On the Expectation of Information

by | Jul 30, 2017 | 11 comments

Category: Business

So, this happened. Again.

Since it recently happened, I should probably NOT be writing about it, because, you know, feelings, but I decided I’d throw together something for y’all anyway.

Think of it as external processing for the entire web to hear.

I know, I know, but I like to live dangerously. (But not THAT dangerously, as I already erased all my tracks.)

Note: this particular post is intended to be fodder for all sorts of delicious discussion. Dooooo iiiiiiit.

Here’s the story, morning glory:

A small bit of information, meant to be helpful and kind [because I actually *like* to be helpful and kind (GASP!)] turned into me being a jerk for talking about products and services that I offer, based on my expertise.

Are you familiar with this scenario? Hmmmmmm?

  1. Someone asks a question.
  2. You answer the question in a way that is helpful, but is also general, because you don’t know details. General questions = general answers.
  3. Someone else gives details, and wants details.
  4. You give details, because hey, you can do it off the top of your head, and you are interested in helping a colleague or potential client.
  5. Said someones ask more questions, give WAY MORE details, and want a reciprocal amount of details. (Personalized guidance, if you will.)
  6. You realize that now we are into actual energy spent with said somebodies, and they want answers to something that you specialize in, have spent a lot of time and resources to become *really good* at, and created part of your livelihood around. You also realize that to truly help them, you’ll need some energy from them to sit with you, and you need to listen, create a plan, and address specifics. So you say, “Sure!” Because what you do helps them do what they do, and this will be a great pairing to make people awesome! WOOOOOOT!
  7. You talk about your product and/or service that will fit the bill and help out, and the associated investment.
  8. A bunch of people jump on you and shame you for having the GALL to ask for MONEY in a forum where OTHER EXPERTS are just BLEEDING RESOURCES, because they are NICE, and YOU are just an ASSHAT.
  9. You delete everything, and wonder what went wrong… didn’t they ask questions? Didn’t you answer them? Don’t they get that I’m allowed to feed my family with my expertise, just as they do? Just as “the experts” do. Hey! Wait! I’m an expert in what you are asking about! Le Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong, this is most certainly some tricky landscape.
If you know me personally, you know that I am very generous with information, and collegial sharing, in addition to the products and services that I offer. And I am bold about reaching out to folks who I respect and know I can learn from.

I am not here to say I’ve figured it all out, but I do have some thoughts on it.

What is free collegial sharing?

What is free collegial sharing?

Free collegial sharing is anything a colleague wants to share.

How and what someone decides to share can be determined by any number of things:

  • Someone who has a salary coming in may be more likely to share, because that information is not the primary source of their livelihood.
  • Someone who has been in a situation where lots of extra work was demanded out of a position in order to advance may have internalized the belief that one *has* to give away information.
  • Someone who is building their business and brand may give away free information to familiarize folks with what they have to offer the field at large.
  • Collegial sharing on a forum is different than collegial sharing at large.
    • What we read on social media should be looked at as, “this is what I can give, off the top of my head, based on my knowledge and expertise, to further a discussion, and offer insight on where to look next, or what else needs to be considered.”
    • Private conversations that feed each person can be both uplifting and empowering.
  • General information will never replace one on one information.
    • I hope since we are all voice teachers here, I don’t have to argue that point. Besides, I know you all read what I read on the forums, and I already know you agree with me.

What is proprietary information and/or paid work/product/service?

I use the term “proprietary” loosely in singing, because there really is nothing new under the sun. Pedagogy has been around an awful long time, and even if we are now discovering more scientific whys and hows and such, we aren’t necessarily discovering something new.

  • Proprietary things have been developed by an individual(s?) that have distinct characteristics or features, and may be incompatible with competing products. (or so www.businessdictionary.com says)
  • I’ll go further, and say that proprietary is what one has created in sweat and passion. It’s something that has personality stitched into the delivery of the information.
  • I consider things like copy on a website/blog proprietary.
    • I am generous with this, as I also believe in attribution at all times, when possible.

Some folks (like every single voice teacher I know) have created products and services that make information not only more accessible, but practical and actionable, for their ideal student/client.

This product and content creation happens with independents, in academia, and with “straddlers” all the time.

Some of my favorite humans have done this in fascinating ways: self-study because of personal vocal trauma (HEY HEY HEY Cate Frazier-Neely!), or PhD’s and book writing (Who Dat? It’s Wendy LeBorgne!), or even dental school (Here’s looking at YOU Meribeth Dayme!).

Even if the information is not proprietary, the delivery method is.

The unique way each of us comes to knowledge, and shares it, is our product/service.

The unique way that a colleague connects with us is what we would be wise to invest in, and honor, through some form of payment.

When we receive or desire specific and individualized attention, we should recognize that compensation is appropriate.

