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

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.

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