Many years ago, I was meeting with a career coach, and he asked the dreaded question, “What are your strengths?” I froze, searching for answers and all I could come up with were the canned answers they tell you to say in interviews, like “I'm a hard worker.” But to answer what I was really good at, what no one else could do, that was something I really couldn't say with any amount of certainty. How could I find a new career without knowing what I was good at, much less what my strengths were?
When it comes to blogging in an over-saturated market, figuring out your strengths and identifying what sets your content apart from other blogs becomes a vital part of establishing your plan for growth. All the sudden writing about fashion “from my point of view” doesn't seem to cut it anymore. Even the A-List bloggers have honed in on their strengths: Man Repeller has her humor, Style Bubble unearths emerging designers from the far corners of the earth, Cupcakes & Cashmere marries personal style with Martha Stewart. Some may call it a strong voice, I say it's a strong voice coupled with the ability to identify their own personal talents.
So how do you figure out where your talents lie? Start by sitting down with a piece of paper and a pen (yes, the old fashioned way) and ask yourself the following questions:
What are you passionate about?
Are you passionate about fashion, photography, or figuring out the best ways to live on a small budget? Do you love writing and fashion is your muse? Are you fascinated by the way communication and media has changed since the advent of the internet. Are you the type who obsesses or do you just like to tinker? Write down everything you are passionate about, and look for themes.
Your passions may be your talents, but more importantly they are the seeds of your talents. If you aren't the best photographer right now, but love taking photos, you will be more likely to practice until you are a talented photographer. I do not believe in natural born talent. While we all have seeds for talents, it takes practice to make them into anything useful. Read “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcom Gladwell, where he explains even the Beatles and Bill Gates had to practice and practice and practice before they achieved any sort of greatness. Having passion will propel you through the difficult sucking stage and keep you motivated honing in your talent.
What do people tell you are good at?
What do your readers tell you are good at? Are they your outfit posts? Your DIY posts? Your op-ed pieces? Your readers can be very vocal about your talents before you might even know you have them. You could just be trying something new out and find that you're an ace DIYer and your crafting skills are fantastic. You might find out that you're a whiz with your camera and take beautiful photographs. That post about hair trends might bring in tons of traffic.
In real life, people don't gush over what's good about you the way they might on your blog. At least in my life anyway. But there are times when people tell you what you are good at. Like organizing an event. Finding the perfect outfit for your friend's job interview. Being a good listener in a time of need. Giving great advice. Keeping cool in an intense situation. Writing an amazing letter to a friend. Kicking ass in karaoke. Making the perfect cupcake.
People are more apt to keep doing what their peers tell them they are good at. If these are in line with your passions, you'll have a better chance of developing them into useful talents.
Why should people care?
We all have talents that are somewhat useless, like tying a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue. Figuring out what your talent is that other people will find useful is another story. Usefulness can come in the form of being entertaining, funny, inspiring, educational, or just helps pass the time. Why should people care about your talents? Write it down. You might find that your talents can be useful to others, so you'll have a better chance of creating a win-win situation where you are doing something you are good at, and your readers will benefit.
Practice, practice, learn, and practice more
I always loved writing, but I failed high school English twice. Thinking I would never be a writer, I gave up the dream, and went into a different professional field and continued writing as a hobby. It was unimaginable to fall into a new career where writing is the foundation (still afraid to label myself a writer) yet, here I am, a professional blogger. Because I practiced daily, I was able to overcome some horrible failures. And just about anyone can do this, especially nowadays with blog platforms, you can practice your passions until they turn into real talents.
Image by Natasha R. Graham via Shuttershock