Three questions to generate content if you’re not an expert in your field
Most early career professionals know that building an online personal brand is valuable — they’ve grown up in the Instagram Era, after all.
But the hardest part of building a personal brand in the early stages of your career is coming up with interesting content — especially because you don’t have enough experience to be an expert in anything yet.
So if you’re staring at a blank page or the ‘Start a Post’ box on LinkedIn — how do you come up with great content ideas?
Most early career professionals don’t know where to start
In the early stages of your career, creating content can seem impossible because:
- You don’t know what to write about
- You think your experiences aren’t valuable
- You’re worried you’ll be criticized by your boss or your colleagues
These fears hold many great people back from creating compelling content that elevates their career.
What you need is a simple system for generating content ideas. Here are three questions that I’ve found really help.
Question 1: What have I achieved or learned about in the last two years?
Hat tip to Dickie Bush for this one.
Compelling online content doesn’t come from philosophers high on a mountain of wisdom.
In fact, the most popular content often comes from people who are a just few steps ahead of us on the journey.
The most popular fitness content isn’t from insanely-jacked Mr Olympia bodybuilders, but from relatable people who achieved better-than average, beach-worthy physiques.
Instead of trying to shill pearls of wisdom, simply try writing out a list of 10–20 topics you’ve learned about, or experiences you’ve had in the last two years.
It might be about your experience at work (e.g. lessons in building internal relationships as a junior lawyer) or about your field of expertise (e.g. how to get client-facing work as an entry-level marketer).
Simply asking this question will help you realise that you have learned a lot, and there are plenty of things you can talk about. That will get the ball rolling, and you can then improve on those ideas with the next question.
Question 2: What problems are my clients or colleagues struggling with?
Great content is as much about problems as it is about solutions.
When you don’t have a lot of experience, sometimes it’s better to try and empathise than preach.
Explaining in detail the problems people face, and why they are such an issue, can make for really compelling and interesting content.
It’s also the first step to sharing solutions. Until you clearly articulate the problem, you can’t decide on the best solution.
If your clients are struggling to grow their business, talk about why it’s so hard to acquire new clients in your hyper-competitive niche. If your colleagues are struggling with work life balance, talk about the challenges of being a parent and a father.
Great content is often written friend-to-friend, not teacher-to-pupil. And the best friends empathise and understand, rather than lecturing and explaining.
Question 3: What is your unpopular opinion or contrarian view?
Once you have an idea of the problems people face, and the topics you know a thing or two about, you can level up your thinking by sharing a unique perspective.
I’m not talking about purposely inflammatory statements or politically charged rants.
I’m talking about interesting observations that aren’t obvious to most people.
As Justin Welsh says in The Saturday Solopreneur newsletter, “most content you read online is super obvious. “Sales is Hard.” “Networking is obvious.”
You can stand out by taking a popular view or trend and talking about the other side of it.
Here’s an example from Justin: “One of the most common pieces of advice is to go “all-in” on your business. To not have a “plan B”. I flip this because it’s what I believe in:
Treat your career like a VC.
Build a portfolio of revenue streams, knowing one will hit big.
The diversified entrepreneur.
Your simple content creation system
Even if you’re not an expert and are unsure what to write about, these three simple questions can help you generate hundreds of ideas.
And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get feedback on what resonates, and come up with your own questions for better ideas.