How do you go from a content creation beginner to an expert?
Most people take a long time to make this shift because they go about it the wrong way. In this post, I’ll show you the four proven actions you can take today to accelerate your progress.
You can apply these content strategy secrets to your content creation, your thought leadership or any area of your business or career.
The Usual Way and Why It Doesn’t Work
Most people give well-meaning advice. They have good intentions, but their advice is not very useful.
To go from beginner to expert they say things like:
- You must work harder
- You must be consistent
- And you must build systems
They think it’s all about hard work and effort and if they slog it out for long enough then they’ll eventually make that shift. While hard work is important, there is a smarter and faster way.
Therefore, the content strategy I share in this post is a secret. It’s not that people are hiding this research, it’s that most content creators don’t look for better ways to work.
Four Steps to go from Beginner to Expert
In an earlier post, The Four Steps for how to become a Thought Leader, I referred to research that shows the steps every elite performer must go through. The four steps come from the work of Anders Ericsson. They are:
- Get Serious
- Be Committed
- Break New Ground
Today, we’re looking at this middle ground in red – the transition from playing to being serious and being committed. And we’re going to look at the distinct shifts you must make at each stage so you can speed up your progress.
In this post, I’ll use examples from content creation, but you can apply these principles to thought leadership or any area of your career or business.
1 Practice Your Skills
Most people think there is a ceiling to the level of their performance. For instance, that’s the best post I can write or the best video I can create.
In Ericsson’s book, Peak, he suggests this is a myth. The problem he says is that most people practice until they are good enough to play. For instance, they learn enough about how to use their camera to take a good photo, but no more. Or they learn how to create a basic thumbnail, but no more.
The real ceiling here is not potential. It’s the level of practice.
Our level of performance and expertise stalls because we don’t practice.
At the beginner stage, there is little or no practice. To become an expert this must change – you need to be deliberate and intentional about practice.
What is Practice?
And you need to be clear about what you mean by practice.
Publishing a video on YouTube or a blog post each week on your website is not practice. You do learn things but it’s not specific.
Practice builds skills. It’s doing the same thing over and over until you get better at it. For instance, content creation practice is writing 100 headlines for your blog post and 100 call-to-action phrases to master specific skills.
And it’s not just the physical skills that practice provides, it’s also the mental maps or representations. The difference between and beginner and an expert are both physical (I can do this skill) but also mental (I know to do this skill at this moment in this way).
Things to Practice for Content Creators
Your first strategy for going from beginner to expert in the shortest time is to find specific things to practice. Here are some examples for you to consider and inspire you to create your own.
TIP: The best practice occurs when you gain feedback so consider sharing what you learn with others.
Writing a Blog
- Practise writing great headlines. Use a guide like this Headline Analyser to score your efforts.
- Research Keywords – find at least 100 keywords that you could write about.
- Learn to write short. One of my favourite books is How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark – it’s filled with exercises for you to complete.
- Create better images by analysing your competitors and learning new tools
- Visit your favourite news site and write down ten ideas that you could write about based on current events
Publishing a Podcast
- Identify great interviewers (you’ll see people like David Frost, Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters on YouTube) and analyse the types of questions they ask. Here are ten of the best interviews of all time on Wikipedia to spark your thinking.
- Learn keyboard shortcuts for your favourite audio editing program
- Listen to your favourite podcasters and identify five things each of them performs better than you – practice to match their quality
- Practice writing great copy about each episode to entice more listeners
Creating Videos for YouTube
- Create 100 pieces of B-Roll – this is my current project as I shared here
- Learn different storytelling techniques – for instance, the Hero’s Journey and the one I use the ABT (see video below)
- Analyse ten channels from similar creators
- Spend 15 minutes a day for 30 days learning how to do one thing better with your camera
- Set up new camera locations and experiment with lighting
Practice for Thought Leaders
- Read your favourite industry journal and find five sources of ideas where you have a different take
- Create 10 metaphors for your big ideas and test with colleagues to find the best ones
- Practise showcasing key statistics in visual form (the simpler the better)
- Watch your favourite TED talk and dissect how the presenter shares their idea – then recreate the talk your way to improve it
- Create new versions of your context shifts (eg beginner to expert) as visuals, in words, as catchphrases, using metaphors and stories
2 Find a Coach
One of the big mistakes I have made during my content creation journey is thinking that I can do it all on my own. While writing my blog, I completely ignored learning anything about SEO. It was too technical, too complicated and I didn’t understand it. This made it harder to attract readers.
