This guest post is by Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur.
When you first start blogging it can be difficult to find your real voice. It can also be unnerving to put yourself out there and say what you really think. Like many blogger,s you probably try to be appropriate, politically correct, and inoffensive in your blog posts.
Well, let me tell you that if you want to be just like everyone else, that’s a guaranteed approach to get you there.
Of course though, you don’t. You don’t want to be like everyone else because you are unique. You have important things to say and you need to say them in a way that’s true to who you are.
If you want a thriving blog, one where your adoring fans come back time and time again, and hang off your every word, you need to be you.
Unabashedly, shamelessly, wonderfully, completely transparently, totally, authentically you.
People relate to people. They’ll relate to a real human being, telling their story, living their life, and sharing it in a creative, amusing, entertaining, and truthful way. That way, they get to come along on the journey.
“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” —Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was a smart man, and he knew what he was talking about when he said this. The biggest failure I see among bloggers is trying to fit in. I’ve been guilty of it myself. You get caught up in reading other people’s blogs and trying to emulate what they’re doing, and as a result you end up with a mix of nothing spectacular at all.
In order to be yourself you have to take risks, to accept that you are not perfect, and to be courageous enough to say what you really think. People will love you for it. It takes a huge amount of bravery to be original instead of a pointless replication of someone else.
“Be who you are, and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”—Dr. Seuss
I personally have seen the most success when I’ve written from my heart. My community resonates most with me when I tell them how I screwed up, that I was scared, that I didn’t achieve something I set out to do.
It makes me more human. It shows my vulnerability and people get that. They want that. They buy into your mission and your vision, and want to follow your steps and see you succeed.
I’m not talking about writing a revealing post about your recent trip to the hospital or penning a long relationship saga. I’m talking about revealing just enough to build loyalty, respect, and admiration among your followers for baring yourself, admitting your hard-fought battles and costly mistakes.
Follow that up with the lessons you learned, pass on your new-found wisdom to your readers, and you’re on a sure path to blogging success.
Authenticity + creativity + massive value + key takeaways = a thriving blog
My winning equation above has taken me a long time to solve. I don’t always get it right (see vulnerability and truthfulness in action right here), however, I do look to solve a problem every time I write and this equation helps immensely in keeping me focused. I also aim to be engaging, genuine, and grateful.
Here are some examples of bloggers who I believe have a truly unique voice and use it extremely well to create a community of raving fans unique to their personality and writing style. Warning: Some of these people may offend with their use of swear words or abstract opinions. But for me, tt’s all part of their charm and what sets them apart.
With a blog named The Middle Finger Project you already know that Ashley Ambirge is going to deliver up some serious attitude and in-your-face content. That’s what’s so refreshing about her candid, quick-witted posts about leaving corporate America behind to do your own thang!
“Become known for something–rather than trying to become known for everything. Because frankly, that’s impossible.”—Ashely Ambirge
John Falchetto appears to have a wonderful life, living in the French countryside and coaching expats on how to become immensely successful in business even if they feel isolated living a world away from home. The thing is he genuinely understands their problems and challenges and writes compelling content on his blog Expat Life Coach that speaks to the heart of those who read it and need it.
“When I first started out in business in 2003, I was foolish. Although I had quit my corporate job in PR and I am all for quitting when things really don’t go your way, looking back I would have done it differently.”—John Falchetto
Kent Healy is a creative thinker who is always questioning why things are as they are in the world and challenging you to do the same. He blogs about unconventional ways of thinking, acting and living and makes you focus on what matters on The Uncommon Life.
“There is immense value in being able to think and act independently in a world of conformity and convention – in fact, all innovation and novelty depend on it. It can be challenging to free ourselves from the explicit and implicit forces that keep our brain in the box, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”—Kent Healy
Emergent by Design is the brain child of futurist Venessa Miemis who has an entirely unique take on the intersection of technology, communication, and culture, and attracts intellectuals, academics, and big-picture thinkers to her blog and with them a wide array of opposing comments.
“Then I started poking around in Twitter and wondering if it’s a complex adaptive system and if it might actually grow to become a global human consciousness, of sorts. Lately I’ve been looking at how design thinking can be used to better understand human behavior and facilitate innovation.”—Venessa Miemis
I could not leave out my idol, Seth Godin, who really needs no introduction. On his self-titled blog Seth has the uncanny ability to write the shortest blog posts with the most substance I’ve ever witnessed. His straight-up, insightful, brilliantly worded daily posts draw thousands of views and shares because he creates art and then ships it, and inspires you to do the same.
