The goal of this session was to talk about highlights from the past five Salons. To my delight, we not only touched on great highlights from the past five Salons but also sparked at least two new important insights for me. This time we were a smaller group, as usual, only four of us, as the Salon exceptionally moved to an earlier time slot. From now on it will stay fix on Wednesdays at 5 pm UTC.
We started with the definition that a knowledge entrepreneur is an expert who creates for an audience earning an income and how there is currently a window of opportunity to deliver value at scale in a way that used to be reserved to organizations.
The tough task to get a business model going
Philip shared how he was already good at creating content but how he saw challenges in the earning part. He said that it was hard to think about how to get a business model going and how it often poses a big barrier to creators.
We all agreed that is challenging to sustain a demanding expert activity if you are not appropriately remunerated. I added how this is all based on a value-exchange driven by an economic engine. In it, money is the energy that keeps the engine running.
There are two important aspects of an economic engine: technology and mindset. Both can be described in the context of value exchange.
- Value exchange technology only recently started to give you the tools to earn money online. This is where most innovations came together only in recent years. It's all there but it requires creators to make use of it.
- The value exchange mindset on the other hand might be the even more important one as it requires a new perspective from many creators. An expert creates value for the audience and it is the most natural thing to ask for some of the value in return.
The difference between selling and earning
At this point, we brought up a highlight from the Salon about earning. How there is an important difference between selling and earning. Selling can feel uncomfortable but earning feels good. As the marginal cost (unit cost of producing one more additional unit) for digital goods is negligible you are left with a choice. You can configure your economic engine towards earning or selling or anything in between.
The most important habit is to ask
A second highlight from the Salon was the importance of getting into the habit to ask your audience for something small in return after you provided value. At the very beginning, this can be to ask for signing up to your newsletter or follow you on social media. You are in the best position to do that if you lead with value.
Value exchange in the example of the Salon
Reddy's reflected on the mindset of asking for money and how scarcity, a certain sense of doubt or even fear, desire, and then even gratitude can play a role in the journey of purchase.
At the core of a lot we do is a value exchange. We talked about this Salon format and how the participants (thankfully!) get lots of value from it. I pointed out that at this point in time - and probably for the future, too - I am also getting so much value from the Salon, that I don't intend to ask for money. In the Salon, value flows both ways. The Salon gives me feedback on my thinking, I can see signs of topics that resonate with the audience, I get challenged on my theories and can refine them.
But if I needed the money and would think about using the Salon as an income stream, it would be risky at this point. As I am just starting out there is little social proof about my expertise. People that join these sessions are early adopters. They invest their time with the risk that it does not turn out as expected. I would have to make sure to consistently deliver enough value to not only make up for the time but also for the price of the Salon.
It is not your choice for whom you are the expert
We talked about the expert choice as a highlight from Salon #02 about expertise and how it is not you who decide your expertise but other people who choose you as their experts.
Dheebak shared how this gave him a new perspective on his own expertise and its value for other people. Given that he recently finished his studies of strategic design he may not be an expert for seasoned designers in this domain. But as pointed out in the discussion he is already an expert for other students or people interested in this topic. He is definitely an expert for me.
Some experts bridge gaps between different domains or communities
He also mentioned how some experts bridge gaps between different domains while others go deep into a specific area of expertise.
This bridge works also across communities. While you may not be the most knowledgeable expert on mental health you can be that expert in your company. You do this by stepping up and starting to collect information about the topic and delivering it to others.
Being an expert can be very rewarding
We touched on how showing up as an expert in a community can be a very rewarding activity. Because experts feel useful. Bringing value to other people creates a very good feeling of being useful to others.
How working in public can generate more time
Philip described how he is an expert for Linux and teaches programming to accountants, how he also is an expert bird watcher, an expert in flying gliders and teaching how to do it. He asked for the next steps for how to prioritize the time he invests in these activities.
We discussed that the level of expertise he has in these domains already required to invest large blocks of time. Though time is generally scarce, we all do have enough time to pursue different paths of expertise.
The major key to a different mindset is to adapt the technique of working in public. Today we have the technology to do this in a very efficient way. So if he would record his gliding sessions on video, other people could benefit from it without the need to invest his time.
The importance of seeding
Philip followed up on this by describing how he already created videos for his gliding hobby and put them online but so far it resulted only in very few subscribers. What should he prioritize next?
This allowed me to highlight the importance of seeding. Creating great content is not enough, you have to draw attention to it, too. Especially when you are starting out and your audience size is still small. You go to an existing community with people that fit your audience and draw attention to your content in a tactful way. The details here will be the topic of our next Salon session.
Doing things that don't scale at the beginning
Seeding takes time. But especially at the beginning, this is a great investment. As an entrepreneur, you'll learn so much by being challenged to transport your content with a concise message to an audience where you feel not familiar. You'll learn to identify value, you learn how to frame it. You'll get direct feedback that helps you to refine your content or your message.
Many knowledge entrepreneurs emphasize how important it was to go out and share your work.
I recommend you to savor this time as at some point the growth of your business will make it harder and harder for you to come back to this activity.
Salon format review
At this point, I shared my learning from conducting 6 Salon sessions in the last 6 weeks. I can't emphasize enough how rewarding this journey has been.
- Great format to start a community.
- Motivates me and allows me to share the enthusiasm.
- Salon offers accountability. Call anchors memories better than text.
- We all agreed how a conversation on Zoom can give much more energy than other formats.
This conversation sparked me to go into a little more detail in this article on Indie Hackers.
Be the character not a protagonist
A major breakthrough appeared while talking about the competitive advantage of knowledge entrepreneurs towards companies. We touched on this when Reddy invited Philip to share his experience in his video, not only the expertise.
Thus far I had only my own experience, that acquiring knowledge from an actual person is far more rewarding than learning from a company. It was confirmed that there is some logic in there because there were these clues.
This resonated for me with a video I recently saw on YouTube explaining why Tenet can be seen as masterful failed experiment by Christopher Nolan. Nolan pushed the boundaries to test whether a film can work without a strong character. And the answer is, no. I'll explain this soon in a separate article in more detail.