If you’ve spent any amount of time reading Problogger or Copyblogger or, well, any website that bosses you around about blogging, you know you should be writing advice and how-tos and tutorials on your blog.
There are heaps of reasons that why is a good idea.
* It helps position you as an expert (“I know how to do this and I’ll show you how!”)
* It establishes trust with your readers (“I’m so experienced I can share my knowledge with you!”)
* It builds goodwill with your readers (“I’m sharing useful + valuable information with you because you’re important to me!”)
But. What’s the difference between a great tutorial that gets forwarded around the internet and one that inadvertently teaches your entire readership how to do what you do? And thereby teaches you out of a job?
Good question! Here are two ways to deal with that:
1. Teach the small, easy, instantly implementable aspects of your field
I can’t teach you how to be an engaging, funny writer in one blog post. There’s no how-to that will teach fledgling photographers how to capture every beautiful candid moment at a wedding. But I can tell you five things you should do before you launch your blog. Sarah can tell you about how to create a style guide for your blog and Alex will tell you about editing beauty shots in Photoshop.
2. Teach the topics that surround and affect your topic
Let’s say you’re a makeup artist. You want to be famous for your eyeliner skillz and get hired for photo shoots. You’re worried that if you create a series of videos teaching people how to do a smoky eye or a beestung lip, they’ll do it themselves and won’t hire you. So write a series of tutorials about choosing the right makeup for your skin. Or when to splurge and when to save on beauty products. You can still teach readers important things about your industry without laying all your proverbial cards on the table.
But before you hoard all that knowledge like a greedy little squirrel, I think it should be said:
Even if you wrote an exhaustive, free ebook that laid out everything you’d learned over the course of your career
Even if you wrote a tutorial for every blessed thing you know how to do
People would probably still hire you to do those things for them.
I know that I could commit to learning HTML and spend months (years?) honing my design eye to redo my own sites. But honestly? I’d rather write and consult and pay Kim to code wrangle. I’m pretty sure I could figure out my taxes, but I feel a lot better when Fox Tax does it. People who are serious about their businesses want to bring in an expert to help them. And when you’ve been showing them week after week, month after month, that you know what you’re talking about, you are the one they’re going to want to hire.
Do you write how-tos and tutorials on your blog? Do you ever worry you’re “giving too much away”?
Oh. I needed this so badly today.
I have so many ideas (I’m ready to burst) that I want to share with my readers. And I have such a heart for “newbies” who need someone to come alongside them. But I’ve been so afraid to truly let loose for fear that as you said, “teach myself out of a job!”
This is the freedom + permission I needed to…well, quite simply put…not care.
I love blessing people + teaching…so, I’m jumping in + in honor of this decision, I’ll be committing to an uber exciting editorial calendar!
Great post! And the post itself is a good example of what you’re explaining.
Sorry to be a bother, but is that a typo up there in that picture?? Thought you might want to know!
I’ve thought about this before, but you’re right, no matter how much info you share, some people still prefer to hire someone. Also, everyone will use the knowledge in their own way. So while my readers may become web designers, they’ll have their style and I’ll have mine and clients will choose whichever fits them best.
Also, no matter how comprehensive your tutorial, you just can’ t get into all the specifics anyway! Which ties in to the whole ‘people will still want to pay you’ thing.
Great post. It’s something I’ve been debating and definitely need to put more of a focus on. Basically all the great resources out there on blogging specify that those who teach have the most success. It’s the best way to earn trust online.
I often wonder this, especially as a designer. If I offer something for free does it instantly devalue the work I sell… I find it a super hard line to navigate.
So very true. I’ve tried to be a Jill-of-all-trades with blogging/running and designing my own websites for nigh on 10 years and I still don’t fancy myself much of a designer or code programmer. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I know someone else could still do better! We all have our strong points and not-so-strong points.
I am the marketing executive for an energy management consultancy firm (mouthful, yeah?) and whilst I totally agree with the above for so many industries, what we really worry about with our blog posts is our competitors finding out exactly how we do it.
The energy consultants have a list of techniques that they never reveal outside their little circle (heck, I have no idea what they are!) but there’s plenty will still allow people to know about. We undertand that someone who runs a food manufacturing unit would still rather outsouce someone to double check their energy bills no matter how much we told them, but why we hold back is a competitor catching on to why we might do better than them.
I’ve totally learned this, and completely agree with you! I provide a social media audit + strategy outline to small businesses and bloggers, and it’s happened more than once that I provide the entire “how to do everything” report, and still get hired to then go and do the everything. The thing is, people (clients, you) are really, really good at what they do, and they want to focus on that, so it (like you said about Kim and Fox) makes perfect sense to hire experts to handle the rest! I finally hired a web designer and CPA for exactly those two things as well. No way do I want to spend my time doing that.
Also, on that “fear” of giving away all of the secret sauce. Honestly? The more I can teach people to do for themselves, the more I can further grow and learn and teach higher-level lessons and go beyond the basics, both for myself and my clients. And then we all keep learning. Win-win, all-around!
This topic is one that I struggle with. I’ve written e-books about second-hand shopping, developing your personal style and living frugally, and these are all topics that people want to read about on my blog. I want to be able to provide enough free content on these topics so that my readers feel as though they can trust me to advise on these areas. At the same time, I don’t want to give all my best content away for free. It’s a fine line that you have to walk.
One thing that I’ve found helpful is to write a short how-to post that is also covered in a larger, more detailed section in an e-book. For example, I’ll write a post called 5 Ways to Pull off an Outfit with Confidence. This topic will also be covered in a whole chapter in my e-book. At the end of the post, I’ll direct people to the e-book if they want more information or more detailed advice.
Love this post. You should write an ebook on this topic alone. Seriously. I struggle with this so much as a blogger turned business owner and e-course teacher. Thank you!