Selling Myself Long

Been attending sessions by Meri Aaron Walker about online methods to get paid for our expertise. Meri coaches teachers about those issues.


There’s also a LearnHub “course”: Jumpstart Your Online Teaching Career.

Some notes, on my own thinking about monetization of expertise. Still draft-like, but RERO is my battle cry.

Some obstacles to my selling expertise:

  • My “oral personality.”
  • The position on open/free knowledge in academia and elsewhere.
  • My emphasis on friendship and personal rapport.
  • My abilities as an employee instead of a “boss.”
  • Difficulty in assessing the value of my expertise.
  • The fact that other people have the same expertise that I think I have.
  • High stakes (though this can be decreased, in some contexts).
  • My distaste for competition/competitiveness.
  • Difficulty at selling and advertising myself (despite my social capital).
  • Being a creative generalist instead of a specialist.

Despite all these obstacles, I have been thinking about selling my services online.

One reason is that I really do enjoy teaching. As I keep saying, teaching is my hobby (when I get paid, it’s to learn how to interact with other learners and to set up learning contexts).

In fact, I enjoy almost everything in teaching (the major exception being grading/evaluating). From holding office hours and lecturing to facilitating discussions and answering questions through email. Teaching, for me, is deeply satisfying and I think that learning situations which imply the role of a teacher still make a lot of sense. I also like more informal learning situations and I even try to make my courses more similar to informal teaching. But I still find specific value in a “teaching and learning” system.

Some people seem to assume that teaching a course is the same thing as “selling expertise.” My perspective on learning revolves to a large extent on the difference between teaching and “selling expertise.” One part is that I find a difference between selling a product or process and getting paid in a broader transaction which does involve exchange about knowledge but which isn’t restricted to that exchange. Another part is that I don’t see teachers as specialists imparting their wisdom to eager masses. I see knowledge as being constructed in diverse situations, including formal and informal learning. Expertise is often an obstacle in the kind of teaching I’m interested in!

Funnily enough, I don’t tend to think of expertise as something that is easily measurable or transmissible. Those who study expertise have ways to assess something which is related to “being an expert,” especially in the case of observable skills (many of those are about “playing,” actually: chess, baseball, piano…). My personal perspective on expertise tends to be broader, more fluid. Similar to experience, but with more of a conscious approach to learning.

There also seems to be a major difference between “breadth of expertise” and “topics you can teach.” You don’t necessarily need to be very efficient at some task to help someone learn to do it. In fact, in some cases, being proficient in a domain is an obstacle to teaching in that domain, since expertise is so ingrained as to be very difficult to retrieve consciously.

This is close to “do what I say, not what I do.” I even think that it can be quite effective to actually instruct people without direct experience of these instructions. Similar to consulting, actually. Some people easily disagree with this point and some people tease teachers about “doing vs. teaching.” But we teachers do have a number of ways to respond, some of them snarkier than others. And though I disagree with several parts of his attitude, I quite like this short monologue by Taylor Mali about What Teachers Make.

Another reason I might “sell my expertise” is that I genuinely enjoy sharing my expertise. I usually provide it for free, but I can possibly relate to the value argument. I don’t feel so tied to social systems based on market economy (socialist, capitalist, communist…) but I have to make do.

Another link to “selling expertise” is more disciplinary. As an ethnographer, I enjoy being a “cultural translator.” of sorts. And, in some cases, my expertise in some domains is more of a translation from specialized speech into laypeople’s terms. I’m actually not very efficient at translating utterances from one language to another. But my habit of navigating between different “worlds” makes it possible for me to bridge gaps, cross bridges, serve as mediator, explain something fairly “esoteric” to an outsider. Close to popularization.

So, I’ve been thinking about what can be paid in such contexts which give prominence to expertise. Tutoring, homework help, consulting, coaching, advice, recommendation, writing, communicating, producing content…

And, finally, I’ve been thinking about my domains of expertise. As a “Jack of All Trades,” I can list a lot of those. My level of expertise varies greatly between them and I’m clearly a “Master of None.” In fact, some of them are merely from personal experience or even anecdotal evidence. Some are skills I’ve been told I have. But I’d still feel comfortable helping others with all of them.

