know about that. Your platform is your asset. That’s your name, your brand, and your reputation, the expectation people have of you and the quality precedent. I don’t want to spend the whole show on art. I do recommend that artists use The Overlap Technique. Get a day job and cover your bills first.

You can do your art for the rest of your life with a day job covering your bills or you can use client work, products, or teaching as tools.

  • 50:38 You could do commissioned art, you could sell your own art as products, prints, or originals, or you could teach people how to create art. You can use any one of those at any time, interchangeable, and nothing has to be forever. They’re all just tools. If you teach things that solve problems for people, you’re going to get better traction. That’s not to say that you can only ever do that and that you can’t make money from things like art and entertainment, but it’s a longer term thing, and it takes a while to get a return on that. One of the easiest ways is to teach guitar lessons or painting lessons. That’s an easy way to get money from that. Do commission work, and you won’t have to do it forever. It’s just for the interim.
  • 51:32 Ben: I still have a hard time with those being on the same platform. When you’re a band or a filmmaker or whatever, the subject you want to point people to is your work.
  • 51:48 Sean: This comes back to the conversation we had. That’s the argument that teaching doesn’t enhance the other things you do, which I think it does.
  • 52:01 Ben: I’m still having a hard time with it. I totally agree with especially Cory’s way of presenting it, teaching as a way of educating your audience and establishing your authority. I like that better if that organically turns into something where so many people are asking how you’re doing what you’re doing that you can turn into value and make money out of.

Start Teaching Now

  • 52:41 Sean: I remember a comment of Ben’s that sparked an idea for me, which was “waiting for the audience to teach.” I think we had another question like this. Someone said something along the lines of, “You have to teach an audience.”
  • 53:01 Ben: With Cory’s example, he’s teaching before he has the audience. It’s part of the way he’s building his audience, but his focus isn’t on monetizing that teaching or turning it into courses right away.

You don’t have to wait until you have an audience to teach.

  • 53:24 Sean: Yes, that’s a very obvious thing. If you have people sending you five emails a day, you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not teaching. Take that as a sign. If you don’t have that, though, don’t take it as a sign that you shouldn’t teach. You may not make money from teaching right now. Sometimes, it’s obvious that teaching is the thing that could make you money really quickly. Usually, that’s client work, but it could be teaching for people. For other people, teaching is a longer term thing. You’re taking on client work and creating original pieces when you can, but you’re focusing on client work to make money. On the side, you’re putting out one blog post a week.
  • 54:07 You’re teaching people. That may be for the long game, for two or three years. The effects of you teaching, even for free on your site, is going to eventually boost all of the other things. That’s going to attract people to you. They’re going to find your posts when they search for certain things, or they’ll come across it and share it, and that’s going to bring people into your ecosystem. Teaching before you have an audience might be the thing that builds your audience.
  • 54:42 Ben: I was talking strictly about at what point you monetize that, and that really depends on what your focus is, what industry you’re in, and what your goals are.

When to Monetize Your Teaching

  • 54:57 Sean: The point at which you should monetize teaching is when you’re getting a lot of questions on the things you’re teaching for free and people want you to go deeper, or you have so much free content that it’s too much to wade through. If you have 200 posts on your site, you’re doing great. Turn that into a 20 page guide that you sell as an eBook. Compiling the things you’ve taught for free provides people value because you’re saving them time, and you’re giving them the very best.

If people are asking for it or you’ve created so much that you can consolidate it, people will pay for what you’re teaching.