“What I am writing about is the ability of each of us, without authority or permission, to do work that matters, to have an impact and to create a place for ourselves in a society that’s brainwashed us into doing something that’s an easily replaced commodity. A big part of that is acting like an artist. Being personal, making change, communicating a vision.”—Seth Godin
What makes you unique?
While it’s not for me to tell you what your “special sauce” is, you do need to find it and then cook up a fantastic recipe that allows you to create mouth watering content for your blog that readers devour.
If you’re nervous to hit Publish on a post that you’ve really put a lot of thought into and that reveals a little bit more of you than normal, then congratulations. That’s a great sign. It shows you’re developing your USP—Unique Special Proposition.
When you get clear on what that is, you’ll see how imperative it is to making you stand out. You’ll also witness your blog community react strongly by sharing your content across the social media sphere and commenting like crazy. Then you really know you’re doing the right thing—you are in fact being yourself.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and others who know you to develop your USP:
- What are you better at than anyone else?
- What do you enjoy doing the most?
- What do (or could) you provide that no one else is providing?
- What annoys people the most about your industry or blog area?
- What is remarkable about you?
- Do you have an unusual combination of elements?
- Do you have a big personality?
Now write your USP statement. Take action. You can look to this as the reminder of what makes you distinctive and unique by following this format:
I am unique and different because I provide [USP] which no one else in my field provides. No one else can or will provide this because [insert reason].
Put yourself into the equation
I talked about my winning formula above. Now it’s time for you to write your own. So how do you go about sharing your new-found USP on your blog straight away?
There’s nothing like sharing a personal experience you’ve had and relating it to the topic of your blog. If you write on health and fitness, for example, then talking about your own journey of going vegan or training for a marathon will be much more inspiring then simple how-to tips. Break this out into a series on how you achieved the results you did and you have a reason for people to come back to your blog.
Listen to your instincts
If you believe strongly about a topic related to your blog, but you’ve been nervous about sharing it with the world, then there’s a good chance other people will find your personal stance interesting. Strong opinions always illicit a response—good or bad. The point is you want to get people talking, and you want them to engage, to think critically, and to respond because they care.
One of the best ways to show your USP is to take a current popular topic and put your spin on it. Justin Bieber may not be of interest to you, but is there something that particularly irritates or fascinates you about his meteoric rise into music stardom? Is there a post you can write that takes a lesson from his story that other people just aren’t seeing?
“If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just.”—Anita Roddick
Natalie Sisson is a Suitcase Entrepreneur and Adventurer who shares creative ways to run your business from anywhere in the world. She is passionate about using online tools, social media and outsourcing to create more freedom in business and adventure in life.
Great article Natalie, thanks for sharing
I agree thanks for sharing!
It is so much work to write regularly for a blog. It would be painful to write any other way than with authenticity.
If you have a passion for the topic, it’s not hard to write regularly.
Sound advice…also why can’t people just use their own names? It’s a tiresome practice – so many people put silly names for themselves. Just be yourselves! A nickname is for playgrounds. But I suppose life is a playground…
Very good point – why can’t people use their real names? (or are they just not real people?) Whenever I get a comment, or a reply to a comment, from someone who has used their real name it always seems much more personal and genuine somehow. It would be interesting to get more comments on this topic; hopefully from people who are willing to use their real names – but would also be interesting to hear from people as to why they prefer nicknames.
I guess what I struggle with the most is recognizing opportunities to insert my personality into my posts. I look at my niche as more informative, I guess. Problogger has already changed my outlook on a lot of blog related things though, so hopefully if I keep reading I will find that delicate balance and discover just where I am able to inject a good dose of myself into my blog!
Totally understand. Informative writing though can be supplemented with case studies and examples – some of which include your own personal experiences. I’m sure you’ll find that will be really well received.
You didn’t mention this but I’m assuming you mean that we should bring ourselves to the table but only as much as the table needs and wants. If we pour out too much of us, it’s just plain messy.
Great point Paula. I guess I was insinuating that – choose the appropriate level of you. I’m not a big believer in letting people know all about your dirty laundry and personal habits, vulnerability is one thing but how you pee is totally different!
I am doing this right this moment. I started a second blog in April and I’ve never written more honest pieces than the last couple of weeks. It’s daunting, terrifying and enticing all at the same time. And I love it :D:D:D
That’s so great to hear Maaike. Doing things that push your normal boundaries is the only way to grow. Go for it.
These are some great tips. It’s important to show some personality in your blog posts. After all, it is a less formal medium. If you just sound like a corporate robot day after day people will get bored.
Really good article. I like the comment about putting your own personal experience in the blog. That’s really a good idea. Reading about someone’s own experience makes it easier for someone to relate to At least for me anyway. I’m a fan of reading biographies or short articles about successful people, their setbacks and how they overcame that issue.