Sometimes that compensation is through bartering skills and expertise. Other times it’s paying someone their stated fees. Some people are compensated by an institution they work for, others are compensated through bartering, and still others are compensation with monies. 

If some training, or coaching, or information has given you the ability to add value for your students, then the person who provided that should be compensated, one way or another.

I believe we must invest in products/services that add value to what we do, and therefore empower us to increase our value to our clients.

(There is a whole other blog in here about cost and price and worth and investment, and the difference between thinking in terms of money and value, but I’ll get to that another time.)

So how ’bout this?

  1. Be mindful of how your colleague pays their bills.
  2. Assume that you will be “paying” your colleagues one way or another. It might be money, or it may be information. Or it may be rides to the airport.
  3. Ask what you can do to further that colleagues reach, so the paying clients who would fit with them find them. I *LOVE* when I find the right fit!
  4. Consider asking colleagues who have given a lengthy answer, that obviously took time and effort, if there is any way you can compensate them. Do you find a particular person always seems to help you out, or speak your language? What can you do to help them back? Should you pursue some private instruction/coaching with them?
  5. Remember that every person on every forum is there because they are choosing to be, and doesn’t owe any other person on there anything. When a colleague points us toward their product or service, we should genuinely look to see if it is right for us.
  6. Remember that, as stated above, being in a free forum is NOT a replacement for continuing education, and that even if a thread is 198 comments long, you still won’t be able to belt with out some further research and study.

As always, let’s talk… what do you think? Do you ever feel taken advantage of? Have you thought about this stuff before?

Looking forward to sharing. (For free.)

Michelle Markwart Deveaux

Michelle Markwart Deveaux (124)

As CEO of FaithCultureKiss Studios, LLC, I lead underestimated humans through the personal and professional development needed to create successful solo and team-based businesses.

Did you find this helpful?

Please consider sharing with your colleagues so they can grow too.


  1. Meribeth

    This soooo needed to be said. Thank you.

  2. Cate

    HEAR! HEAR! YAY! Thank you for all of this, Michelle! All needed to be stated and put out there, which you did respectfully and clearly.

    There is another whole conversation to be had about those in academia who feel independents should not monetize their work experience and create their own learning environments. In another 50 years, there will way fewer colleges because of the expense, and more and more people continuing education with independents who can provide the experiences they are seeking. Just look at the popularity of Coursera and the Youtube Education phenomenon. My son already makes more as a Youtube Educator (he has his BM and MM) than I ever did as an adjunct faculty member and senior faculty member at a community music school with 30 years of experience. And I say, GO! Do what you love, provide a service for people and make the money you deserve! Get out of the scarcity mentality that has certain people “at the top” and bring on your awesome!

    • Michelle Markwart Deveaux

      Thank you so much, Cate!!!! I am thrilled that you would comment! I didn’t realize there was a thread of academia that would want us independents to “exist”! Oh no! Do you think that is based off of some weird “gate-keeper” mentality? Fear of losing jobs? I understand that fear!

  3. Brian Lee

    This is good stuff. Look forward to more discussions of this sort of thing. Cheers!

  4. Cynthia Vaughn

    Thank you so much for saying this! I have been in a similar situation, where someone in a forum sincerely wanted to know about business practices and pricing for multi-teacher studios. As a studio director I shared a little bit of information, then a bit more as the specific questions grew. THEN the attacks started from a few home-studio teachers who think it is “criminal” to pay contractor instructors less than what they would earn in their own single-teacher studios. Yikes. I deleted the information (much of which I had learned from small business courses I had paid to attend.) and tried to remember The Four Agreements’ “Don’t take it personally.” Lesson learned!

    • Michelle Markwart Deveaux

      UGH!!!!! That is so disheartening. I am so very sorry that this happened to you. I agree ~ I too have invested a lot of time and energy into learning business courses, and it’s fascinating how little respect is paid to that in our field ~ especially since we RUN BUSINESSES?! I am always grateful for whatever I can glean from you, friend!

      • Cynthia Vaughn

        It’s ok. It’s just a different mindset. I believe that everyone has a right to develop and follow a business model that fits their specific desires, needs, location, and clientele. Determining how, who, and where you teach will help answer some of the bigger questions and help you decide what types of continuing education to pursue; graduate degrees, pedagogy or curriculum, workshops, marketing and business strategy courses etc. These skills/training are (tax deductible) investments in yourself and your studio.

  5. Joanna

    I missed the original fervour… did people act up after you said something lovely like, “What you seem to need is one-on-one guidance and instruction from someone who specializes in this sort of thing. How convenient! I am amazing at this stuff! Let me know if you are interested and we can go from there.” Asking for a friend 😉 also – I didn’t know you blog!?!?!? Where do I subscribe?


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