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Trouble Choosing a Niche? Start a Personal Blog

“I’m having trouble deciding what topic to blog about.”

This was a statement I heard three times at the ProBlogger meet up in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago and is a problem that many PreBloggers face.

I’ve written numerous times about how to choose a niche or topic to write about but it struck me while talking to the Brisbane folk asking the question that the biggest factor in helping me to narrow in on my own niches was having a personal blog.

When I started blogging in 2002 I had no intention of doing it professionally. Instead I, like almost every other blogger at the time, started a blog (pictured below – no longer active) which was quite personal in nature. In many ways it was an extension of my brain and was simply a place to talk publicly about what I was thinking about, learning and experiencing in life.

personal blog

As a result I wrote about many topics including spirituality, culture, photography, starting a church, movies, holidays, family, emerging forms of media and blogging.

It was a bizarre mix of topics and I know that some of my readers struggled to make sense of my somewhat eclectic interests – but as I look at the three blogs that I currently operate today I see the roots of them all in that first personal blog.

I blogged on that first blog for a year and a half before starting any other blogs and before I even began to think about making money from this medium but while that particular blog didn’t make much money (I played a little with AdSense on it but it never really worked) it was probably my most important blog in shaping what I now do.

Why was that personal blog such an important place for me?

A few thoughts come to mind as I look at how important that first personal blog was.

1. A personal blog can be a testing bed for ideas and niches

In many ways that first blog became a testing bed and launch pad for new blogs. ProBlogger is a great example of this. After a couple of years of blogging I began to start other blogs and experiment with making money from blogging. As I did so I also began to journal some of the lessons I was learning about blogging on my personal blog. I started a blog tips category and got to a point where I had 50 or so posts in it.

These posts were quite popular and in time I realised that my blog tips were resonating with and helping more and more people – to the point where they perhaps justified starting a blog on that topic. This led me to registered ProBlogger.net and start this very blog.

The great thing about launching ProBlogger this way was that I’d already worked out that there was an audience for the topic, I already knew that I enjoyed writing about the topic and I already had 50 or so posts that I could transfer over to the new domain.

In many ways when I started ProBlogger I was able to leapfrog over some of those startup headaches that many bloggers face because I’d already tested the idea on my personal blog.

2. A personal blog gives you a place to find your voice

Over the years I blogged on my first blog I experimented with many ways of blogging. Not only did I chop and change that topics I covered – I also wrote in different styles and voices and was quite playful and experimental in working out what types of posts connected most with readers.

3. A personal blog helps you understand blogging

The other great thing about that first blog for me was that it gave me a taste of the technology and culture of blogging. I was very overwhelmed by the technical aspects of blogging in those early days and quite intimidated about putting my ideas on the web. I was also confused about how to find readers and interact with them.

Starting a blog is the best way to learn about blogging – until you experience the process of publishing a post and having people read and interact with it you’re not really a blogger.

The great thing about learning all of this on a personal blog is that people’s expectations may not be quite as high as if you launch a ‘professional’ blog.

Are Personal blogs for everyone?

I’m not convinced that everyone should have a personal blog to help them launch their new blogs. For me it was helpful but some bloggers are much more ready to launch into niche focused blogs without going through that process.

However if you’re convinced that you want a blog but don’t know what topic to focus in on then a personal blog might be a step forward to help you find your voice, identify topics and to learn the ropes of blogging itself.

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. Joshua Noerr says:

    You know Darren, my personal blog has been great for getting awareness for my other blogs, and, I just really enjoy posting to my personal blog.

    It isn’t monetized per se, but it does get folks to my other blogs so indirectly, it certainly helps.

  2. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Darren,

    That is cool seeing where you started your blogging venture. I’ll tell since I launched my personal blog. I was able to launch additional blogs in specific niche markets. It all started with my personal blog as well. This is a great way to start!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  3. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Darren,

    That is cool seeing where you started your blogging venture. I’ll tell since I launched my personal blog. I was able to launch additional blogs in specific niche markets. It all started with my personal blog as well. This is a great way to start!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  4. This is excellent advice and my own first blog started off as a personal blog before I refined its focus and then spawned a 2nd blog to be my personal blog. Personal blogs give you versatility and ability to write about any content without concerning “value” to your readers of one specific niche. It also is a great way for readers to get to know more about you, I recommend even niche bloggers have a personal blog if they want to build a trust with their audience and showcase the person behind the blogger.

  5. Jillian says:

    Hey Darren!

    I definitely agree that having a personal blog (even one that you don’t make public) can be a good way to find your voice. Especially for people who aren’t strong writers to begin with, it’s a good way to flex those creative muscles and learn writing skills.