  • 55:40 Cory: I love that Sean’s story isn’t that he just created a bunch of art for two or three years and then made a course. They asked for it. They were asking all these questions, and even when launching the course, he was teaching when building up to it. That’s extremely important.
  • 56:04 Sean: It’s the same with Value-Based Pricing. I’ve talked about that a lot, I’ve written about it for two years or more now, and people are saying, “I really want to understand this.” We did podcast episodes on it, and we weren’t even, at that point, making a course. We did a series of episodes, and people listen to those over and over, but we’re barely scratching the surface. Now, nearly a year later, we’re building the course. We’re going through with a pilot program, creating the material. We just finished module two of six.
  • 56:40 The first module had 14 lessons and this one had 10. They’re each 10,000 words, each module, a book or more of content. Justin’s making tools that are going to help people calculate the price they need to use. We’ve got guides and templates. I’m using this as an example, but if you’re interested, you can go to and sign up. We’re going to be doing a live webinar, but there is also a free guide and videos when you subscribe. That all came from people saying, “I want more of this.”
  • 57:14 We figured that, because this goes really deep, we could do a full-blown course with it. It’s going to do well because it’s in response. That’s how we can know. It’s not like there was a demand for it in the beginning. I just started teaching even before the demand was there, and I found the demand by giving away stuff for free.
  • 57:37 Cory: You have to start teaching first for them to ask more questions about that. That’s where it all starts.
  • 56:43 Ben: The focus of that is on students. You’re wanting to help people in those creative industries attach the actual value of what they’re doing to what they’re charging their clients. The focus was always teaching, so it made sense to turn that into a course model from the beginning. I’m still on the art thing. With art, on the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to have the teaching aspect be the main focus, when the art is really the focus and teaching is a tool you can use to gain credibility and grow an audience.
  • 58:43 If that creates demand for what you know and you can monetize that, that’s an added bonus, but that’s not the goal or the focus. Like Sean said, if you’re teaching so much that there’s way too much to go through and you can compile some of that, you should. Once you have a teaching product, even if your focus is your music, that still establishes you as an expert and gives you more credibility. It speaks to the quality of the art that you produce. You don’t start out with the goal in mind to create a course.

Teach Along the Way

  • 59:26 Sean: You may end up finding that people really respond well. That’s how a lot of people get into teaching. I didn’t want to be a teacher, but I wanted people to stop emailing me. I thought, “They keep asking more questions. The guide is being read 200,000 times, so it’s silly for me not to.” Through that, I found that I really enjoyed teaching. I’m not saying that it will be that way for everyone, but it happens sometimes.
  • 59:57 For me, it was all about the art. I bought into the “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach,” philosophy, because I thought, “I’m going to be the best. I don’t need to waste time telling other people how to do what I do.” I stumbled into it. Through teaching lettering, people said, “Wow, you’re an artist and you made $100,000 in three days? How did you do that?” I said, “Well, there’s a lot that went into it. Let me show you.”
  • 1:00:33 Ben: I like that natural journey. At the same time, had you not had that experience going into it, knowing what you know now, you would have told your younger self to teach what you know. Outside of what you can make financially, there are so many benefits to you, your art, your skill, and the quality that you’re able to produce.
  • 1:00:58 Sean: It’s so great, too, to see where you’ve come from. So many people don’t have that. What happens if, in 40 or 50 years, you wish you had that? You wish you could remember what it was like and you wish you had the teaching from the beginning. You can’t go back and create it, but you can create it along the way.

Do Your Buyers Care?

  • 1:01:27 Adina asked, “What’s the best way to start teaching when you don’t really have an audience yet? What do you do if your target market doesn’t necessarily want to know all that you know? I’m selling a physical product and not eCourses. I’m not sure my end buyer really cares all that much about the how to create what I make beyond a surface level process post that they might find slightly interesting.”
  • 1:01:54 Ben: I think it’s similar to what we were talking about with products. You’ve got people who will be genuinely interested in the process because they want to be able to produce the same thing that you do. A percentage of those people will not be people who buy things from you. A percentage may be a customer now because they see the quality that you produce and they enjoyed the learning process. They may become a customer right away or at some point in the future. They’ve now gotten this brand impression.
  • 1:02:45 As long as there’s a percentage of that potential audience that exists, it’s worth putting that in a format that’s more about teaching and less about showing them your process. The people who are your potential customers are going to enjoy the process regardless of whether it has a teaching tone or a “let me show you” tone.
  • 1:03:12 Sean: Jeff Sheldon of Ugmonk does a really good job of this, showing the behind-the-scenes of the creation process. It’s a leather mousepad—do I really need to know how it was made? When you start getting into it, though, it’s cool. It feels more premium, too, which helps justify the price. If you’re in a lower end commodity market and you don’t want to charge a lot, it’s probably not worth your time.

If you want to give people the sense that your brand is premium, it’s worth it to teach about your process.

