Early last year, I announced the first of my training workshops, which offered tips on “Creating Impact in Writing”. I was asked a number of questions about it, but one I hadn’t really expected — why would I want to teach people how to improve their writing, instead of charging to do it for them?
It was a good question, I suppose, although it had never occurred to me there was a problem. It seemed an obvious thing to do (and still does) but being challenged to explain why helps me be clearer about my goals.
The Difference Between Learning and Expertise
Suppose I’d set my heart on learning to play tennis, and money was no object. Perhaps I could offer a high enough fee to persuade Roger Federer to teach me. I’d certainly learn a lot, and my game would doubtless improve. But would Roger need to be afraid he was training someone who’d eclipse him? No, I think not.
True expertise is a lot more than a few tips and some practice in between. It’s living and breathing what you do for all or most of your life. It’s being the kind of person (whether by nature, nurture or both) for whom those particular skills click into something larger. It’s having a passion that makes not doing it unthinkable.
If I were to take art lessons, I might end up as a competent hobby painter, but it wouldn’t turn me into “an artist”. I don’t have the passion or the mindset for that. On the other hand, I’ve “been a writer” since I was four — not as a career, but simply as what I am. That’s what I’m offering as a copywriter, and giving out a few tips isn’t going to threaten my offer.
What I can teach, on the other hand, is appreciation for how it’s done — recognising the difference between good writing and great writing, and above all understanding why that’s important.
Yes, perhaps people who’ve taken my courses may have the confidence now to write an email or a Facebook post, rather than hiring me to do it. However, I think they’ll also understand that, when they need to rewrite their website or produce a book, it’s vital to get an expert in. And recognise the difference between an expert and a hack.
They’ll also, hopefully, turn into advocates and point friends and colleagues at me when they need written marketing content. There’s nothing like teaching something useful for demonstrating that you’re an expert.
I’m taking my training into a new area now, by offering my first webinar training session next month. Maybe I’ll be asked the same question again — but I know the answer, this time.