I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Do you need to hire an expert?

Recently, I saw an article called ‘do you need to hire a SEO expert’.

My immediate response was yes and no – depending on what you mean by ‘need’, you may or may not need a SEO expert.

Do you need an SEO expert because you have to be qualified or an ‘expert’ to do it (to at least an acceptable level)? No, not really.Professionals see how pieces fit together

However, an expert may do it faster and have knowledge to work more efficiently and get better results, but it is possible to do it yourself. Of course, if you don’t know anything about SEO and have to study it first, an expert’s value is greater.

Do you need an SEO person to help you get SEO done alongside everything else you do? Then quite possibly, yes you do. It depends on how busy you are and how much importance you place on SEO obviously, but SEO is one thing you can consider outsourcing.

Of course, if you are just after time saving, you may be able to use someone to work on your SEO (such as finding places to guest blog or comment and checking your site for deadlinks and duplicate meta data) rather than finding someone qualified to give you advice and expertise.

Does the same apply to hiring a professional writer?

Again, it is a maybe type of answer.

Do you need a professional writer to help you get everything done in a working day? Yes, you quite possibly do need help.

Do you need a professional writer because you can’t do it yourself? That depends on what you’re after. Most people in business can probably write webcopy and blog posts themselves so a writer is perhaps not necessary to get the content onto the page.

However, some people can’t write well so would get much better results via a professional – and probably find it is done with less time and stress, too.

Some people can write reasonably well, but will still benefit from someone who has a better understanding of business writing and can be objective about the content.

So if you can write with good spelling and grammar, understand about writing for a business audience and have plenty of time, no you don’t need a professional writer to help you!

Understanding is important

Do you think there is a significant difference between understanding a task and being able to do it with skill?

I would never pretend to be able to write and design a PDS for example – I hire a professional designer for the design aspects of the job – but I understand many aspects of making it effective (such as using white space and images to make it appealing, avoiding ‘orphans and widows’, being consistent in fonts and headings, and adjusting things to work with page breaks and spreads).

Likewise, when dealing with an architect, I can state functional uses of a space and know that they will match function, materials, space, appearance and reality (i.e. not every idea is really feasible!) I understand the project and outcomes but leave the expert to draw up the plans.

understanding is joyous and uses our brains, whether for social media or not

Marketing and social media

A recent IBM study about marketing professionals showed that only 12% consider social media expertise as critical to their personal success in the next 3 to 5 years. Ross Dawson points out the concern with this figure – how can marketers maximise social media for the business they market if they don’t understand it?

I know I understand social media and its power much better since I started using it. I even remember wondering about the value of blogs and making time to read blogs – until I started this blog and realised it’s potential and how useful other blogs can be.

I think it is ok to get someone else to write your blog posts or monitor your mentions on social media. But understanding these media yourself is important. Why?

  1. if you understand, you can check the people you hire are doing their job
  2. if you understand, you can fill in if your expert is absent for a little while
  3. if you truly understand, you can find ideas and inspiration to maximise use of these media (for example, instead of just tweeting and reading tweets of those you follow, have you searched for leads on Twitter?)
  4. if you understand, you can integrate your brand and message throughout your business – including running campaigns across multiple media
What do you think – do you have to understand something before bringing in an expert to do the task for you? Should marketing people, in particular, understand social media?

6 reasons to use a professional

As a business owner or manager, there are always many tasks to do, and often not enough time for them!

Yet many people hesitate in getting outside, professional help for things like writing, design, website updates and bookkeeping; for some, they don’t think they can afford help, others like to maintain complete control, some think it will take longer to find someone than to just do it themselves and another group just wouldn’t know where to start looking for help.

Whatever your reason for putting off getting help, here are my reasons to look and ask for help…

  1. a professional will do the job well – so might you, of course, but at what cost in time? Sure, I could design a website – it  would look horrible and cheap, but it would be done! So for things out of my skill set, it is worth looking for an expert
  2. it saves you time – even if it only takes you an hour a week to maintain your blog or two hours a month to update your accounts, think what else you could do (and how much money you could earn) in that four to eight hours a month…
  3. it clears your head as you don’t have to worry about fitting in that task anymore nor the details of how to do it. A clear head lets you be more productive, creative and relaxed
  4. a professional will probably do it much faster than you – meaning the job will be done and potentially increasing your profits much sooner, especially if you factor in that you would do the task around all your other responsibilities
  5. a professional may be more objective which can lead to better results. For example, I write very concisely and to the relevant point so often cut out a lot of information the business owner includes because he or she is passionate about the topic
  6. the professional can offer an outside opinion and fresh ideas. I don’t know how many times designers I have worked with have taken my outline and come up with something perfect and totally unlike what I had envisaged – in fact, I often ask designers for their input rather than giving them rigid briefs

I know it can take time to find the right professionals to work with. I know it may seem out of budget (but factor in time savings and better results and you may be surprised at the affordability). And I know building trust in others to care as much as you can be hard. Yet I believe it is often worth talking to a professional to find out how they could help.

