The beauty of blogging is that anyone can start a blog. Even my 88-year-old grandfather had a blog before he passed on (so much for being too old). The challenge of blogging is how to stand out from the crowd.
Anna Dello Russo advises people to “invent [their] job.” While she says it with her fabulous ease, it's easier said than done. Standing out from a crowd may require you to wear golden cherries on your head, but in all reality, it may just take a bit of research, trial and error.
When I started blogging, I had a pretty good personal style blog. It started my career, but what made my career was starting a highly specific niche blog called IFB. At that time in 2007, no one was blogging about improving fashion blogs. Some ask if I had the foresight to see the fashion blogging community blowing up like it has, and I wish the answer was yes. Truthfully, I had no idea what I was doing and needed to explore the process of growing a blog with my peers. Basically, I had an itch to scratch and there wasn't anything to help, so I created it. Thus, a new niche was born.
Step 1: What do wish existed?
I don't know about you, but I'm always imagining random things I wish existed, a website dedicated to cats eating pizza. An app that funneled my Instagram photos to my Pinterest boards. Comfortable 4″ stiletto heels. Sit down with a pen and paper (yes, again, me with the pen and paper!) and write down everything you wish existed. Go wild. There is no idea too big or too small to go on this list. Calorie free chocolate? Write it down. A shoe blog that gave real reviews for city girls, because you want to know if those Steve Maddens will last 10 blocks and a subway ride without killing you? Write it down.
Step 2: Analyze the Market
Once you've written down everything you want to exist. Then Google it to find out if anyone's done it before. There is nothing original, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't check out what already exists. Take a look at what people are doing that is similar. IFB might have been the first blog dedicated to helping fashion bloggers grow their traffic, but it was very much modeled off sites like ProBlogger, Blogher, CopyBlogger and just about every site out there I could find.
Analyze why these sites are successful? How much interaction they have? How do they monetize? If you can, find out the trajectory of their popularity? What was the tipping point for them? Take a look at their content, what resonates with you, and what doesn't?
Another thing to take a look at, is why they succeeded while others failed. Over the years, many blogs have started to market themselves to fashion bloggers, but faded out. Why? Because perhaps they didn't realize how many years I worked on the website without making a dime. Maybe they didn't realize how much work went into growing the website before it went anywhere. Either way, if there is no one in the niche you want to create, or if there were people who started and didn't follow through, you might find that there are some hidden obstacles. Don't let that stop you though, it could potentially be an amazing opportunity, if you're willing to put in the work.
Step 3: Determine the trajectory of your niche
One of the things I would do if I were starting a blog today, would be to check on the trajectory of the niche. Is interest growing on this topic? Or is it in decline? One way to check on this is to research Google Trends. Here I ran a general search term on “Fashion Blog” and noticed an upward trajectory over the last six years.
Other ways you can determine interest in your field is by how much chatter you see on a certain topic. In 2003 I wanted to start a cupcake shop, in part because I was reminded about how awesome cupcakes were on Sex and the City, and in part because I love making them. In 2003, everyone thought I was crazy, but it ended up being a trend lasting a decade. If you see an article in a paper, hear something on the radio, come across a topic that inspires you in a movie. If you see themes coming up, it might indicate that others are on your wavelength. And you might be on to something!
Step 4: How can you transform the market with your niche?
Everything is a remix. Nothing is original, so if you don't have an original idea, don't worry. What you can do, is transform the market by mixing concepts.
While coming up with a blog on a topic no one has come up with before is one thing. Creating one with longevity is another. And even more still, coming up with one that could eventually sustain you is a completely other level. One of the things I will always suggest to new bloggers, is make useful content. How is your content going to help others? Ultimately why should your readers care? Having solid answers to these questions will ultimately serve as the foundation of your new venture.
Step 5: Do it
Now you have your idea, done your research, and you're ready to go. So start. Don't get hung up in the details too much because with anything, there is going to be a lot of trial and error. Start blogging on your topic and keep going. You'll see how it's resonating, you'll learn how to hone your message, but none of that will happen unless you're actually blogging.
So now you have your great idea, now go make it happen.