    I think part of what discourages people from going the personal blog route is the belief that it has to be touchy-feely private business stuff, or that it can’t make any money.

  6. Very good point Darren and I completely agree. My only additional comment would be that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a personal blog. Any blog in a niche yo have some interest in is a good tarting point. My first website was about parenting. As a young mom, that was the topic that was mostly on my mind and like your personal blog it gave me a feel for the medium, allowed me to learn about the technology etc.

  7. Pam Moore says:

    Love this article. Nice to read where and how you started. I am somewhat like you. I always loved writing and the art of communication. As I started my biz (marketing agency) I did exactly what you recommend and started a blog to share and learn at the same time.

    I too never thought I would wind up spending as much time as I do on blogging or ever making money from it. However, thanks to blogging and Twitter our biz has taken off in less than a year.

    Always a fan of your content. Appreciate all you do! Keep up the good work!

  8. I really agree with number 2 and 3. If you develop your voice when no one is reading, and you learn the ins and outs of blogging before your business depends on it, then you can get started right out of the gate with more tools once you’re ready to make money.

    There are so many blogs out there that have nothing to say.

    Once you can get past that first year of creating content on a regular basis, then you know you will be able to do it indefinitely. That’s when it’s time to start making money.

    I think that people should start a personal blog with the idea in their minds that it’s for learning the process, not just for vanity.

    You can experiment a lot more and grow a lot faster once your ready to find your niche and start making money.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  9. I really agree with number 2 and 3. If you develop your voice when no one is reading, and you learn the ins and outs of blogging before your business depends on it, then you can get started right out of the gate with more tools once you’re ready to make money.

    There are so many blogs out there that have nothing to say.

    Once you can get past that first year of creating content on a regular basis, then you know you will be able to do it indefinitely. That’s when it’s time to start making money.

    I think that people should start a personal blog with the idea in their minds that it’s for learning the process, not just for vanity.

    You can experiment a lot more and grow a lot faster once your ready to find your niche and start making money.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  10. I think personal blogs are a great tool for finding your voice and learning the ins and out of blogging.

    Most people will not read it anyway. If you go into the mindset of using a personal blog as a tool instead of a vehicle for vanity, then once you are ready to make some money, you will be leaps ahead of everyone else.

    You just have to get past ethat first year content mark. If you can keep creating content for over a year, then you know you can do it indefinitely.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  11. sorry about the duplicates, there seems to be a glich when submitting to your site today.

  12. Joy says:

    Thank you for this post. I am interested in beginning a blog and I have no idea about what niche to take on. I started to create a personal blog but I hesitated because I wasn’t sure if it could lead to anything but thanks to this article I know that it can and now I will not put it off any longer.

  13. Darren,
    This is exactly what I did. I started my personal blog back in May, with the intent to learn as much as I could about the blogging world, blogging business, and social media in general. My intent was always to start a business blog in the future. My personal blog is http://bernicewood.wordpress.com.

    I am moving towards that goal! I have defined my niche, have even bought and hosted my domain name http://www.livingthebalancedlife.com although there is nothing there yet! It is all floating in my head and in my notes! My hope is to launch by November!

    I appreciate all the advice you give! I participated in the SITS 30 day challenge and it was awesome!
    Bernice

  14. Rob O. says:

    A personal blog also affords you the opportunity to build & hone your skills without the pressure of profitability hanging over your head.

    For my wife & me, our blog is part brain dump (a place to put stuff that we want to refer back to later), part specialized social network (to share stuff with our family & friends who’re spread across the country), and part creative outlet.

  15. I’ve recently been noticing this with my own blog. I started it out with a specific purpose, but I feel that it has become more of personal blog, where I keep track of what is going on in my life, thoughts I’m having and projects I’m working on.

    Out of this writing, I’ve noticed a trend towards minimalism and simplicity. So now I’m working on starting a new blog, with these topics as its focus.

    Out of my personal blog is coming my niche blog.

  16. Neena says:

    I agree – a personal site is a great place to get started and to try out different things. It can also help with link building to your new site should you decide to spin off on specific topic sometime down the road.

  17. Neena says:

    I agree – a personal site is a great place to get started and to try out different things. It can also help with link building to your new site should you decide to spin off on specific topic sometime down the road.

  18. Moon Hussain says:

    Darren, great idea but I think it’s still overwhelming for people to define what they’re really great at and put it into words all over the internet.

    Still, it’s a start and it’s a way for them to test any ideas they have.