Tom at the end of the day we’re all human so we want to hear about the human element. And as we know humans screw up from time to time. If you can take your failures and successes in whatever you do and turn it into valuable lessons learned you’ll really start to build a blog that people love because they resonate with you!
Great sharing and advice! Thank you! Everyone is UNIQUE! DNA, voice, fingerprints are proof of it! Love your USP concept.
All the best!
Cheers from London UK.
Inner Wisdom & Law of Attraction Coach
Helping people lead from Within™
Thanks for this article Natalie. I run several web sites and I can tell you that it is so much easier for me to write for one than it is for me to write for the others, because that one fulfills just about all those bullets you listed above, with the most important one being:
What do you enjoy doing the most?
If it doesn’t feel like work, it’s a whole lot easier to hop on it first thing in the morning!
Totally Brian. I guess the trick for your other websites is to put yourself in the place of the people reading it. What are they passionate about, what do they want to hear, what would they get excited about and then become them and let your words come to life on the page.
Yeah! Makes sense! So what you are saying is relax, let down the hair, and be yourself? Let the blog be a reflection of who and what you are? Sometimes this is a challenge, as we may feel judged, and try to live up to others expectations……
Exactly. I hate it when people try to imitate others. They can reach much higher if they be themselves.
Great post. I think most of us have gotten stuck at one point or another sounding pretty generic in our content. It really is much better to gain in audience from being who you are. Not only do they appreciate it, but also it’s so much more comfortable to be yourself and really give your best when you aren’t watching every p and q if that’s your m o.
Like Shrinking Mom said above, this is a subject I struggle with.
Listen to your instincts
That is great advice but so difficult to implement. I still need to overcome the fear of putting my feelings and opinions out into the world. But I’m working on it mainly thanks to articles like yours.
That’s exactly what you need to do! Anything ever worth doing was never easy and just keep on working at it one step at a time!
Let the real you shine through. People will love you.
I agree with you completely about sharing personal experiences that are relevant to your blog readers. I’ve been writing my blog for about 18 months and it generates both positive and negative comments when I discuss something personal or super-opinionated. I post most of the negative comments…but not all. I don’t allow below the belt personal attacks on me or my guest bloggers.
These are great tips for someone who want to blog. It is diffcult to have the courage to put yourself out there. I think people always apperciate a little honesty.
Nice, Natalie. You followed your formula! The key question is “What makes you unique?” The challenge is to then express your uniqueness genuinely.
I’ve been blogging for a bit over a year now and it has only been the last few months that I started really finding my voice. It was always my intention to write uniquely me but it’s harder than you might think. While I didn’t imitate anyone (at least not intentionally) I hadn’t written for myself very much. (I do a lot of ghostwriting). I’m on my way though, to breaking free and being me! I can feel it, and that’s a very good thing. Enjoyed your post!
Great work Deb. After being a ghostwriter I can imagine that’s been an interesting step but the beauty of having your own blog is to make it your own!
I think my main problem is fear of offending people, but I do realize that what you’re saying is very true. I myself prefer to read blogs of genuine real people rather than something that sounds like a robot or auto-blogged. Thanks for an inspiring read. :)
I needed this article to kick my act in high gear! Thanks
Interesting topic – thanks so much for offering some new ways to approach my blog.
I try to deliver my personal idiosyncrasies in manageable doses. My fear is that I will reveal something personal and someone will hammer me over the head with it. I haven’t quite developed the callouses to let it fly.
I especially appreciate what Christina Simon said above – that she doesn’t allow below the belt attacks to herself or her guest bloggers. That’s a strong position to take.
Thanks for the thought provoking article! All the best –
Did you just list me in the same post as Seth Godin? You are wayyy too kind :)
Thanks for the shout and love the approach you have about being unique. Something you have mastered with WomanzWorld :)
I couldn’t agree more when you say we have to be nervous when we hit publish. If we aren’t nervous enough then obviously we are producing bland content. Yes to being uncomfortable online and abroad.
really inspiring me.. I started my blogging career as a tech and gadget blogger, but nw, i am doing ‘money blogging’ along with the first blog. Here, i started to write ‘who i am’ thing, which will draw success for me. If I have to be succesful, then i have to be the unique ‘I’.
While I think having a personal voice will allow you to distinguish yourself and increase your readership, I think it important to set some boundaries with how personal you want to get especially if your blog is more business oriented.
I figure I can go about this two ways, 1. be a cookie cutter writer that’s bland and boring (most blogs) or 2. Freak the living shit out of people by making them think when they read. Making them laugh and get pissed off at the same time. I’m here to wake you people up for good or ill, reality is knocking, answer the damn door.
