I’m Afraid to Market Myself Because I am the Not THE Expert



I hear this a lot, especially from relatively new consultants, and especially from women.

“There are people who know a lot more than I do.”

“There are people who’ve done this kind of project many more times than I have.”

“There are people who have been doing this work for decades longer than I have.”

Of course, all of those statements are likely true, and will be forever. So what? 

If you are getting hung up on statements like these, you are really focusing on just the first way that people become known as experts. There are two other equally compelling ways to reach the same status.

1. The Expert with Real World Experience

This is the been-there, done-that expert or “hands dirty” or “eye witness” expert. It’s the kind of expert that most people are thinking of when they pooh-pooh their own expertise.

2. The Reporting Expert

This is the kind of expertise you gain by constantly listening, observing, and analyzing. If you are good at soaking up all kinds of information and squeezing it back out in more useful forms, or are great at crowd sourcing, curating, and convening, you are likely this kind of expert.

3. The Expert with Insightful Perspectives

This expert focuses more on the future than on the past. They talk about “what ifs” and “why nots.” They are often more visionary or inspirational that other types of experts.

Is one better than another? That totally depends on what you are doing, and who you are doing it with. Performing brain surgery, yes, we want the real world expert. Teaching others about how to solve problems that current brain surgeons are having? I’d go with one of the other two.

In my own journey, I started out as the real world expert. As I built my consulting and training practice, I focused more on being a “reporting” expert. Now, as I build my coaching/mentoring practice, I’m working more on the “insightful perspectives.”

What kind of expert are you? Did you start as one kind and transition into another? I’d love to hear your path in the comments. 



  • Mary Fifield

    Thank you for this helpful and insightful post, Kivi. I have seen (and felt) the gap between men and women’s perceptions of the value of their own experience. Real-world experience is extremely important, but how we define the term makes a difference too. I’ve found that a lot of my experience in one field is more transferable than it might seem at the outset. I have to understand how my different types of expertise interrelate in order to convey that to my clients.

    • http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/blog Kivi Leroux Miller

      Absolutely Mary! Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  • Amy Butcher

    Something else that Kivi said (and others) to help me get over this was that your consulting is never about your knowledge (as someone will always know more) but about your message. As consultants, we have to figure out what we want to say, our approach, or philosophy to improving our clients’ lives, and that’s why people will work with us. I’ve included those kinds of messages in my marketing and when I talk to clients, and they really work.

    • http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/blog Kivi Leroux Miller

      Yay Amy! Glad it’s working!

  • http://www.NonprofitsHelpdesk.com John Hornbeck

    The expert who asks questions and listens. In my opinion this is really the only kind of expert to be — especially in these exciting times full of changes. Great post reminding us that this is one more way we can get stuck in doing nothing, when the best way to learn is by doing something.

  • Sara Innamorato

    Kivi, you are so wonderful at verbalizing what I (and I’m sure others!) am feeling on the inside. In the last few months I’ve decided to leave my full-time position as a marketing and communications manager at a nonprofit and go off into the world of consulting. The thoughts listed in the beginning of the article are something I struggle with daily. Thank for for not only acknowledging that, but also providing real-world terms to help market yourself.

    • http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/blog Kivi Leroux Miller

      Sara!! Congrats on joining the consulting world. Be sure to share what you are doing with me!