I’ve been blogging full-time since 2008. During the past 10 years, more than 90% of the money I’ve made has come from blogs in the web design and photography niches.
But I have a confession to make… I’ve never been an expert in web design or photography.
I’ve built a few different blogs from scratch, and I wrote the vast majority of the content myself. As I got experience in each of these fields, my skills improved, but never to the point of becoming a pro.
Over the years I’ve sold two web design blogs for a total of $550,000, and I’ve sold multiple photography blogs for a combined $700,000. Of course, those blogs also generated some income while I owned them.
In this article, I’d like to share a few tips that can help you to start and grow a successful blog, even if you’re not an expert in your niche.
If you’ve been holding back because you feel like you’re not qualified to start a blog, hopefully, this article will serve as encouragement and motivation.
Choosing Your Blog’s Niche
There are a few different approaches you can take when it comes to choosing a niche for your blog:
- Choose a topic that you’re passionate about
- Choose a topic based on your experience and expertise
- Choose a topic that gives you the potential to make money
In an ideal situation, all three of these will intersect. For example, if you’re a personal trainer you may be passionate about helping people get in better shape, you have the expertise to write on the subject, and there is potential to make plenty of money in the niche.
But there will be times when you want to start a blog on some topic where you don’t have much expertise. I’ll be the first to tell you that expertise can help, but I don’t think it’s absolutely critical.
Personally, I prefer to build blogs on topics that I’d like to learn more about. Photography is an excellent example of this. When I started my first photography blog, I had an interest in photography, but only a beginner-level knowledge. Fortunately, I was able to turn my photography hobby into a real income.
I don’t think it’s mandatory that you “follow your passion” and blog about something you love. But I know from my own experience that I need to at least enjoy the topic a little if I want to have a shot at success.
Building a blog from scratch takes a lot of work and patience, and if that work is no fun you’ll be a lot more likely to give up or move on to something else.
Why You Don’t Need to Be an Expert When You’re Starting Out
Of course, having experience and expertise makes it easier to blog on a topic, but you can still be successful without expertise, and here’s why.
1. You Can Improve as You Go
One of the fun things about running a blog is that you’ll learn a lot about the topic as you go. Blogging about a topic forces you to immerse yourself in it, and you’ll learn through the process.
You may learn by reading posts on other blogs in the niche, by researching for posts that you’re writing, and just from being surrounded by the topic on a consistent basis.
Depending on the topics you cover, you may be able to become an expert pretty quickly. If it’s a more complex topic, you may not become an expert, but you’ll certainly grow your knowledge and get more comfortable.
2. You Can Outsource Work
You may not be an expert, but there are probably plenty of people with experience who are willing to write the content for you. With sites like Upwork and Freelancer, as well as freelance job boards, finding qualified writers for just about any topic is pretty easy.
As a new blogger you may not have the budget to outsource a lot of work, but later in this article, we’ll look at outsourcing strategically in order to get the most out of your money.
With no budget, another option is to open your blog to guest posts, where another blogger writes content for free (in exchange for exposure on your site).
Whenever I start a new blog I’m always surprised at how quickly I start getting guest post proposals. You might think that you need a really popular blog before people will be willing to write for free to get exposure to your audience, but that’s not the case.
If you do go the route of accepting guest posts, be sure that you have high standards. Only publish quality articles and avoid spammy links within the articles.
The main reason it’s preferable to hire writers is that the quality of free guest posts can be hit or miss.
3. Readers Relate to People Who Aren’t Experts
And now, to the most important point in this section. The connection between blogger and reader is extremely important for building a successful blog. Readers often connect with real people easier than they connect with experts.
You don’t need to be an expert in order for readers to care about what you are writing. Readers are drawn to personal stories. In many cases, readers relate to “average” people more than they relate to experts.
Think about the personal finance blogging community. For a topic like finance, you might assume that most people running blogs are financial advisors, accountants, or people with other professional experience.
While there are some bloggers with these credentials, there are many popular finance bloggers who are “regular people”, blogging while they are on their own personal journey to improving their finances.
The key here is to figure out what makes you unique. Present yourself and your blog to readers in a way that creates interest and allows them to relate to you.
How to Write with Authority Without Being Phony
If you’re an expert on a subject you can write with authority and your experience or credentials are there to show people why they should care about what you write.
But what about when you’re not an expert? Here are a few ways that you can handle writing the content for your blog.
1. Know Your Limits
If you have an interest in blogging on a subject, chances are you at least have some level of knowledge on the topic, even if you’re not an expert.
In my opinion, and from my own experience, it’s really important to know your own limits, and don’t try to be something that you’re not.