  19. Elias says:

    Darren,

    Pretty much most of new business ventures start like that ” lets try it and see how it goes “. Of course once things get serious, planning comes in place but for the beggining we all start with the hope to create a significant presence online. For some, this gets true for some others, remains nothing but a dream.

    Thumbs up!
    Elias

  20. Excellent post. Yes, branding is such an important part of developing a Blog. But sometimes you need to dive in and explore who you are and what you have to say prior to anything else. Many of the disciplines of Blogging can be built while you’re “finding your way.”

  21. Personal blogs can really set one in motion particularly when you don’t know how to go about starting a pro website or blog. You can actually experiment as much as you like to see what works and from there you can move on to try your hands on other things.

  22. giozi says:

    My blog is a personal blog. I write about my experiences, my hobbies, my life as mother, and my errors :)
    I sharing little things that I found online, tips and whatever, some drawing that I do too. :)
    I started it last july for my birthday, because I was a little depresed, and now I am addict to my blog, ha ha ha.

    Sorry for my English.

  23. After many years of limited success with my original blog (http://islandinthenet.com) I recently decided to start a personal blog. I think I struggled with the original blog because I still have too many eclectic interest to blog about one thing.

    I’ll be using my personal blog as – you suggested – “a testing bed for ideas and niches.” Maybe my niche is about being a testing bed for idea.

  24. Greg says:

    Darren, thanks for the great reminder that not everyone starts from the same place and that growth of any kind takes time. Blogging seems and sounds so easy, but until you start typing or getting files ready to ftp to your site, you don’t realize the work and commitment involved. All three points apply to my experience with my personal “laboratory” site. I can relate to Justin’s comment above about a personal blog allowing readers to get to know the author and Jillian’s about exercising your “voice,” but it also helps authors to learn about themselves.

  25. Miss Britt says:

    My problem is I LOVE my personal blog and can’t imagine giving it up in exchange for niches – even though I know that’s where the money is.

  26. Darren,
    This posting got me thinking about my professonal personal development blog and I realized that it is in fact also my personal blog because all I write about is a natural extension of who I am in everyday life. It has always been my passion to nourish my life and the life of people I meet.
    I guess in a way your photography blog is also a sort of personal blog for you as photography is a passion of yours.

    All the best to you and everyone,
    David
    P.S. Darren, I hope you had a wonderful vacation.

  27. Rainbow says:

    Hi Darren,

    I’m so glad you posted this because I really think it’s an important option for new bloggers to consider, even if they have a clear niche in mind.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I confess that I was just plain scared to start blogging. I really felt like I needed a place to make mistakes freely, experiment, and “expose” myself. I’ve found that certain emotional and psychological issues are coming up related to doing this (and to my messed up upbringing), and I’m really glad I’m dealing with these with a personal blog rather than a professional one.

    I also plan on practicing different kinds of techniques for presenting content, organizing it, drawing traffic, etc. There’s a little less pressure to “perform” if your prime goals for a personal blog are self-expression and experimentation.

    Thanks for bringing this topic up.

  28. Thank you for this. I am currently writing my first post of my personal blog. Thinking about what to write about was not such a great idea for a beginner like me – it’s much better to write about everything and narrow it down, I guess.

    One big problem I had was choosing the language to write in. I grew up speaking three different languages (English, German and Greek), so it was a hard decision. I am sticking to English for now, but it just feels weird for me to limit myself to one language. Is there anyone that blogs in multiple languages successfully? Can it be done?

    Cheers,
    Alexander Ververis

  29. Thank you for this. I am currently writing my first post of my personal blog. Thinking about what to write about was not such a great idea for a beginner like me – it’s much better to write about everything and narrow it down, I guess.

    One big problem I had was choosing the language to write in. I grew up speaking three different languages (English, German and Greek), so it was a hard decision. I am sticking to English for now, but it just feels weird for me to limit myself to one language. Is there anyone that blogs in multiple languages successfully? Can it be done?

    Cheers,
    Alexander Ververis

  30. Riaz Sidi says:

    I use my personal blog as a portfolio for offline newspaper articles I have written but this is a good idea. I am thinking about possibly using it to post blog articles. In the meantime, I will keep plugging away at the niche.

    Thanks for the tips.

  31. Marlon says:

    What really worked for me is the “brainstorming” technique that you suggested in the Problogger book. I have a moleskine notebook dedicated just for this purpose alone. I would capture to that notebook any idea that comes to mind.