Do you have any stories about an outside professional helping your business?

Expert presenters

Do you think the Internet (and all the associated media that has followed) has changed our perception of an expert?

We all love ‘big names’ and are more likely to pay for a concert or conference with someone we know of than a complete stranger. And many organisers of events get caught up in finding a big name to draw crowds.

Yet I don’t think you have to be a big name to be an expert and some of the best presentations I’ve been to were run by people I hadn’t heard of before. Not every successful person is rich or famous, not all great business people own/work in the corporate world, not all talented people are widely recognised, and so on.

Getting back to my first question, is the net changing some of these perceptions? I think so as people in traditional ways were not recognised as experts or ‘worthy’ of teaching us can now share their knowledge and skills through articles, blogs, newsletters, tweets, webinars and more.

If you are thinking of attending an event, does the ‘size of a name’ influence you greatly? Would you Google (or use social media searches) the presenters to find out more?

Too ignorant to know…

For many people, knowing what they don’t know is just about impossible. These are the people whose behaviour led to the saying “A little knowledge is dangerous” as they don’t understand how little they really know.

Consider a young child who has just learnt that 2×3=6. That child will proudly tell you she knows what multiplication is and how to do it. Yet if you asked her 34×76, she would have no idea how to solve it. As adults, we expect her to have limited understanding and give her time to learn more about multiplication – and encourage her learning to date.

What is a bigger concern is adults who act like that child – they know a few things and assume that makes them an expert – and charge people as if they have an extensive knowledge. Or use their assumed knowledge as a basis for applying for jobs above their level.

I have dealt with suppliers who believe in their own expertise to the point they can’t admit any ignorance or lack of knowledge. They assume a superior attitude to their clients and tell them how to do things, even if they are wrong. And even argue with clients who suggest or request an alternative.

The hard part is in dealing with these people as they aren’t likely to listen enough to learn how little they truly know, or even recognise how much someone has been coaching and helping them.

In some situations, I have taken the time to lead someone towards a greater understanding – and sometimes they have accepted the new knowledge, too! Some tips I have found to be more effective are:

  • never patronise them – they don’t like it any more than the rest of us!
  • occasionally add in why you are doing or requesting something even if you are in the position of being able to tell them. For example, I may say something like “I didn’t include that example because it was negative and I think a positive example will be more effective”
  • maintain their self-esteem by asking questions to either help you or confirm your understanding. Remember that they will have some expert knowledge even if not as much as you want or need!
  • if providing them with resources or information that may help them learn, present it carefully. Instead of “here, you need to read this”, try “I found this article very interesting – what do you think of it?” or “I’m not sure I agree with this document – do you?” or even “I want to go to this seminar – would you mind coming with me in case it gets too technical for me to understand?”
  • put your expected answer in the question so they can be involved in decisions and learn from the process. For example, “I assume that the second quote is better because it includes delivery as well. Do you agree?” may work better than “Which quote should we choose?”

We all have things to learn – and usually the more we learn, the more we realise we have a lot more to learn! So we can hope that giving bits of extra information to an annoyingly ignorant person will lead them to an understanding of their own limitations!

Use your words wisely!

Unethical or ignorant?

Is ignorance an excuse for giving the wrong advice? Or is it as unethical as someone deliberately misleading a client for their own gain?

I have previously written about the integrity of businesses misleading clients, but how different it is if the supplier gives bad advice from ignorance?

If you are paying someone as an expert, you have a right to expect their information to be reliable and trustworthy. Let’s face it, if you had the information and knowledge yourself, you wouldn’t have asked them in the first place!

Some supppliers will give advice based on out-of-date information (“it worked in 1995 so why should we change it?”), personal opinion (“I don’t like brown therefore it is a bad colour to use in every situation” reasoning) or no knowledge at all. And they mean absolutely no harm by it and probably think they are helping you.

Personally, I don’t think that is professional or ethical – if you are charging people money for your knowledge, then you should have that knowledge to start with! And you should keep that knowledge up to date.

Have you come across this sort of ignorance in busienss? Did you consider it unethical for them to charge for knowledge they didn’t actually  have?