Early on in my time as a web design blogger, I did some freelance writing for several different blogs in the niche. Typically, I picked the topics for my posts, so I could work on things that were within my limits.
One time I was approached by one of my clients with an article idea for me to work on. I wasn’t comfortable with it because I knew it was outside of my strengths. But this was a good client and I didn’t want to let them down, so I wrote the article anyway.
In my 10+ years of blogging that was the worst article I ever wrote. The comments on the post were not favorable, and rightfully so. I learned the hard way that I need to know my limits.
Some topics are easier to cover than others. If you’re a finance blogger with limited experience in finance, it’s probably easier for you to write an article about financial mistakes to avoid than it is to write a detailed guide to set up a Roth IRA conversion ladder.
Know what you’re comfortable with. Know what your strengths are. Find topics that fit within your comfort zone and start there. As you gain more experience, that comfort zone will expand and you can cover more topics.
2. Write from Your Personal Experience
One of the best ways to write with authority without being phony is to share your own personal experiences.
You can write from both positive and negative experiences. For example, if you start a health and fitness blog you could share your own story about how you lost 40 pounds. It’s an inspiring story that readers can latch onto.
If you don’t have a positive experience like a weight loss story, you could share an honest account of your own situation. Write an article about your current health and weight, where you want it to be, why you want it to improve, and what you are doing about it. Readers who are in the same position will definitely relate to you and they may follow your blog to watch your progress.
Going back to the example of personal finance blogs, there are a lot of bloggers writing about their own debt payoff goals, or their journey toward early retirement.
You don’t need to be an expert to write about your own experience or your own journey.
3. Write Content That Doesn’t Require Expertise
Even if you’re not an expert, there are plenty of types of content that you can create yourself. If you have no budget for outsourcing, you can focus on these types of content exclusively until you feel comfortable branching out.
Or if you have a small budget for outsourcing, you can use these ideas for the majority of your content, and supplement it with the occasional outsourced article.
Here are some types of content that are perfect if you’re not an expert, along with some specific examples for our fictional health and fitness blog:
List Posts – List posts are gold if you’re not an expert. There really is no end to the possibilities, but here are a few examples: top health and fitness blogs, top fitness Instagram accounts to follow, top online fitness communities, list of motivational quotes, list of healthy recipes, and songs to listen to during your workout.
See this post as an example of what is possible: 10 Lazy Girl Booty Workouts That You Wish You Knew Sooner.
Those are just a few examples, but there are infinite possibilities. And many of these could be turned into multiple lists. For example, there are any number of lists you could create just on healthy recipes (breakfast, snacks, dinner, salads, slow cooker, cheap, Keto, vegan, etc.)
Interviews – Reach out to experts in your niche (or other bloggers) and ask if they would be interested in being interviewed for your blog. Many people will say “yes”, even if your blog is new. In the health and fitness niche, you could interview a dietician, a personal trainer, an athlete, a blogger, or anyone else with industry experience.
Interviews are relatively easy to put together. See this example.
Expert Roundups – Instead of interviewing one person, ask one or a few questions to many different experts in your niche. Bloggers are especially eager to participate in expert roundups if you link back to their blog in the post. You could ask 20 recipe bloggers to share their favorite quick, healthy meal.
And here is an example: 19 Full-Time Bloggers Share Their Worst Blogging Mistakes
Profiles or Success Stories – This one is basically an interview too, but instead of interviewing an expert you will interview someone who has a motivation story to share with your readers. For example, someone with a weight loss story.
Here is a great example of a profile: How This Couple Paid Off $68,000 in Student Loan Debt in 37 Months.
Link Roundups – Publish a weekly or monthly collection of the best blog posts you’ve come across in your niche. Be sure to reach out to the bloggers that you feature, because it’s a great opportunity to connect and network with other bloggers in your niche.
A good example of this can be found in this example.
Beginner-Level Content – Even if you’re not an expert, there are some types of articles that you can write with confidence. In the health and fitness niche this could include topics like 10 Reasons Why You Should Exercise Daily, How to Fit Exercise Into a Busy Schedule, and 5 Reasons Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail.
Here is a great example of this kind of post: 15 New Year’s Resolution Ideas That’ll Make 2019 Your Best Year Ever
Researchable Content – Sometimes you can rely on research more than personal experience or expertise. In the health and fitness niche, this could include articles like Statistics on Obesity in America, Keto Diet vs. Paleo Diet, and Why You Need to Drink More Water.
