You’re a designer and a good one. You know your stuff, and clearly you’ve got knowledge to share. People come to you for advice and compliment you on your abilities to do and to teach. It’s occurred to you that offering an ecourse, a training program, or even consulting services for other designers might be a good next step. But does that really make sense?
Some might argue that teaching others to do what you do isn’t a good idea; you could lose your competitive advantage in a market, after all. But if you take the long view, you might see that you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Nothing to lose
While it looks on the surface like you’re giving away trade secrets to competitors, this just isn’t really the case. It’s true that you’re a designer, and you’re sharing your expertise with other designers, but, your students are not your competition. Remember:
You’re (at least) a level up.
If you’re the teacher, it’s likely that your knowledge, skills and experience are far enough ahead of your students’ that, most likely, they can’t really compete with you. You’ve probably got a stronger portfolio, and you can command higher rates. They’re gunning for your clientele, yes, but they aren’t there yet, and by the time they get to where you are, you’ll be another step ahead.
You aren’t doing the same things.
If you spend some of your professional time offering, say, consulting services to other designers rather than filling your plate doing design work for clients, you’re not competing. You’re doing different types of work entirely, and your teaching work is building up a client base from a completely different client pool than the one your students are after. In other words, your new clients are designers, not people needing design work — which is their market.
There’s an infinite number of markets.
Everyone needs at least one website. You’re in a field with a demand that’s growing and expanding at lightening speed. With a market that’s nearly limitless, there are plenty of design clients to go around. The more you train others to work in the field, the more you’re expanding the reach of field itself. More designers meeting more needs more effectively will ultimately lead to more people wanting work done, which is good for everyone — congratulations, you’ve made the client pie bigger.
Plus, you’ve already got everything you need to pull this new service together. No one knows this audience the way you do, because you’ve been in it, and you’ve seen first-hand the issues that crop up for people who haven’t been designing as long as you have. If you ever thought, “I wish I had known XYZ” at any stage of your design career, then there are hundreds or possibly thousands of others who will think it tomorrow, next week, and next year.
You can become that valuable resource; all it requires is some time and a plan.
Everything to gain
By offering your expertise to others who want to learn from you, you’ll actually be helping yourself out the most. One winning concept + some work on the front end = many benefits for you. To name a few:
Credibility with clients.
By setting yourself up as an expert in your chosen field, you’re establishing your expertise and building trust in your brand. This increases your credibility, which translates into better rates for you.
If you’re teaching or consulting with other designers, your name is going to have a wider reach. This sets you apart among your peers, and it presents greater opportunities for networking, referrals, and collaboration.
Hoarding your ideas will just suffocate them. Ever heard of idea sex? Author Matt Ridley spoke at TED about how sharing our ideas with other people who have their own ideas leads to even more ideas for everyone. Developing your coursework, progressing through your consulting services, and interacting with your students will likely turn your head into an idea factory as you begin to share your knowledge and experiences with others. Instead of running out of ideas, you’ll have more than you’ll know what to do with. And that’s when the real fun begins!
By opening the pipeline of communication between yourself and your students, you’ll be tapping into their experiences and helping them work through their dilemmas (and/or watching them do it themselves).You get the benefit of these myriad situations and solutions without being bogged down in them. This is the real-world side of expertise, and it’s valuable.
Cold, hard cash.
While idea generation and helping others are noble reasons for offering consultant services or courses, there’s also the very real fact that people pay for what you’d be offering, often at premium price points.
By developing this new arm of your business, you’re diversifying your income streams and establishing an efficient and possibly even scalable source of revenue. You’re no longer limited by the number of lines of code you can write or the number of pages you can sketch — and depending on what you decide to offer, this stream of income could be nearly or completely passive. Ever wanted to make money in your sleep?
Sharing is caring
While it can be tempting to protect your ideas and keep your expertise to yourself, there’s a world of possibilities open to you if you decide to share your skills. Rather than buying into the notion that every other designer is your competitor, see training other designers as strengthening your field and establishing a better, more far-reaching market.
The potential benefits are both tangible and intangible: they include everything from a stronger competitive advantage by establishing yourself as an expert to a more solid bottom line that makes it possible for you to do the work that really ignites you.