    I see why personal blog is also an effective technique in finding a niche. :-)

  32. Jimmy says:

    I still don’t have a niche and it’s been a year since I started my blog. So I guess I just write about whatever and it’s more personal now. But some of my personal opinions offend a lot of people, which is bad and good, because even though it’s opinion…it’s always the truth and most people can’t face the truth so it brings about anger because they can’t stand to look in the mirror.

  33. Simon says:

    I love personal blogs. I use mine as a place to post stuff which might not ordinarily fit into any of the other blogs as well as a testing ground for thoughts and ideas.

    Great article by the way

  34. Its been a while since I started blogging and I really like doing things inside my site. I like the way people interact with each other changing thoughts and side stories.

  35. Angela Wills says:

    Great suggestions!

    I actually started a personal blog recently not to figure out what my niche is but just to blog without worrying about how I’m going to make money from it. It is quite nice to not have to worry how the time invested is going to pay off. All I do there is blog.

    For me that personal blog is just to help me on my journey of weight loss, and maybe anyone else who happens upon it that might end up being somehow inspired or motivated by my own journey. I doubt I’ll even monitize it but I will keep an eye out for any patterns, or natural ‘voice’ or any other benefit I get out of it that might spill over into my actual monetized blog.

  36. I often test out business ideas on the personal blog. Great reasons why I should continue doing so. Thanks for the great post.

  37. observe says:

    I use my personal blog as a portfolio for offline newspaper articles I have written but this is a good idea.

  38. Great article, i think blogging is still a great and powerfull tool for self marketing.

  39. Carolee says:

    LOL- I have started numerous new blogs because of all of the interests that kept popping up in my original blog………

    Gets a little crazy now and then, but they just didn’t all fit into that 1st blog.

  40. patricia says:

    Really great post.
    I am a newbie at blogging (just this month)
    My blog has started out as a personal blog, but has always been a test blog for me as I have plans of a travel blog when I am able to do some extensive travelling.
    This first blog is teaching me alot more than I could ever learn by reading a book.

  41. Very cool advice. I came up with a similar conclusion lately trying to struggle what to write about. On a personal blog can write about wide variety of topics and if you seem to enjoy something more than others, you can always start another niche blog about it later. Until then, I think it’s a great way to experiment, organize your thoughts and practice.

    Also, especially if using your own name, it can serve as a portfolio-like site to tell people about what you do, can do, have done and so on.

  42. Darren,

    This makes total sense to me! I’m glad you found your blogging voice-the world is better for it. Once I started blogging, then I kept having more and more ideas for new blogs!

  43. Mike Ward says:

    Thanks, Darren. This was great to read as some vindication of what I am currently doing – using the blog to experiment with topics and styles of voice. I’ve established a blog schedule and learn more about writing better headlines and content, all by being a good reader of other blogs. Though I admit I do not use the the Problogger checklist for every post, it has been very been useful and the posts that I have checked with it have generally received more views.

  44. Kate says:

    Thanks Darren. My blog is definitely ‘personal’ but I don’t fit a neat, tidy niche….such as ‘mommy blogger’. I write about a broad range of topics. I guess humor and satire are the threads holding it together. So far my best description is ‘fowl tales and other cock-and-bull stories’.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  45. Sure way to get started and it kinda opens doors, giving you idea of the other opportunities that are out there, allows you to test what orks and what doesn’t work before concentrating on specific niches

  46. Jacob Silva says:

    This is excellent and I’m glad to see that I’m not alone in the hunt for my own voice. I recently started a personal blog and am desperately trying to improve the quality of posts while also incorporating real content. This article puts me at ease by assuring me I’m not going through this alone and it’s all a very natural stage of development.

    Thanks!

  47. Mark says:

    I think all blogs should be personal to some extent. You need to give a little about yourself to engage with your audience.

  48. Thank you, thank you thank you! This is just what I needed to hear. I delayed starting a blog for 2 years because I couldn’t focus, then I started three different personal blogs, then I combined all three and write under my own name. My blog is very eclectic and I’m sure my readers are confused. I have no idea how to make money from it but trust that if I keep doing what I love (blogging) eventually that path will open up.

    Thank you again.

  49. Perry says:

    Agree with Mark that all blogs should be personal. However, when you speak as an authority on a subject you sometimes can lose that personal touch. I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a personal blog. Darren’s article has giving me some food for thought

  50. Tim says:

    Hi problogger readers.. I started a blog a few months ago, and it isnt really getting any comments.. i’ve had about 1000 page views last month and 400 and somthing this month.. can anyone give me tips on getting comments? Im using self hosted wordpress and my own domain. Another thing has crossed my mind, if i have blogspot do you get more comments and page views because it is a community kind of thing? Thanks for any replys.