  • 1:03:50 Ben: Brandon says something really fantastic in here, “It’s like diversifying your social media activity in order to have multiple acquisition channels to your platform.” As long as you’re going to do stuff on other platforms, you may as well create an acquisition account that belongs to you that you could potentially monetize in the future, that you have complete control over. It’s going to be at least equally effective, if not more effective, in accomplishing the things you’re trying to accomplish through those other acquisition channels. You might as well.

What if People Want Your Credentials?

  • 1:04:35 Sean: Reshma says, “What if someone asks ‘who are you to teach this stuff? Do you have a degree on this topic?'” Ben, ask me how many times people have asked me for my credentials for lettering.
  • 1:04:48 Ben: I’m going to ask you a different question, Sean. Where did you get your lettering degree?
  • 1:04:59 Sean: I didn’t get one. I don’t have any credentials.
  • 1:05:08 Ben: Without any credentials, how did you make a six figure income off of a launch for a lettering course?
  • 1:05:16 Sean: I’ve written an 8,000 pixel tall case study on exactly how I did that. I’ve been asked zero times, and there have been 40,000 students who have signed up for Learn Lettering. That’s just lettering. Nobody asks. There’s no reason to ask because there’s such a huge track record. Here are the results. What do credentials do? Credentials are a piece of paper that say you know how to do something. What about the person who’s actually done it and they show you the results?

Your body of work and credentials both confirm your skill, but the former gives even more proof.

  • 1:06:12 Ben: You could have a piece of paper, but the quality of your work could be really poor.
  • 1:06:16 Sean: Who are you going to trust—someone with hundreds of portfolio items, hundreds of blog posts, hundreds of podcasts, and hundreds of videos, or the guy who has the credentials?
  • 1:06:33 Ben: The last four job interviews that I’ve been to, I’ve been offered the position. On my resume, I don’t have a spot for education. There’s nothing on there about where I went to school. Instead, I put together my resume and I put together a portfolio of my work, and I send that to them.
  • 1:07:08 Sean: When I hire someone, I don’t ask.
  • 1:07:27 Ben: In that traditional interaction where you would think that would be a really important thing, it ends up not being important.
  • 1:07:37 Sean: In the context of getting a job, even when people say, “It’s a requirement. You have to,” it’s still not a requirement. You can always prove something to people. There are always exceptions.
  • 1:07:59 Ben: You have two people sitting in the room with you, and one has a degree, but their work is okay. The other doesn’t have a degree, and their work is amazing. They’re going to create a whole lot more profit than the first person can for your business. Whatever goal you’re trying to reach, this person without the degree will blow it out of the water. It would be ridiculous for them to go with the person with the degree because that’s what the requirement says.
  • 1:08:30 Sean: In the online world and the offline world, people will look at your track record, and that’s what they care about. They won’t care if you have a piece of paper that says that you can do the work that’s right in front of their eyes—they’re going to look at the work and believe you.
  • 1:08:48 Ben: Businesses that you want to work for, clients you want to work with, people you want to be your students who will get value out of and learn from what you’re teaching, their focus is not going to be on your credentials. It’s going to be on the results that you can produce for them. That’s who you want to work with anyway. If you ever do get someone who asks that question, you can say, “I don’t care if you work with a really big company and it would be cool to put that check mark on my portfolio. You’re not someone I want to work with, because you don’t value the same things that I do.”

If You Don’t Know, Don’t Teach

  • 1:09:36 Sean: Cory Miller says, “I recently had a conversation with a friend who was frustrated with people just ‘teaching what they know’ because they were teaching wrong things, wrong methods. Teaching what you know only requires that you know more than the person you’re teaching, but what if just jumping out there to teach means you’re going to be teaching incorrect things to impressionable people seeking answers?”
  • 1:10:01 Teach what you know. If you don’t know something from experience, don’t teach it. Don’t go out and regurgitate. You don’t know. You could have learned something from someone who just learned it from someone else, so you’re cutting off the end of the ham like in that one analogy. Teach from experience. If you don’t know it, don’t teach it. If you do know from experience and you teach it and you’re wrong, then you take the opportunity to share what you learned, why you were wrong, and what you figured out and why you’re doing things differently. Share all of that.

Teach what you know from experience, and be willing to admit when you’re wrong, because that’s all that matters.

