How to launch your career as a how-to expert

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: September 12, 2011 - 12:47 PM

If you have a curious mind and like learning new things, you may find success working for yourself as a how-to expert. That's the message in a new book from Bob Bly, marketer and author.

For some of you in today's economy, your last job may have been your last job.


You may have decided to chuck the idea of employment altogether and become your own boss.

But what if you're not clear on what, exactly, to do as a self-employed person?

Good news: If you have a curious mind and like learning new things, you may find success working for yourself as a how-to expert.

That's the message in a new book from marketer and author, Bob Bly, How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit.

I interviewed Bly ( to get his tips for anyone thinking of becoming a how-to writer, speaker, or trainer.

Kevin Donlin: If someone is thinking of publishing their expertise -- they want to turn a hobby into something that pays, for example -- what should they do first?

Bob Bly: First, understand that people want to buy one of two things: entertainment or information.

If you can write or broadcast in an entertaining fashion, you can sell it. Glenn Beck does not have great original content, but some people find him entertaining.

Or, if you have valuable information that people can use to better their lives or businesses, they will pay for it -- dearly, in some cases. You can package and sell it as a product.

Kevin: How do you suggest people gauge demand for what to produce?

Bob: As a start-up entrepreneur, you are probably going to do a lot of your selling on the Internet. I would use Google or a tool like to see how many people are searching on your topic per month online.

If your topic is 13th century Peruvian poetry, you may be an expert on this, but if only three people searched on that last month, you do not have a big enough audience to justify it.

However, if you find 50,000 people or more searched Google for your terms, there is a demand out there.

Kevin: What other ways besides writing are there to earn money selling information?

Bob: There are options like adult education, public seminars, coaching, and consulting.

If you are not a born writer, one of my favorite venues is audio. To produce an audio on a topic, you could find an expert, interview him or her, and package the audio as an information product. Audio is an often-overlooked way of creating information products and I sell a lot of them.

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