I’m funny that way.

Domains of  Expertise


  • Conversation
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Culture
  • Literature
  • Regional diversity
  • Chanson appreciation

Bamanan (Bambara)

  • Greetings
  • Conversation

Social sciences

  • Ethnographic disciplines
  • Ethnographic field research
  • Cultural anthropology
  • Linguistic anthropology
  • Symbolic anthropology
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Folkloristics


Language studies

  • Language description
  • Social dimensions of language
  • Language change
  • Field methods


  • Critical thinking
  • Lifelong learning
  • Higher education
  • Graduate school
  • Graduate advising
  • Academia
  • Humanities
  • Social sciences
  • Engaging students
  • Getting students to talk
  • Online teaching
  • Online tools for teaching

Course Management Systems (Learning Management Systems)

  • Oncourse
  • Sakai
  • WebCT
  • Blackboard
  • Moodle

Social networks

  • Network ethnography
  • Network analysis
  • Influence management

Web platforms

  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Ning
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Jaiku
  • YouTube
  • Flickr


  • Cultural dimensions of music
  • Social dimensions of music
  • Musicking
  • Musical diversity
  • Musical exploration
  • Classical saxophone
  • Basic music theory
  • Musical acoustics
  • Globalisation
  • Business models for music
  • Sound analysis
  • Sound recording


  • Homebrewing
  • Brewing techniques
  • Recipe formulation
  • Finding ingredients
  • Appreciation
  • Craft beer culture
  • Brewing trends
  • Beer styles
  • Brewing software


  • Homeroasting
  • Moka pot brewing
  • Espresso appreciation
  • Coffee fundamentals
  • Global coffee trade

Social media


  • Diverse uses of blogging
  • Writing tricks
  • Workflow
  • Blogging platforms


  • Advantages of podcasts
  • Podcasts in teaching
  • Filming
  • Finding podcasts
  • Embedding content


  • Trends
  • Geek culture
  • Equipment
  • Beta testing
  • Troubleshooting Mac OS X

Online Life


  • Mailing-lists
  • Generating discussions
  • Entering communities
  • Building a sense of community
  • Diverse types of communities
  • Community dynamics
  • Online communities


  • Enjoying food
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Vinaigrette
  • Pizza dough
  • Bread


  • Montreal, Qc
  • Lausanne, VD
  • Bamako, ML
  • Bloomington, IN
  • Moncton, NB
  • Austin, TX
  • South Bend, IN
  • Fredericton, NB
  • Northampton, MA


  • Carfree living
  • Public transportation
  • Pedestrian-friendly places

Tools I Use

  • PDAs
  • iPod
  • iTunes
  • Skype
  • Diigo
  • Blogger (Blogspot)
  • Mac OS X
  • Firefox
  • Flock
  • Internet Explorer
  • Safari
  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Maps
  • Zotero
  • Endnote
  • RefWorks
  • Zoho Show
  • Wikipedia
  • iPod touch
  • SMS
  • Outlining
  • PowerPoint
  • Slideshare
  • Praat
  • Audacity
  • Nero Express
  • Productivity software

Effective Web searches


  • Social capital
  • Entering the field
  • Creating rapport
  • Event participation
  • Event hosting

Computer Use

  • Note-taking
  • Working with RSS feeds
  • Basic programing concepts
  • Data manipulations

Research Methods

  • Open-ended interviewing
  • Qualitative data analysis


  • Hedonism
  • Public speaking
  • GERD
  • Strabismus
  • Moving
  • Cultural awareness

8 thoughts on “Selling Myself Long”

  1. Wow, Alexandre! You said you were blogging hard about your internal conversation and you weren’t kidding! Thanks so much for spreading the word about my work. I truly appreciate your clarity and the authenticity of your inquiry. You have articulated so many of the obstacles that are keeping people teaching for a paycheck instead of for a living! I don’t know who else is involved in this conversation, but you’re adding a great deal of value to it right here…I will start tracking it now out here in your blog (in addition to our dialogue inside LearnHub) on the chance that I can add anything of value myself.