Doing things on your own is the slow lane to progress and achieve your goals. It’s slow because you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t even know that you are making mistakes. This leads to learning bad habits which slows you down even further.
The key to learning fast is not repetition – it’s the ability to spot mistakes and correct them.
The better you can spot your mistakes the faster you will learn. Therefore, you will learn faster with a coach. They can see your mistakes and point to better ways to act.
If you want to move quickly from beginner to expert in your content creation efforts employ a coach.
This is one reason I run The Content Club to help content creators create better content sooner.
3 Motivate Yourself
Getting started with your content creation is exciting, new, and interesting. You write something and publish it online and tell all your friends about it. Read my post! Watch my video!
They naturally want to encourage you, so they say, ‘well done’. This external encouragement and support help you want to do it all again. But this novelty soon wears off.
And to make the shift from beginner to expert it forces you to shift the way you motivate yourself.
You now need to focus on: how do you keep yourself going?
The best way to do this is to tackle your motivation from both ends.
Weaken the reasons for stopping
First, you want to weaken the reasons for stopping. For instance,
- Schedule a specific time to practice,
- Manage your well-being so you’ll have the energy to get things done
- And build habits that clear away distractions.
Strengthen the reasons for continuing
Second, you want to strengthen the reasons for continuing to create your content. There are three strong ways to do this:
- External – Focus on what creating your content will lead to. For instance, earning money, being an influencer or having control over your lifestyle.
- Social – Surround yourself with people (including your coach) who will encourage, support, and challenge you.
- Internal – Find ways to enjoy the work you are doing.
This third point is crucial. It’s the tipping point that leads us onto our fourth strategy.
4 Build your Identity
The third type of motivation – the internal or intrinsic motivation – is the most powerful of all. When you rely on external motivation or social motivation you can stumble when it’s not there. But you can always tap into your internal motivation. Plus, research shows that if you do you will stick at things for longer which is the only true predictor of success.
The key to this is in the development of your skills. As you develop your skills you start to take pride in your work and ultimately you develop a sense of identity around your work.
When you are starting out, you won’t have the identity of being a content creator because you won’t have the evidence for it – you won’t be able to point to the podcast episodes or the skills you have developed.
When I restarted making videos for YouTube last year, it didn’t feel right to call myself a vlogger until I had made over 20 videos.
Three Steps to Build Your Identity as a Content Creator
To shift from beginner to expert you want to build your identity around your work. There are three basic steps to achieve this.
The first is the declaration of your intention. Say it right now…
- I want to be a blogger.
- I want to be a podcaster.
- Or I want to be a content creator.
Even better, add a comment below, I am a…
Second, you need to take action to build some evidence to validate this – to make it true.
Third, other people will start seeing you as that and this will reinforce how you see yourself.
For me, this is video 50 that I’ve published in the past year. Very happy about that! Now, I see myself as a vlogger because I have the evidence to prove it and my friends see that evidence too. Plus, they hear me talking about it all the time also. And I love creating videos more than ever because I can see that I’m making better videos in less time.
When your identity shifts and you see yourself as a content creator, then your practice will be seen as an investment for the future. Once this happens, you’re on your way to becoming an expert and being the best you can be.
More: Content Strategy Secrets
If you review the four content strategy secrets in this post, they may not be all that surprising. We’ve all heard of practice, coaching and motivation. But how many people actually do all four?
They might as well be secret! And this is your big opportunity to grab these four proven strategies to shift your content creation events from beginner to expert.
To help, here are three more posts that may help:
- My personal practice project – The best project planning example for content creation
- Seven ways to have a Content Creation Breakthrough
- The most important thought leadership skills to develop
Who do you want to become? And add a comment below with your declaration of the content creation identity you want to become: I am…