Blogging What You Know

How true is it that you need to be an expert before you can write a blog?

Most of the time when we talk about people starting a blog we discuss the topic of passion and making sure you can stick with it for the long haul. Knowledge of the topic is not always given much weight.

Controversially I hold the opinion that you do NOT need necessarily to be an expert in what you are writing about. Shock! Heresy!

Keep with me, I shall explain.

Freelance writers often do not come to a topic they are expected to write about fully equipped with all the knowledge required. This is why research was invented. So there is a precedent.

Yes, you will have a far easier time of it if you already know your topic inside out. My friend Yoav who I blog with on the Codswallop blog routinely writes linkbait that would take me ages to put together, such as this 70+ strong Excel tips and resource list. That’s because he is an Excel expert, and you would expect him to be as his most popular product is a PDF to Excel converter! I by contrast am not by any means an expert on Excel so I blog about everything but. Mostly my opinions on all things tech.

I find if you really love a topic then passion and knowledge are often found together. If you have ever spent time with an obsessive sports geek you will understand how even the most otherwise dimwitted individuals can store an encyclopedias worth of stats, facts and history.

If you only stick to what you have already have done, what you absolutely know, when will you ever do something new? You can break new ground and share the new experience just as well as you can share past experiences if you are flexible in the way you do it.

It’s no different in business. There were many times in my career that I had to present to clients ideas that I had less than 100% confidence would work. My first ever email campaign was for Coca-Cola. You can imagine how nervous I was. The client and the agency I worked for were both banking on me knowing how to pull it off. Where I couldn’t point to past successes I would tell them so, but back up the strategy I was recommending with well researched rationale. You don’t always have to have done something before in order to be a success, you just have to alter your approach and be honest about what you are doing.

If you are not an expert then you can still write about a subject. What matters is how you deliver the topic. Do you go in and try to fake it, or do you honestly represent the information based on your own research and experience? It’s the difference between authenticity and fraud.

When you can not refer to past experience you can say “I just discovered this” or “This is what I am trying right now”. There is still useful information for readers, you are simply not trying to imply any expert status.

One of my favorite blogs about blogging is The Blogging Experiment. Rather than say “this is how it is done” the blog is like a journal of trials and tribulations of building a blog. Ben writes honestly, with a warts and all attitude. He shares what works and what does not so you can follow his progress.

Perhaps this is a model you could follow?

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Comments

  1. I think you need to be knowledgeable to blog on a particular topic, but after three years researching and talking about the same thing, you can indeed become an expert. So while “expertise” might not be necessary to start off, it’s a given after a while.

  2. Markus Merz says:

    > “If you are not an expert then you can still write about a subject. What matters is how you deliver the topic.”

    Journalists are not necessarily experts in a certain field of knowledge but more often journalists have learned to do a good research. The key is to approach the ‘alien’ knowledge very fast and effective. The preparation for field research is desktop research.

    For bloggers this means (read: is an important to-do) to link out to valuable sources on a subject about which they found out during their desktop research. Linking out is something most online editions won’t do. They only trust their classic media strength as gatekeepers and deliver a one-way information.

    As a blogger you can draw your consequences … And become even stronger than the classic online media through your valuable link network.

  3. Writers tend to fall into patterns of habit and stick to a comfort zone. They become very good at one type of writing or writing on one particular topic – and then they effectively box themselves, reducing their potential income. After all, if one can only write on dogs, one is missing out on all the opportunities to write on horses, cats, pets, people and pets, people, etc etc.

    It’s a good idea to step out of the comfort zone. You might just realize that you’re extremely good at something you never thought you would be, or you discover you love a new type of writing that you didn’t before. Become skilled in all areas, and spread your expertise.

    Most of all, the trick is to avoid saying, “I’m not an expert in that.” Tell yourself, “I’m going to become an expert in that.” The positive mindset you’ve set for yourself lets you learn better, faster and more effectively.

  4. candyaddict says:

    I started my blog because I had a love for the topic but was by no means an expert. Now, after two years of writing, I am considered by many to actually BE an expert and I have been contacted by MANY companies asking my opinion on their products and have even been approached to be paid for my opinion in some new product R&D discussions. Blog what you love and you just may BECOME an expert.

    Brian

  5. Ahmed Bilal says:

    If you own a blog on a particular topic, you’re ‘expected’ to *know* your subject. That pressure keeps you on your toes to do your research right, because as Brian says, in time you will be recognised as an authority on the subject.

  6. Chris Garrett says:

    Exactly, so long as you don’t start out trying to convince people otherwise you can become an expert over time. Like candyaddict my photography blog was launched out of a love of the topic but not out of any sense of expertise, not people kind of assume I am an expert (until they see my pictures, heh), but the blog has helped me learn and fueled my research as Ahmed says

  7. Ryan Caldwell says:

    damn…so i’m supposed to be a celebrity expert? chris, can you help me out dude? what can i do to become an expert on Paris Hilton?

  8. Chris Garrett says:

    Do what you are doing. You follow all the “news” right? I bet you know more about her than most of us do

  9. Ahmed Bilal says:

    ryan knows more about paris hilton than she knows about herself…

  10. Great article and comments. I’m encouraged to know that after a couple years of quality blogging you do become an expert in people’s eyes. Consistent research for a long time period is powerful.

  11. Fantastic. I totally agree with the “Not an expert? Become one…” comment. That’s what I did when I was in college. I failed inorganic chemistry twice. By my third try, I was already an expert. LOL!

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