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Blogging to Learn

A friend who knows I’m a blogger recently asked me for my blog address so she could take a look. We were chatting with instant messaging, so I sent her the link. A few minutes later, she asked me how long I’d been blogging, whether I enjoyed it, and how much I earned. I responded with the details and then asked her the obvious question: “are you considering starting a blog?”. “I want to” she replied, “but I’m not an expert on anything. I don’t know what I would blog about”.

There’s no shortage of great advice on choosing a blog topic. Among all that advice about finding a topic with sufficient audience, income opportunities, a growing market, not too much competition and enough to write about, it never says that you need to be an expert on your chosen topic. And you don’t. At least not when you start. The most important ingredient is passion. You can learn enough about your topic to become an expert, but you can’t learn passion. And without passion, you won’t be able to sustain motivation for blogging over a long period.

Sharing what you learn

I started my first blog on Microstock photography – an open market where anyone can sell photos online. I knew I wasn’t an expert, but I was already researching all the techniques, styles, agencies and superstars of the topic. I figured I might as well start sharing what I was learning anyway. With the helps of blogs like ProBlogger, the ‘learning to blog’ part was easy.

I carefully crafted my About Me page as my first line of defense. I wrote in detail about my ‘beginner’ status and that my background was in another industry. I wanted people to know that I wasn’t an expert so they didn’t think I was pretending to be one. My first few posts were about the very basics of microstock. They were my lessons as I was learning them, shared for anyone who started later than I did.

Being there for opportunities to find you

After I’d been blogging for just six months I got very lucky. I received a message via my blog’s contact page from Photo District News (PDN) asking me to call them to discuss “an opportunity”. Doing my best to sound cool and collected, I phoned immediately. They were planning a session about microstock for their annual PhotoPlus Expo, the largest photography conference & expo in the world. And they wanted me to speak!

Didn’t they realize I wasn’t an expert?? My About page was super-clear, and my blog posts were still mostly about very basic topics. But as they pointed out, nobody else was blogging specifically about microstock at the time. Even just six months of sharing what I’d learned and comparing the agencies put my level of knowledge ahead of a lot of people in the industry.

Learn from the experts and leaders in your topic

Conference speaking can help bloggers make valuable contacts

Speaking at that conference did a lot more for me than just boost my ego and give me something to boast about. It was where I met the leaders of the microstock and broader stock photo industry. I suppressed my desire to request autographs and did my best to make as many contacts as I could. I asked lots of questions and listened carefully to the answers. I knew what these people could do for my knowledge and my blogging.

Over the following year these industry leaders helped me with my education through countless emails, online chats and comments correcting my blog posts. They introduced me to other people with specialist knowledge and sent me lots of industry news. Each time I learned something new or got news, I blogged about it. I didn’t always understand what they were teaching me or recognize the company names in the news, so I had to research. The need to understand my topic in order to blog about it was forwarding my education. I was blogging to learn.

Never stop learning

It’s now two years since that conference. I still don’t refer to myself as a topic expert, but my about page no longer uses the word “beginner”. I’ve continued to blog my lessons as bigger and better opportunities keep flowing into my inbox. My network is also thriving, providing me with a broader education and access to amazing resources.

Sharing this experience with my friend completely opened up the range of topics she is considering for her blog. She is now looking at her interests rather than her expertise. She knows she doesn’t have to be an expert. At least not at the beginning.

Lee Torrens is a true fan of the blogging model and its strength as a platform for attracting and launching all sorts of entrepreneurial projects. He shares his experiences selling photos online with microstock at his blog, Microstock Diaries. He’s been blogging to learn since early 2007 and is still passionate about his topic.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Sarge says:

    This fits very nicely with my own blog. I love learning a personal development. I’m really keen on blogging and social media/internet marketing.

    At the moment I am fast-tracking my way to blogging success and hope I can help other beginner bloggers out there with the experiences I am having as a beginner blogger. It’s a great process.

  2. scart kabel says:

    You have given me validation about my ideas for creating community in school. Every student has a voice, has a gift, and should find their passion. We can help them with blogging.

  3. SeoNext says:

    Great informative post..thanks a lot for sharing this post with us.I really learned a lot from this post.Thanks a lot for this post.Thanks for this post.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    This post is really good. The best part is where you speak about the first 10 people who could bring the rest 100s to your blog.
    Even I was confused what to blog, couldn’t think of any area of expertise. But as you said I can definitely try blogging about what I am passionate about.

  5. Great post. It’s true, you don’t have to be an expert, but it seems to make you one on the subject. You are basically turned into a hub for information on your blog subject and everyone wants to share more info with you on it.

  6. Eric C says:

    One blogging niche to avoid: blogging about blogging/makingmoney! That niche is filled.

  7. Paul says:

    Great post!

    Although I have a little practice when it comes to static websites, I’m just starting to blog and at first a beginner could easily fall into the trap of feeling like he/she has to “sound” like an expert in order to get respect and attention from the blog’s targeted audience.

    It’s really helpful to hear experiences like this and realize that, after all, you were in our shoes once! It shows that with persistence, discipline and passion, anyone can succeed in the blogging arena.

  8. I had the knowledge when I started a computer help website, however I had no idea about websites, html, links, seo, and all that. I also had no real idea how to make people understand what I was trying to teach them through a simple webpage. It was like school all over again. I had to learn how to write step by step tutorials and take screenshots etc…
    Its like entering another world of education. But once you get a few people that appreciate what you do it almost becomes addictive.

    Now I have started other websites with just a passion for the subject, no knowledge at all.. If you stick at it and enjoy it you will learn and then share what you know.

    Anyone can do anything if they just stick at it.

  9. EQ Plat says:

    Many times I want to build a blog,but I don’t know what topic I can choose, and I am poor in writing,especially in English.

  10. abrablog says:

    agree. No suprise about that.

  11. NRI says:

    Great post, Great work.

    Hey Darren, That was a heck of good lesson, I’m Thankful you put the effort in to Share. Have a great day!

  12. Betty says:

    Thanks. This was so true.

  13. I’m trying to build my life and future around my blog. Luckily, what I write truly fuels me. Monetization comes after the love of it all (and a LOT of smart work)!

  14. titan says:

    sharing with anyone and never stop learning. Its 2 important thing we should know before we start blogging and make money.

  15. Filipe Silva says:

    Fantastic post! I love it, favorite it, and i will read again and again. Passion is all in this life, and only passion makes blog growth.

  16. umar says:

    I think sharing what you learn is most effictive