Blogging: How to Build Authority From Scratch [in 5 Steps]
The best place to succeed is where you are with what you have ~ Charles Schwab (tweet this)
A lot of would-be bloggers are paralysed by an indecision as to what they should blog about.
Many feel that they don’t have anything particularly interesting to say or don’t feel that they are an “expert” in any given field.
I have two pieces of advice in response to this common issue:
- You only have to be “expert enough” (i.e. more knowledgeable than most) in order to write authoritatively on a topic.
- If you feel uncomfortable with presenting yourself as an authority on a topic, turn the approach on its head and use the blog as a journal of your journey to expert status.
In this post I want to focus on that second approach — the approach I took with Leaving Work Behind and the approach I am taking with other blogs of mine such as P90x Journal and Piano Journal. It ensures that you can avoid any feeling of discomfort over representing yourself as an “expert” and allows you to launch a blog on any topic that takes your interest — whether or not you have any experience in it.
A Short History of Leaving Work Behind
For those of you who don’t know, I launched Leaving Work Behind on 27th June 2011. At the time I had barely even read a blog before, let alone created one. In short, I didn’t know what I was doing.
And yet I felt that it would benefit me to have something to act as a journal of my progress. I needed to hold myself accountable to my goal of quitting my job. Leaving Work Behind was borne out of that desire — I intended for it to act as an accountability journal for my efforts in quitting my job.
I made no attempt to hide my lack of experience. In fact, I was clear in stating that I was completely new to the world of blogging and making money online. Yet over time Leaving Work Behind has served as an extremely useful tool for the development of my blogging skills and now makes me a healthy income too. I hope that in the future it will continue to grow and serve as the focal point for my “brand.” All of this out of an online accountability journal that I started less than two years ago.
You don’t need to be an expert to launch a blog on any given topic — I have discovered that people are seemingly just as willing to follow a newbie’s journey in gaining expertise than they are to read a blog from a self-proclaimed expert.
So what are the key ingredients required in order to build authority from scratch?
1. Be Honest
If you are going to start a blog as a newbie then make it absolutely clear that you are a newbie. The worst thing you can do is feign expertise — most people will see right through it and/or be turned off by it.
So rather than trying to hide your experience, make it your selling point. Explain to your readers that although you may be new to your chosen field, you will always be totally honest about that fact and never try to claim that you’re something you’re not (i.e. an expert). For the most part, people really appreciate this kind of candidness — it is not something you often see on the Internet.
An easy way to stick out from the crowd is to take a completely different approach. So while everyone else is working hard to convince people that they are experts, put effort into convincing people that you are not.
2. Give Full Exposure
People are going to get a kick out of your blog for two reasons:
- You will demonstrate how to become an expert in your chosen field from the very beginning
- You will offer full exposure on all of your successes and your failures
If you nail these two things people will really start to feel connected to you and you will be building up an extremely valuable resource in the long term.
Take Leaving Work Behind as an example — it is a truly rare beast. You can read income reports from literally the first day that I started trying to make money online. You can see that I didn’t make a single penny (in fact, I lost nearly $1,000) within the first six months. Mine is not an overnight success story — it reveals the kind of truth that many other make money online bloggers would rather you not see.
Anyone who has a mind to will discover that Leaving Work Behind contains just about every step I have taken in getting to where I am. That is a rare thing. I believe that my propensity to offer full exposure on everything that I do (both my successes and my failures) is the secret sauce that has enabled this blog to grow over the past couple of years.
For an example of the level of exposure I am talking about, check out the following two posts:
- Passive Income Dreams and Freelancing Success: My Story So Far [Part I]
- Passive Income Dreams and Freelancing Success: My Story So Far [Part II]
I hope that P90X Journal will grow to offer something similar. When I started P90X around ten days ago I was in okay shape, but nothing to write home about. If I can demonstrate that P90X works and show people exactly what I did to achieve my outcome (including what I did right, what I did wrong and what I would do differently), the site will become a compelling resource for anyone interested in the fitness program. That’s the key to building authority from scratch.