Great formula btw…Keep on writing the good stuff….
Go for it. Challenging people to disagree or agree with you is definitely going to bring you closer to speaking to the right audience – one that likes the real you and the style you deliver.
Fantastic article. Thanks so much for sharing it.
Blogging can come with its own discouragement. No comments, so you wondering if anything is being read. Few Adsense clicks…maybe none at all. Loving what you are doing and what you are writing about is what keeps you going in those dry times.
At this point I am still experimenting what to write and what not to write.I started my blog 60 days ago.I check out a lot of other blogs to see what all the bloggers are up to.
Agreed. I actually didn’t even realize until a few days ago that I wasn’t completely allowing myself to use my own “voice”- I was writing something late at night so I was tired and didn’t care if it came across a little to harshly, and when I reread my post later on I realized it sounded so much better when I was really being myself.
Great name Natalie ;p
I think it takes a bit of practise to find your ‘voice’, as the written word is actually a vastly different beast to the spoken or conversational one.
Of course, “being yourself” isn’t so good if you’re particularly unlikable ;-)!
Good point but I’ve seen some bloggers do a grand job of being miserable and pedantic and snarky and people lap it up if they see the funny side
I always write as I feel. If I dislike something, I do not mask it under neutral words. If I like something, I honestly write about this. Bias is everywhere, I can tell.
This makes some enemies to my blog, but I think it also get some more readers.
Thanks for the great piece, Natalie! Writing for a blog is very different and I find myself struggling to figure out how much personal info is ok vs sharing TMI! Your post definitely encouraged me to trust my instincts and really own my posts.
Excellent post, i too have been quoting Dr Suess for a few years now. Also trying not to fit in as you have said, I have it in my head and in time the screen will this too. Thanks for the post.
Thank you for sharing your ideas here.Your guest post has resonated with me.
I have been reading blogs for some time. I am surprised by the number of bloggers who try to fit in with the rest of the crowd: it is sort of like a tribal mentality, and they are maybe afraid to break free of their herd. Such bloggers write about topics/subjects which other bloggers are also writing about.
I think that mentality defeats the purpose of blogging. As a blogger, you need to speak up so I can hear you–out loud. As a reader, I want to hear the “writer’s voice.” I do not like “old wine in new bottle” sort of blog posts. That can get really stale, over time. There are too many bloggers like that out there.
Me, I prefer to read the works of bloggers who are sort of idiosyncratic. Theire eccentric behaviour, properly documented, I find interesting. Bloggers who travel the world, for example, can have many quirky stories to recount. Bloggers who skipped school to go their own way can provide grist for the rumour mills and keep it exciting for us. Bloggers who blundered along the way remind us of ourselves–indeed, we are sailing in the same boat.
Unfortunately, I find that too many bloggers out there are concerned about conformity. They wonder how they will be perceived by others. They are too afraid to take risks and tell the truth about their life experiences. They won’t let you in on their secrets. They want to hide behind a rock and pretend all is well with the world. The few that break away from this trend are the ones I want to read. Cheers.
Amazing post and very inspirational. I’m going to have a brainstorming session now!
I was wondering, do you have advice for people who have already started a blog that perhaps isn’t so authentic, on how to make a shift towards including more personal experience? Seems like it might be easier to start a fresh blog with a fresh voice, but how to convert an existing blog into this?
Hope that made sense!
Everytime I hear anyone write about ‘awesome sauce’ or ‘secret sauce’ or anything of that variety, I always think of Kung Fu Panda and how “the secret is, there IS no secret sauce… “. It’s just YOU. Because you (we) are unique.
Thanks for spelling out the USP.. That helps me since I am new to it. Glad to see you on Problogger!!
SUCH a fabulous post Natalie! Thank you for your always incredible content! Thank you for the direction and inspiration :)
This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read on writing a blog. I have found that when I really write from the heart with a personal story where I learnt some life lesson, I get the best response from my readers. And just last week I wrote such a story entitled “How to Answer Your Calling”, the repsonse has been excellent. So I’ve thought about what you’ve said above, particularly “what was the formula” so that I can write these types of articles more often.
One aspect which is also worth pointing out is, the quality of our articles are also very closely linked to the state of mind (that is our “mood”) when we were writing it. To help with this I often find it beneficial to take time to relax/meditation/be inspired or whatever mood is appropriate before writing and then write. This “mood” is what can come across to the reader in between the words that we write. And I believe its a very important ingredient in the success formula. How often have you read a post that you know has been written in a “hurry” without thought for this?
Great article Natalie