    In my own migration from thinking of myself as just a “teacher” to thinking about what I do as my “teaching business,” I have wrestled with every one of the concepts you’ve named here. And the struggle was deep in consciousness, not up at the surface. Sounds like you’re in that terrain right now. I only make quarter bets in my life, so I won’t wager on who’s going to win ;-). I’m only an expert on wagering passion, not money. But, let’s just say, I have a great deal of empathy for what’s going on in your psyche… and I want to really acknowledge the courage it takes to make your internal dialogue so “public.” You’re teaching THIS subject – with great passion and I’m loving your performance!

    Rave on, Lear!

  2. @Meri
    Thanks a lot for the elaborate and thoughtful comment. You have, in fact, been instrumental in this reflection but it actually started before I heard of your work.
    I don’t do bets either but I do think I’ll be doing something in terms of monetizing my expertise online. I just wish it didn’t require so much effort. After all, I am a cat.

  3. I see one of your areas of expertise is working with RSS feeds. I can’t seem to get your RSS link here to link to my Bloglines or Google Reader. Want to teach me how to do that?

  4. @Meri
    Good one! 😉

    In Bloglines, once you’re in your account, click on the “Add” button in the “Feeds” tab (left-hand sidebar). Enter the following link in the “Blog or Feed URL” field (in the middle of the main frame, on the right) and press the “Subscribe” button:

    In Google Reader, if you have your browser set to send RSS feeds to Google Reader directly, you can click on the RSS icon in the address bar. As long as you’re already registered in your Google account, it should take you to a page where you can choose to add this same feed to either your Google Homepage or to Google Reader. Alternatively, if you go to Google Reader directly (, you can click on “Add Subscription” (in a green box in the left-hand sidebar, between the “Home” box which has “Friends’ Shared Items” and the box with all your current subscriptions). You then see a box to enter search terms or feed URL. Paste that same URL and click the “Add” button.
    If you enter my last name (Enkerli) instead of that URL, you’re taken to a page which lists a few of my RSS feeds, with the main feed for this blog repeated as the first few items. You can click the “Subscribe” button on any of those items to subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed.

    If none of this works, feel free to ask me (tell me which browser you’re using). My impression is that you were probably using another URL as the RSS feed, possibly because of your browser. But I can confirm that this URL works directly in Firefox 3 (it’s the one in the address bar) and does work in both Bloglines and Google Reader. There could conceivably be another issue, but that would require a tad bit of simple troubleshooting.

    Actually, this RSS issue isn’t a bad example of some of the things I was talking about in this post.
    For one thing, this is exactly the kind of “service” I would feel weird charging for. Providing information on how to subscribe to my very own blog isn’t something I could get paid to do. Now, if there really is troubleshooting to be done (as in, the link still doesn’t work in Bloglines and/or Google Reader on your end), I can certainly help and it could transform into more of a “task” I could potentially get paid for.
    I did do tech support on many occasions, both informally (with colleagues and friends) and semi-formally (as a graduate assistant). I’m not the best troubleshooter in the world because I’m not a coder, but I’m fairly efficient at most common problems. Because I’ve had them myself. Personal experience as expertise.
    So, yes, I could “teach” some things about feedreading and RSS support.

    The reason I listed RSS as part of my expertise is not that I’m an RSS expert or that I have in-depth expertise of RSS details. In fact, though I’ve seen the specs, I haven’t created RSS feeds from scratch. My listing RSS as part of my expertise has to do with the fact that understanding RSS seems to me to be key in terms of grokking what O’Reilly called “Web 2.0.” When presenting online tools to fellow teachers, I usually try to get them to understand some RSS principles and advantages.
    With several of the tools I listed, I can easily qualify myself as a power user. With others, I have enough of a background to transform myself into a power user if I need to. With RSS, it’s more a question of perspective. I have things to share about RSS and I do think I grok what RSS implies.
    As for the differences between RSS versions, Atom, etc. I see why it could be relevant in terms of implementation, but I use “RSS feeds” to mean use of feeds in general. In blogs, podcasts, social networks, and mashups.

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