The "Expert" Dilemma - When Everyone Wants Your Time
The "Expert" Dilemma - When Everyone Wants Your
Let's imagine that you have spent years building up your
expertise in a certain niche - say, puppy training. You
have written articles, created courses, published e-books
(or real books), filmed training videos and hosted web
seminars. Suddenly, your name is out there. Your
promotional activities have born fruit, and you are now
the 'go-to guy' on puppy training.
For a while, it's great. Your products sell like hot cakes,
and your e-courses are always full. Grateful clients send
you emails telling you how fantastic your information is -
and of course, you use their words in testimonials. That
generates even more sales.
Then one day you sit down at the computer to start on
your email - and you realize that it's out of control.
Increasingly, you are getting mail from puppy-owners
assuming you will be happy to dispense free advice.
(After all, you are the guru.) People who have done your
courses tend to stay in contact, too. Sometimes they just
to report success, sometimes they ask for further advice.
("I know you're a busy person, but I wonder if I can just
ask a quick question?")
At times, you open your email program and find that
you have twenty or thirty emails to answer. You're
spending hours every day just being polite to people or
answering more questions.
Obviously, you can't keep this up. Yet you know that
these are nice people - their motives are innocent, and
you don't want to offend them. They obviously have no
idea how much time you spend on unpaid support - or
how the time spent on all those 'quick questions' can
Here are a few strategies that can help you take control
of your time again.
This is the first thing you should do if your expertise has
started producing a good income. Your time is precious:
use it to create new products or to enjoy well-earned
leisure time - not to give technical support. Create an
email forwarder (or a new pop mailbox) on your
website, which will forward all support issues to the
person you hire. Make sure this 'support' address is
included on the 'thank you' email that goes to all
customers who buy downloadable videos, e-books or
You will find that the same problems or questions come
up again and again. Each time you get a different
question, add it - and your answer - to the FAQ page on
your website. Suggest that clients check this page first to
see if the answer to their question is there.
3. Create Website Forms for Support or Contact
Your email will decrease if you ask clients to fill in a
contact form on your website rather than emailing you
directly. Put a polite note on your website explaining to
people that because of the volume of mail, it has been
necessary to use a website form. Here, you can direct
people to consult the FAQ page before they fill in the
form, or to Tech Support, if this is the issue.
4. Create Quick Explanations Using the Signature File
Your email program should allow you to create new
signature files. (In Outlook Express, this is under
Options/Signature Files.) If your business is not yet large
enough to outsource support, use the signature file to
create quick answers to common questions. (For
example: a common question is "I've downloaded your
e-book but it won't open in Acrobat. I get a message
saying that the file has been corrupted. What do I do?"
Mostly, this problem arises because the customer is
using an outdated version of Acrobat Reader. So, you
create a new signature and call it "Acrobat Reader".
Type out a few lines that say something like "Most
problems in opening PDF files are solved when you
latest version of Acrobat. You can download it here.... If
this doesn't solve your problem, please contact me
Create similar signatures for any common question. One
of the first that you should create is a friendly paragraph
explaining that your email volume is so high that you
can no longer spare the time to address problems
personally. Suggest that the FAQ page is a good source of
information... and perhaps provide a different email
address for URGENT concerns that are not covered on
the FAQ page. Most people will respect your time once
they understand that you get large volumes of email and
simply don't have the time to answer individuals.
You'll find that a collection of signature files that address
common questions will save you a great deal of time -
you can respond with a few clicks of the mouse, rather
than typing it all out again.
Bottom line: If you don't recognize the value of your
own time, nobody else will - so take action NOW to