  • 1:10:51 Ben: For certain things, it can be very black and white. Some things are a grey area, and it’s okay to say, “I don’t know this for sure, but this is what I do and it seems to work.” Maybe your limited experience doesn’t give you what you need to make a strong assertion there. Teaching is a vulnerable thing, because you’re putting yourself out there. There’s the potential that someone could correct you. Someone who knows more could say, “What you’re telling people is incomplete because…” You could take that personally and think you’re a bad teacher, which is you internalizing it and letting it speak to your identity. It would be better to think, “That’s something I didn’t know, and now I can learn this thing.”
  • 1:11:55 Sean: You should be excited if they come to you with that, because you’re not a big deal. The people you’re worried about calling you out aren’t looking at you, just like you’re not looking at someone who knows less than you, poking through their stuff, and telling them what they don’t know. Even if you came across it, you would think, “He’s just a beginner.” No one cares. No one’s going to call you out. If they do, be honored that they took the time and say, “Thanks so much for sharing your insight. I’m going to share that with everyone.”

Give Credit to Your Sources

  • 1:13:16 If you hear someone else say something and you want to teach that, first, you need to attribute them. Unless you have a unique perspective, don’t steal their thing and present it as your own. If you’ve learned something from someone and you have no experience, you don’t have any business teaching it. You can quote them, make it clear that you heard this from them, and say, “I read an interesting thing that so-and-so said, and they said that, from their experience, when you do this and this, it helps produce this result.” If you’re quoting someone, that’s okay.
  • 1:14:06 Ben: I think most people appreciate that, too. If you’re quoting them, you’re pointing your audience to them as an authority also, which helps their brand. Even if you disagree with them, it can open up an interesting conversation.
  • 1:14:35 Sean: People should be attributing more. I’ll say, “I learned something from Gary Vaynerchuck,” or some other speaker. If I know that I’m using an idea from someone, I try to mention them. There are a lot of people who will try and obscure it. They say the same message and regurgitate something they heard, but they don’t attribute it. Not only is that just wrong, but you’re missing out

When you source things to people, your audience will start to associate you, and you glean some of their clout.

  • 1:15:55 When you talk about other people, when you reference other people, people start to associate you. You’re missing out on that when you’re not sourcing someone.

Mediums for Teaching

  • 1:16:19 Cynthia says, “What is the best medium for teaching? Should I be producing YouTube videos, blog posts, in-person classes, etc?” It is all of those, but don’t get overwhelmed.
  • 1:16:35 Ben: You have to start with one and grow.
  • 1:16:40 Sean: Please don’t start a twice a week podcast, a daily video show, several newsletters, and produce courses at the same time while you’re building courses and hiring people. Yes, I am doing that, and I have done that, but it’s not all at once. It started with a blog. Then, it was a podcast. Then, we did videos. One at a time. The stuff we have here has been added very gradually.
  • 1:17:20 Ben: If you started with video, that can work its way down into various mediums. It doesn’t have to right away. If you have an archive of videos and you get to a point where you can extract the audio and turn it into a podcast, and then, down the road, you do the transcription and turn it into a blog post. If you want to do different things for each medium, you can, but that has to be a gradual process, too. You might get to a point where you can afford to hire someone to go through and turn all of those into mp3s into a podcast series and you can also turn them into a blog series.
  • 1:18:44 Sean: I think that’s a really interesting approach, but I have this mantra, which is the complete opposite. It all starts with writing. If you start with writing, it can become all of the other mediums. It can become an ideal form of all of these other things, as opposed to reverse engineering. The other reason I recommend starting with writing is because a lot of people are timid and self-conscious. Not only do they need something good to say, but they need to sound good saying it, they’re going to be on camera, and they need to do their hair…

There are a lot more barriers to starting with video than there are to writing and putting out words.

  • 1:19:36 If you’re comfortable with it, more power to you. I don’t want people to feel like, “Oh, gosh, if I have to start with videos, I’m never going to do it.” Start with writing, share some blog posts, and then you could start reading those blog posts with audio, providing an audio version of the blog posts. Oh, by the way, it’s a podcast. You can improve that podcasting.
  • 1:20:04 Ben: Then, if you do start a video channel, you’ve got all this previous content that you can repurpose for video, so you’re not necessarily having to write original content to start out with. It just depends on your goals. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Look at your goals right now and see if teaching and selling that teaching is the best thing for you. There are different ways to teach.