Welcome to Start Writing Online—where every week we stare down 1 of the 10 biggest problems every writer faces.
- Generating ideas
- Impostor syndrome
- Writing consistently
- Finding time to write
- Loose feedback loops
This week we're tackling imposter syndrome (when you’re not an expert).
The big question every reader asks themselves before reading anything is, “Where is this information coming from? Why should I trust you?”
The mistake writers make here (which keeps them from writing anything at all) is thinking they need to be some big, fancy expert in order to write about a subject. You don’t. You don’t need to be Tony Robbins or Jeff Bezos or Barack Obama. You just need to tell readers why you are writing what you’re writing, and why they should consider your perspective on the subject.
When you are a “credible witness,” you are the furthest thing from being a fraud.
Let’s dive in.
Why Borrowed Credibility Is The Secret To Online Trust
When you’re first starting out, the fastest way to grow online is to borrow someone else’s credibility—because if you've never published anything, readers are not going to trust you giving
So, instead of freezing up and stressing over sharing your own thoughts, insights, stories, perspectives, frameworks, etc., you are going to leverage someone else's. Instead of sharing your own Copywriting Tips, you want to share David Ogilvy's. Or instead of sharing your own habit-building advice, you want to share James Clear's.
This is how you build credibility and trust—through curation.
And the reason curated content is so effective is because the reader is “paying” you (with their attention) to take the time to do the homework, sift through all the possible material, and emerge with only the best stuff. You “curating” the best content is extremely valuable and helpful. In fact, it’s most likely the sort of thing readers will bookmark, save for later, and refer back to multiple times.
- The 10 most entertaining episodes of Tim Ferriss’ 668 podcasts
- The 10 hardest hitting videos for freelancers on Alex Hormozi’s YouTube channel
- The 10 takeaways from Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money that will make you a millionaire
Whether you are just getting started with building a library of content or you want to do everything you possibly can to accelerate your audience growth without feeling like a fake, curating content is a powerful way for you to "borrow" other people's credibility and experience (while you build your own).
2 Essential Credibility Building Techniques To Win Over Your Readers
Leverage other (well-known) people your target audience is likely to recognize and trust in order to bring more attention to your writing.
- Borrow their advice
- Borrow their stories
Tell the reader who the real expert is and how you went out and curated the very best of their work.
Let’s take a look at each one.
Curate Advice And Remix It With Your Own To Show Your Qualified
You can curate literally anything that someone else has created:
- TED talks
- Blog posts
- YouTube channels
PIck a topic. Pick a library. Then break down the most potent ideas, frameworks, tips, and tricks. Or find where you have gaps in your own knowledge and then distill the best of what you learn. You will pick up skills quickly and you will build credibility as a helpful person. You can’t lose.
Here a few example curated pieces:
- “David Ogilvy Is The Greatest Advertising Mind In History. If You Want To Learn Sales Copywriting, Read This Memo He Wrote In 1982.”
- “According To Harvard Business Review, There Is A Scientific Reason Men Are Harder To Live With Than Women.”
- “These 5 NBA Stars Have Made More Money From Investing Than From Basketball. Here’s the secret to their success.”
Keep in mind, you are curating and sharing the advice of well-known experts, BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t provide your own insights.
- Explain how YOU have applied a new copywriting tactic
- Reflect on how YOU changed after practicing a daily writing habit
- Illustrate how YOU learned to be a better roommate
Great writers are great at leveraging other people's ideas while also remixing them with their own views and stories. Yes, “idea arbitrage” is an effective way to grow quickly and will help you get over feeling like you are not qualified, but producing work you're proud of requires creativity and originality.
Curate (but add your own spin to it).
Curate Stories To Attract Attention And Challenge Your Inner Critic
Every single Digital Writer & Digital Creator would benefit from curating success stories from other relevant writers & creators.
- If you write about Architectural Design, what famous architects could you write about?
- If you write about Data Science, what famous Data Scientists could you write about?
- If you write about Nutrition, what famous Nutritionists (or Nutrition Brands) could you write about?
- If you write about Real Estate, what famous Real Estate Moguls (or Real Estate Companies) could you write about?
The reason is because these “famous” examples are the ones most likely to attract attention. People already know them. They recognize their names. They understand the value of consuming their stories. Which means you can leverage their “interest” in these topics to your advantage. And if you're feeling like you're not good enough, learning (and writing) about the challenges of successful people can be a therapeutic reminder that everyone is on a growth journey. Bonus!
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get the creative juices flowing.
- Who are the people/companies who helped build the industry you’re interested in today?
- What are the little-known weird “woah-I-never-knew-that” stories in your industry?
- What are some of the biggest success (and failure) stories in your industry?
- What were the pivotal moments that “changed everything in your industry?
- Who are some of the other up-and-coming creators in your industry?
- What are the craziest facts, trends, stats, etc., in your industry?
For example: Here’s a curated story about New York Times’ best-selling author, Ryan Holiday.
Go out and find the best stories to share, add your perspective, and then present them in a meaningful way—like creating a playlist of your favorite songs.
Be a “Story DJ.”
10 Things You Can Easily Curate For Your Niche To Kickstart Your Own Online Credibility
Your goal is to always be thinking: “What can I do to save my target reader a ton of time? What can I organize for them? What can I get my hands dirty exploring, so they don’t have to? How can I make my target reader’s life as easy as possible?”
The easiest way to do this it to start with this list of universal things anyone and everyone would love for you to curate for them:
- Lessons worth learning
- Mistakes worth avoiding
- Tips worth using
- Frameworks worth using/knowing about
- Stories worth hearing
- People worth following on social media
- Books worth reading
- YouTube videos worth watching
- TedTalks worth listening to
- Podcasts worth listening to
Then, go down the list and add your niche.
And curate things that appeal to "the thing" you want to become known for.
For example, using our Writing advice niche:
- Copywriting lessons worth learning from David Ogilvy
- Copywriting mistakes worth avoiding according to Gary Halbert
- Digital Writing tips worth using according to Twitter's most prolific writers
- 7 writing frameworks from Ernest Hemingway worth knowing about
- This crazy story about Hunter S. Thompson worth keeping in mind if you are an aspiring novelist
- Writers worth following on LinkedIn
- The 10 best books that give timeless writing advice
- 5 YouTube channels that will tell you everything you need to know about digital writing
- This TedTalk about how Elizabeth Gilbert thinks about writing will blow your mind
- The 6 best writing advice podcasts on the Internet
By using curation, now you can leverage other people's expertise, experience, credibility, and social standing—and tap into wider and wider audiences (without ever abandoning your niche or feeling like a fake).
That's it for today's Digital Writing Compass!
Chat next week!
–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole
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