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 Instead I, like almost every other blogger at the time, started a blog (pictured below – no longer active) which was quite personal in nature.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

    Great point! I think personal blogs help a lot of people get used to the idea of blogging, as well as find their niche.

  2. Alex Herrera says:

    I would like to see more personal blogs out in cyberspace. I’m getting sick and tired of seeing Seo, PPC, money making blogs and cheesy niche blogs that give zero value to the marketplace.it seems that everybody is copying each other,and putting out the same stuff just a different theme.That is why I favor personal blogs. They are real life experiences and adventure’s. That is just my opinion.

  3. Ann says:

    Lets you test your theories and notions online out before you stick your foot in your mouth live!!

  4. Thanks for the post. You just validated what I thought all along. I keep reading posts about the need for a niche when it just does not feel right as a fledgling writer. The personal blog feels right and that is where I am right now. By the way, your blog has been very useful to me. Thank you.

  5. Simon Bunker says:

    Great article and advice Darren. I am a huge fan of personal blogs and think that they are a great way for somebody to get started in blogging. I think that you can learn a lot by blogging personally rather than attempting to start with a business blog.

    I shall pass this post onto some of my clients
    Thanks for the post

  6. Darren,

    I can totally relate to this post. I have not found a niche but instead have just been writing about a group of things and already (blog just a few months old) I am shifting gears. I believe this exploratory process will eventually lead somewhere. I also have very little audience at this time so I do not feel any pressure to be an expert or worry about what I write.

  7. I think a lot about starting businesses lately. As blogger try to build a business around or on top of their blog I am positive that a personal blog would help a more traditional founder the same way – to find the passion, find the niche, find the audience and ultimately find THE MARKET ;)

  8. lubos says:

    Hi Darren, love your site! Always ton of great info. I got into web sites way before “blogging” was even a term. I still update my personal site, but it’s not really a blog. It’s just basic HTML, no nifty PHP, no comments, etc. It was basically a place for me to keep track of my trips and travels before Facebook became the place to post such things.

    But anyway, my current “blog” is actually a cooking site, (slovakcooking.com). I would say that here the niche found me. I never had the intention of creating a blog, it was more along the line of me getting tired of constantly eating sandwiches and similar junk, and starting to miss the dishes I grew up with (I was born in Slovakia). So I started preparing the recipes, taking photos along the way and posting them online. Turns out the site filled a real niche, as there is whole bunch of Americans who trace their roots to the former Czechoslovakia and are interested in finding out more about their culture (which food is huge part of).

  9. Texas says:

    Your post is right on the mark!

    I have enjoyed reading all your right ups about blogging and through your insight I have started developing my own blog.

    I must admit that at first I had no idea of how to contiue putting information for the blog. However since following your continued expertees I have now too much information to put down in the blog!!!!!

  10. Matt S says:

    Darren,

    This is one step I “skipped” on my road to becoming a blogger. In retrospect I really think it could have saved me some time and even money.

    When I started my first blog I had so many ideas running through my head. I thought they all could succeed. At the time though, I didn’t know what I would be able to blog about consistently or what people wanted to read.

    So I had was jumping from blog to blog trying to figure something out. I definitely think this could have been avoided with a personal blog.

    I will be sure to recommend this for future bloggers.

  11. ElizOF says:

    Thanks for keeping me inspired… every time I want to throw in the towel and head south, I remember the 31DBBB and how much your courses have helped me. I’m worn out managing two blogs that need lots of loving care but in for the long haul. Truth is, I love blogging.
    Best,
    Eliz

  12. Bill says:

    Great article and great advice. It is so true that if you want to excel at something, you have to practice. If you want to be a writer, you have to spend time writing (and reading). The same goes for blogging. You will never learn how to do it unless you begin. I have only been running my blog for a little over a month, but I have learned a tremendous amount about the blogging community and the great tools available to help all of us pursue a passion.

  13. C Asghar says:

    A Valuable tip .. i have already started one hope to narrow it down to my niche

  14. alvin says:

    struggling between a travel blog, photography and food blog, but I’m not a good writer. Where can i improve ?

  15. usi says:

    I’ve a personal blog but i feel odd attaching it with my normal blogging blogs, but now I will decide how to go forward.

  16. Rahul Malik says:

    Thans Darren . for the info. In fact i have certain small websites which are making very small amount of money. i would like to start some more niche sites which would allow me to leave my job. :)

  17. Rahul Malik says:

    Thanks Darren . for the info. In fact i have certain small websites which are making very small amount of money. i would like to start some more niche sites which would allow me to leave my job. :)

  18. Great points Darren. Having a personal place to unload thoughts is the perfect testing bed. It’s especially valuable to someone who’s brand new to blogging. I went through 4 different personal blogs in the past (all of which are no longer active). But each one had opened new doors for me. Once the new door/niche was open, I rolled with it and refined the concept. I would shut down the personal blog which was the testing bed and narrow the site down for the niche I would be working in.

