Overcoming the Curse of the Generalist: Categories, Tags and Niche Blogging

I had an interesting conversation yesterday afternoon with Robyn from Floral Footsteps. Robyn works for The Ethical Superstore and is also quietly exploring how to turn a profit from her hobbies, floristry, photography and illustration.

For those of us who are tantalised by the possiblity of making a living from the things we love doing there is no option to ignore the internet. The first port of call for a creative entrepreneur who wants to develop an online presence is to start a blog (like this one). Updated with fresh content regularly, the blog is a place to grow interest in your work and, to use a cringeworthy cliche, “build your personal brand”.


But what if you are an all-rounder with at least five irons in the fire? How do you effectively use a blog when you are a jack of all trades? Are people coming to your site for information on current developments in green technology really going to want to wade through your musings on art history and pet health? Can you really brand yourself as a plumber-drummer-standup-comedian-who-grows-orchids?

Pic of Swiss Army Knife
Is there a place for the generalist?

Unfortunately not. Received wisdom dictates that you should be able to condense what you do into a neat strap-line and a 30 second elevator pitch to a targeted audience.

It is “expertise” that people are looking for. The jack of all trades is in danger of falling between several stools (ouch). A few brilliant rennaissance men and women may have come to a place where they can be branded as an “everything person” but it will take a while for most of us to get there.

Here’s my advice for all-round-bloggers:

Tagging and Categories

Firstly, good use can be made of the options of tagging and categories offered by the major blogging platforms. Even if your blog covers a multitude of expert areas, make sure that your tag or category clouds are clearly visible so that your posts can be filtered by interest.

Niche Blogging

Secondly, if there is some content type that is becoming dominant, consider moving it over to a niche blog. I have just done this with my photography stuff by starting The Analog Photog Blog. You may have to become a multi-blogger. This is not as complicated as it sounds – after all, you have set up one blog … why not ten?

However, before you rush off to start a plumbing blog and a drumming blog, consider seriously if you can realistically keep the content coming? That blog is a “sucker, you have to be able to feed that mother,” to quote one of my Anthropology tutors (describing the human brain). Can you make at least one post a week to your new niche blog?

Blogs to Read

For an example of a good generalist blog I would point you in the direction of Matt at Undercover Theologian. Matt blogs very broadly on geography, education, science and life and makes connections with theology. The broadness of his remit still hangs together quite nicely as everything he sees, hears, and learns becomes grist to the mill of his unique perspective. There is enough of a general overarching theme to hold it all together. Matt is the kind of person whose overview of a broad range of topics will become well respected over time.

By contrast, for a real magnifying-glass-and-tweezers niche blog, check out Sian, The Literal Librarian. Sian writes as an NHS librarian and reflects on stuff that is very specific to information management. What I like about Sian’s blog is that the rest of her intrudes into the librarian-speak every now and then. Sian also happens to be an accomplished artist and allowing a bit more breadth in there keeps the blog from being too dry.

Whatever you blog, it is worth stopping and thinking, “why do I blog?” and “what do I have to give to the world?” and trying to shape things areound the answers to these questions.

Thanks Robyn for the chat and idea for something to write about today.

3 thoughts on “Overcoming the Curse of the Generalist: Categories, Tags and Niche Blogging

    1. Hi, Tim

      Thank you for your comment, always appreciated. Yeah – get blogging! I look forward to checking out your stuff (even if I can’t comment on it … Grrr … )



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