“I can’t do this.”
“I don’t know enough about this topic to charge THAT much.”
“I’m not an expert in this area.”
Any of those lines sound familiar? You’re not alone. Those were the exact thoughts running through my head when I was approached by a startup that wanted me to write about big data analytics for online retailers—a topic I knew very little about.
Sure, I knew about tech companies, but I’m not a data scientist and I’ve never worked in retail, so I wasn’t sure if I could bring enough value to the table. The only thing I had going for me was I had a genuine interest in the subject. I had been hearing about big data in ecommerce for a while, and I wanted to break into the industry. That’s why I took the leap when the opportunity presented itself.
Turns out, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Taking the job and forcing myself to become an expert in their industry opened a lot of doors. Not only did the client re-hire me for several projects, I was also able to use my experience to pitch other companies in the field, thus growing my client base.
This blog post will show you how you can do it too. Here are 3 steps you can take to increase your knowledge so you can write insightful blog posts about any topic—and charge competitively for doing it.
Do these things consistently, and you’ll go from n00b to expert in any field (but hopefully it’s a field you genuinely like) in just a few months or even weeks:
1. Get regular updates about your topic
How? By turning it into a habit. You know how you’re always browsing sites like Yahoo, Facebook, or Twitter for headlines and updates? Do the same thing for the topic you want to learn about.
To make things easier, subscribe to newsletters and blogs in the industry so you can get them all in one place.
Here are a few places you can start:
- SmartBrief – This service curates studies, news articles, and blog posts from several sources and delivers them straight to your inbox. SmartBrief does this for several industries, including Finance, Education, Health Care, Tech, and more. It’s a great way to stay in-the-know with what’s happening in a given field. Just pick the industries you want, subscribe to their newsletters, and you’ll start receiving free briefs that’ll make your smarter.
- Alltop and Technorati – These sites are great tools to find blogs in any niche. Enter a topic or keyword into the search box, browse the results and subscribe to the ones that can learn from.
- Forbes – While Forbes is known for mostly covering business and finance, it also has some great pieces on lifestyle, politics, entertainment, and more. Run a search for your topic, find articles pertaining to it, and follow the authors behind them. Do the same thing for publications like the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Business Insider.
- LinkedIn – Join groups in your industry, subscribe to updates, and join conversations.
2. Find case studies and real world applications
Reading about the latest trends and issues about your industry is nice and all, but you’ll be able to learn a lot more by seeing them in action.
For instance, I read several case studies about big data, ecommerce, and retail so I could see how other businesses are using the technology.
And when I learned about how stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom are using big data to track consumers and personalize shoppers’ experiences, I went ahead and drove to the nearest Nordstrom and observed how the department store operated. I even browsed its website and made a few purchases so I could get some first-hand experience. This enabled me to learn more about the industry and it gave me valuable insights that I wouldn’t have picked up from reading websites or publications.
Consider doing something similar in your freelance blogging business. When you’re trying to learn about a particular topic, go beyond reading articles. Find case studies that demonstrate a particular trend or issue in action. And if you can go out there and experience it yourself, then by all means, do it.
3. Ask your client for resources
Don’t be afraid to ask your client for help. When I wanted to learn more about big data and retail, I spoke to my client and asked if they could recommend any websites, books, or papers that will help me learn about their industry. They were more than happy to offer suggestions and they even gave me access to their own research and technology.
Plus they set me up with a test account so I could log into their system and see how things worked from their customers’ perspective.
As a result, I was able to know more about their field AND I earned plus points with the client because I showed them that I cared about what they were doing and I was willing to learn.
Remember: purposeful, regular action
At Be a Freelance Blogger, we’re always encouraging you to step up and take action. I’m leaving you with the same advice, but with one caveat: taking action alone will not make you an expert. You need to do these things regularly.
You don’t become an expert by devouring information in just a night or a week. Real expertise comes from continuous learning and application. So go out there and put these things into action. Then go back to step one and go through the process again.
Do you have any other tips for becoming an expert? Share your thoughts in the comments below.