  19. Apluslife says:

    I think it gives energy to share more info, if people are interested in my blog. So, it is important to know, whether reader can find my blog or not…

  20. Rahul Malik says:

    Would have to start working on my personal blog then.

  21. jhon says:

    I prefer to choose a niche of my interest. because it would make it easier to write content. with personal blogs will find friends with similar interests. and it would be a good start

  22. Faizan says:

    I was also thinking to start a new personal blog. But i will do that after i get ready with few blogs so as to show my business to people! hahaha

  23. I think this is an excellent advice. Sometimes you are very positive about a niche but soon you find out that you have run out of ideas. It is important to test your acumen before you start to commit your resources. A personal blog is a perfect test bed to make that happen for you.

  24. Good article, it gives an insight that people enjoy reading personal stuff.

  25. Now I understand that how to find a niche & focus on that while starting a professional blog. And these ideas in this post is excellent beyond doubt. I have a blog (http://productivehobbies.blogspot.com). But I am having a very hard time to promote it & to attract new readers. I found ProBlogger and reading it daily to discover new technqiues of blog promotion and making money from it. Hope Darren Sir will write thousands of more quality posts and help us to jump to the next nevel of blogging! Thanks once more to you.

  26. Ossy says:

    good advise, good idea, am trying it out but how do i get better free theme for my blog?

  27. Vernon says:

    Darren, this post couldn’t be more timely for me – although I have been blogging in some form for a number of years now, I only recently started a personal blog.

    I had a domain that I owned but wasn’t planning to use in the way originally intended, and I wanted to test my programming skills at building it. When I finally finished and started blogging on it, I thought “I can write anything” and expected that I wouldn’t really worry about what readers thought – I guess I thought only my proverbial ‘mother’ would read the blog, but to my surprise, several people did read it, and all of a sudden I started feeling like I need to please readers.

    The blog I created to just throw things out there became increasingly difficult for me, because I was trying to second guess what people wanted me to write about. My subscriptions would jump from 3 to 10 and back down almost on a post by post basis and I was getting stressed at what was causing these swings.

    My conclusion – relating to your post – is that it is perhaps a great place to start off, but once you have been blogging for a while, you’ll get frustrated by the lack of direction. At least, that is my experience.

  28. Chris says:

    I’ve (just two days ago) decided to create a multi-niche blog. That way, I will avoid limiting myself to just one niche. Filling it with content (in theory) will be more simple, however I’m sure gaining authority may prove to be a little more daunting that with a single-niche blog. What are your thoughts?

    Anyway, wish me luck!

  29. Ann says:

    Good Luck Chris

  30. Noelle says:

    I have a personal blog, that I have just because it’s fun! I’m thinking about starting other blogs.

  31. Civilblogger says:

    Thank for a wonderful article. I am attempting to learn creating a good blog too. I am currently begining my first blog on Civil Engineering. http://civilengineerblogger.blogspot.com/ I am very happy to share and get some comments from you guys.

  32. Krissy says:

    I’m there right now. Have little idea what I should blog about, but I’ve started a personal blog, at least, to experiment. Great advice!

  33. I am trying both things concurrently.I am running my personal blog also and bloggingtutors,my blog for blogging also.I am still in the process of finding perfect topic/niche for me. Thanks for inspiring Darren.

  34. ron says:

    I am having this dilemma right now. Jumbled topics and all. I am experimenting with my topics by I think, slowly I am getting there. This topic helps a lot in my selecting and reinforcing process. Thanks a lot problogger.

  35. ron says:

    I am having this dilemma right now. Jumbled topics and all. I am experimenting with my topics by I think, slowly I am getting there. This topic helps a lot in my selecting and reinforcing process. Thanks a lot problogger.

  36. kishore says:

    Just started my new blog after blogging for a couple of years on another niche, I started the new blog in an intention to write on technology. I will work it out the concept personal blogging first and then i ll put all my asserts on the new blog. Thank you for the post.

  37. beka says:

    “…it was an extension of my brain…” is definately the way I feel my blog to be. A public place to record all the interconnections and references for later digestion. You said it very well and I nod in agreement :) Thank you.

  38. Great tips. I wish I started off with a personal blog, since it would have been so much easier and I probably would have found my passion a lot quicker than I did.

    I started off with a health/lifestyle blog and, while I liked the lifestyle aspect of it, it didn’t really resonate well with me. I then started another blog on finance and it also seemed a bit off. I was losing enthusiasm in it and kept feeling like something was missing. I talked with another entrepreneur about it, and she suggested that I put a tighter focus on my blog. I love writing and have been mainly blogging about freelance topics on the money blog, so I redefined the blog and turned it into a resource of writing tips, where I also talk about freelance lifestyle topics. I couldn’t be happier!

    Great post, Darren. Keep it up!