A good example of this can be found here: On-Page SEO: 10 Simple Steps For Boosting Your Blogs Search Traffic
4. Outsource Strategically
Earlier I mentioned that you can always find freelance writers if you need to. Although I typically write my own blog content, I have used freelance writers on a number of my blogs. If you’re working with a tight budget, which is probably the case with a new blog, you need to learn to use freelancers strategically.
The key to using freelance writers strategically is to hire writers to cover specific topics that you cannot write about on your own.
Don’t give them a general assignment like writing two fitness-related articles per month.
If you’re writing some or most of the content yourself, you’ll want to be sure that the freelancers are covering topics that you cannot cover.
When I hired writers for my photography blogs I always kept a long list of article ideas that they could pick from. I like to let the writers have some say about the topic because I don’t want them to write about topics that they don’t know very well.
That list only included topics that I didn’t feel comfortable covering on my own. If I had given the freelancers free rein to pick any photography related topic I would have paid for a lot of articles that I could have written myself. That’s fine when your blog is making good money and you want to limit the amount of work you’re doing on the blog, but it’s not ideal when you’re in the early stages and you have a very limited budget.
Let’s take a look at an example. If you have a health and fitness blog and you’re not an expert you’ll want to use your outsourcing budget to get content that you couldn’t produce on your own. That could include things like specific workout routines with an explanation of why it works. Or you may hire a dietician to write a diet plan for losing weight or building muscle.
You can also outsource based on the type of content. For example, if you’re not comfortable with video you could outsource someone else to create video content for you.
5. Be Yourself
You don’t need to “fake it till you make it.” You don’t have to pretend to be an expert because readers don’t demand that you’re an expert. Just be yourself.
Be honest with yourself and your readers. Readers will have an easier time relating and connecting to you if you’re not trying to be something else.
Focus on what you’re able to do now, and continue working to improve and stretch your boundaries.
How to Get Exposure in an Industry Full of Experts
So far we’ve looked at why you don’t need to be an expert and how you can write without being phony, but what about learning how to get blog traffic? How will you get people to notice your blog?
1. Brand Yourself According to Your Strengths
One of the keys to building long-term traffic is connecting with the people who arrive at your blog. The vast majority of visitors who come to your blog will leave and never come back.
If new visitors feel like they connect with you, they’ll be far more likely to come back again in the future. Over a period of time these repeat visitors will add up, and you’ll start to have a community of blog readers.
In order for visitors to connect with you, you’ll need to present yourself in a way that shows how you are unique. Think about your target audience and how you can make yourself or your blog relatable for them.
If you’re a health and fitness blogger and you recently lost 40 pounds you can use this personal story to brand yourself.
Even if you don’t have a success story (yet) you could brand yourself as someone who is just starting on the journey, and share updates on your progress.
If you don’t want to brand the blog around yourself personally, you can brand it around a particular type of content. For example, make your blog known for great interviews or extremely helpful list posts. My web design and photography blogs were never branded around me personally, it was always about the types of content that I published.
There are places on your blog where you can present a quick message to brand yourself or your blog and attempt to connect with visitors.
Sidebar – Many bloggers include a very brief bio in their sidebar.
Author Bio – At the end of posts you can include a short bio.
About Page – Write a much more detailed story of yourself or your blog on your About page.
Home Page – You can also the main message or mission on your homepage.
Blog Posts – Share personal stories in your blog posts to help with your branding.
2. Pick a Platform and Get to Know it Well
There are a lot of different places you can promote your blog. This can include social networks, Facebook groups, and popular forums. When you’re just getting started I’d recommend focusing one or two rather than trying to be everywhere.
It’s hard to get results if you’re spreading your time among several different platforms. Instead, focus on one that seems like a good fit with your target audience.
Many bloggers use Pinterest as their main source of traffic, or at least until Google starts sending more search traffic.
3. Leverage the Audience of Others
If your blog is new and you have no audience of your own yet (or just a very small one), you can leverage the audience of others in your niche.
One of the best ways to do this is to get other bloggers to share your content with their audience. Many bloggers will share your post with their social media followers if they are mentioned in the post. Interviews and expert roundups are great for this.
You can also link to other bloggers within the context of your posts, and then send an email to let them know that they’ve been mentioned or featured in your post. Many of them will share it with their audience. This also gives you a good chance to get some interaction with other bloggers and start to build your network.
When you’re looking to leverage the audience of others, don’t focus only on the biggest, most-popular bloggers. Smaller bloggers can also have excellent and very responsive communities as well.
Our guest post comes from Marc over at Vital Dollar. He writes about personal finance and making money online. He’s been blogging full-time for 10 years with experience in several different niches.
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