Passion and the business case [blogging 101]

Steve Hodson has an excellent post up this weekend titled “So You Want To Be A Rich And Famous Blogger Eh.” Some of the advice covers some of the things we’ve covered in Blogging 101, with some trademarked Hodson bite. There’s not much I disagree with in the post, which is why I’m suggesting that if you’re interested in blogging, particularly starting a new blog, or looking at doing it full time, it’s a worthy read.

But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t disagree with something, and as much as 1000 words of agreeing might make Steven happy in this post, it doesn’t add value here.

Here’s what Steven had to say on passion and the business case:

It doesn’t matter where you turn in the blogosphere the one consistent thing you will hear from people trying to tell you how to be a successful blogger is that you must write about the things you are passionate about.

Bulls&*t.

Remember this is a business decision you are making here. You are in the business of making a good living writing about something. As with any business the key is being able to find a market that isn’t being covered; or isn’t being covered very well, and getting in there before anyone else does. Blogging for an income is no different. I’m not suggesting that you can’t; or shouldn’t, be passionate about the area you end up writing about. After all you may come across that under served segment because of your passion but don’t think that passion isn’t something that can’t grow because of what you end up writing about. Making money can sometimes prove to be a great fertilizer to help grow your passion.

It’s not completely wrong, and my issue is one of semantics, but it’s the order that I take umbrage with. It does ALWAYS come down to a business decision, but passion needs to lead before the business case, and as Steven points out, both can co-exist.

If you’re starting a new blog and you’re working out what to write about, you start with the topics you like or have knowledge of, topics you may have a passion for. You then do the market analysis and formulate the business case. If you can’t find a strong business case around your shortlist, or you simply don’t have a shortlist and your only idea (your passion) fails the test, then you might go looking for opportunities.

Passionate bloggers rock

There’s several advantages bloggers have over journalists, but one of the big ones is knowledge of the topic they are writing about. A journalist is trained as a journalist (most of the time), and has little or no real world experience of the areas they are writing about; journalists learn as they go. Bloggers come from outside of writing (mostly), and may enter the space with real world experience. Likewise most bloggers lack a skill that journalists have: the ability to easily learn new areas outside of their own experiences. The exceptions there are people who have worked in marketing and politics, because both demand the ability to deliver text based on the topic or focus at hand.

To suggest that an average blogger, with no background in writing for a living, simply abandons passion for a strict business case fails: it presumes that the blogger is fully capable of delivering outside their knowledge field, and in a way that delivers a strong product. Can you imagine a blogger with a degree in economics writing about the latest in hairstyles, or an expert in cooking writing about third world technology challenges. It’s not impossible that some will discover hidden skills and may well deliver, but the odds on them doing so are small.

Passionate bloggers rock. Passionate bloggers have a real world connection to the subject. Passionate bloggers will nearly always beat a blogger writing on a topic they have no previous experience in, or passion for.

The path to money

The ability to adopt to suit a strong business model is learned. Experienced bloggers, those with training in journalism, or related fields, have an advantage up front, but other bloggers can get to the point where they can capably move outside their comfort zones to focus on a business case first. But I wouldn’t recommend most did the first time they wrote a blog. It’s a path to money; despite some of the marketing pitches you see online, blogging is not a get rich quick opportunity. My recommendation to anyone starting out new: write what you’re passionate about first, it’s a bonus if you can deliver a strong business case, and get out there and start learning by practice. If your blog doesn’t work, start a new one, the barrier to entry is as cheap as free. Refine your skills, become comfortable with the format, and then, and only then if you’re convinced that you want to do this for living, then start looking at opportunities outside your passion zone.