“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 Instead I, like almost every other blogger at the time, started a blog (pictured below – no longer active) which was quite personal in nature.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.
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.