3. Demonstrate That You Have No Ulterior Motives
One of the launch posts for this blog was Why I Am NOT Trying To Make Money From This Blog. In it I clarified that the blog contained no affiliate links, advertising, or any other commercial elements that could make me money. My thinking behind this was quite simple: I had no right to earn money from this blog until I had earned my readers’ trust and had something of true value to offer.
I eventually started monetizing Leaving Work Behind with affiliate links in February 2012 and started making an income from the site in April (a grand total of $38 in that month ;-)). My point is this: if you want to build a popular blog then you must gain your readers’ trust and offer them valuable content. When you’re first starting out you have neither of those things, but the quickest way to build trust is to demonstrate that you have no ulterior motives.
Many beginner bloggers are quick to attempt to make money from day one, but they have it all wrong. For starters, your audience is going to be so small that you’ll make little to no money anyway, and at what cost? People will be turned off by your overt attempts to make money when quite frankly you have no right to do so.
Trust first, followed by value, then followed by monetization. Get the order right.
4. Foster a Community
One of the things that really kept me going when Leaving Work Behind made no money and only received a handful of visitors was the small community I was building. It was great to see familiar faces in the comments section and receive the occasional email from someone thanking me for my hard work. It made my efforts worthwhile and gave me the impetus to continue.
As such, you should look to establish the same kind of community within your own blog. In my opinion this comes down to three main factors:
- Your brand
- Your personality
- Your involvement
Your brand is made up of various elements: your name, logo, tagline, design, and so on. You want to be memorable. That’s why I chose the name “Leaving Work Behind” — although the meaning is not to be taken literally, I felt it evoked exactly what I wanted to achieve. I want to be in a position where my life isn’t made up of delineated sessions of “work” and “play” — I want the kind of balance in which I enjoy everything that I do. That’s my brand — that’s what Leaving Work Behind is all about.
But don’t forget your personality — i.e. the way in which you present yourself and communicate with people. My style is very direct and candid — I don’t hold back in offering my opinion and I don’t waste time on writing fluff. I also tell me readers about me — I enable them to see that there is a real person behind the words. That approach is epitomised best in the following posts:
- 38 Things I’ve Never Told You (or, the First Step to Making the Most of Yourself)
- How Overcoming Panic Attacks Helped Me Understand The Path To Success
- The One Who Got Away
Finally we have involvement. I make sure to reply to just about every single comment and email I receive. If someone takes the time to reach out to me I want them to know that they’re not wasting their time. I give as much value as I can because I appreciate the power of the community that I am building. Because of this I think that Leaving Work Behind has a pretty good reputation amongst those who know about it.
5. Be Humble
Finally, if you are going to represent yourself as a newbie then accept that you may be treated like one. Put your sense of pride to one side and be ready to be open to all comments and suggestions. Many of them are likely to be very helpful indeed.
If you represent yourself as a newbie but are dismissive of tips and advice then your approach comes across as completely contradictory. A “learning blog” such as we are discussing should be about community involvement — if you are quick to put down those who have an opinion to offer, you are destroying one of the key elements of your brand.
It can be tough to be humble — I appreciate that. But people will respect you for standing out in the blogosphere as someone who doesn’t claim to know everything and anything. If you set out your stall as a beginner then be sure to act like one. Soak up all of the information that you can. The time will come when your actions belie your newbie status and you will be able to take the step up.
What Are You Waiting For?
I hope that those of you who are unsure about what to blog about now feel that you can actually make a start on something. It could be anything from cooking, to sports, to matchstick models — it doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is that you have a passion for your chosen field. Do not attempt to follow this model if you are not keen on developing whatever skill you choose. Although this type of blog serves as a superb accountability tool to keep you motivated, you must have a passion for what you do in order for it to become a long term project that you can enjoy and make money from.
I love writing about online business and I love helping people to create better lives for themselves — that drives me perhaps as much as the money does. Find something similar and put everything you have into it.
If you want to know what to do next then I recommend the following posts:
As always, questions and comments are welcomed below!