It is a throw away remark you’ve heard a million times at various careers events or read as ‘advice’ on various websites…
“Why not have a blog whilst you apply for a job? It’ll make you stand out from other competition!! It’ll show off your skills!!!!!!! It’ll be fun!!!!!!!!!!!”
Well let’s cut to the chase shall we?
Don’t start a blog for any of those reasons
Blogging is not fun. Blogging is an arse. You spend your first three posts shouting at your computer because the formatting keeps crashing and the website that you’re using to make the blog doesn’t make any sense. You then spend the next ten posts angry at yourself because no one has clicked on your blog apart from you refreshing the page over and over again to see if anyone else has clicked on your blog.
Blogging might show off your skills to potential employers, but it’ll take a lot of work to even make your blog in a good shape to remotely impress them. You cannot get a decent looking site in a day, or even a month. And the more you blog, the more you notice that there are many other people within your niche blogging too with much better skills than you have. You’ll then develop a horrible sense of envy when you see them hogging the limelight, unless you work at your blog 39 hours a week for the next nine years whilst living penniless in your aunt’s basement (like they are).
And blogging, for all of that effort, consists of your potential employer taking the initiative and visiting your site in the first place, so it might not make you stand out after all. And your blog will not stand out online unless you market it in the right way and blog for a hell of a long time. And remember… ‘marketing’ does not consist of you writing on your Facebook wall or your Twitter profile over and over to say that your blog exists, because that will ALIENATE YOUR FRIENDS.
So you’re probably wondering by now… why the hell blog? What is the point in investing so much time? Why do people do it in the first place?
I think people blog because they have a desperate need to vent somewhere. Bloggers have an opinion that they haven’t seen replicated in a national newspaper or expressed more than 140 characters on social media in any given time. Bloggers are angry that nothing caters for their interests so they feel that writing about it every couple of days will inspire the wider world to get a move on. And bloggers are people who are a little bit full of themselves, who believe that people will actually come to listen to them and argue with what you have to say every time that they press the word ‘submit’ rather than having you reading and consuming something else. We’re all smug arseholes basically.
That… is what blogging is.
So now you know what blogging is – how do you get a good one up and running? Here’s a list of everything that I have learnt in the last three years I’ve been blogging:
Find a niche
When you hear careers advice like “oh why not write a blog?” from Mr or Mrs Employment Face you then start to follow the logic that you have to write something that you think that they would want to read. That you have to tailor your writing to be of something that would be completely compatible with your CV that you submit weeks later, yapping on about something about the industry, trying to work towards an imaginary checklist that they would have in their head whilst they check you out.
Don’t bother. Write what you want to write. Write what you find interesting. Even if it doesn’t exactly match the job specification or the industry that you are interesting at least it shows that you are passionate about something to a future employer. That you are not a robot bleeding out CVs and application forms hoping for anything from anywhere. Also remember, you are doing this for the long game. You’ll learn so much about the subject making you more qualified anyway.
Don’t niche yourself too much
When you have chosen a niche it is easy to get carried away with yourself and believe that every single post that you make has to be on that topic or that general interest from now on. I wouldn’t recommend doing that, unless you are planning on building a website in the long distant future and are planning on hiring writers and contributors and photographers and managing editors, I would recommend keeping your blog flexible.
Why? Firstly because you might have a brainwave on a similar but different topic or a whole different topic but there’s no point having multiple blogs on different topics cutting your audiences in half. Secondly you are blogging and generating awareness about you, not the subject that you are writing about, and your interests and passions and opinions might change. And thirdly, some way down the road it is likely that you will encounter brain freeze, and literally run out of opinions to write about that niche, in which case you’ll stop blogging and see everything that you’ve been working towards die.
Be in the moment
The posts that I have been most proud of in the past few years are the ones that not only reflect perfectly what I am thinking, but ones that I think has resonated and are being thought about by readers, at the same time.
But how do you know what other people are thinking? By keeping your ears to the ground and keeping in the loop with whatever niche you are thinking of writing about. Use your twitter to follow all of the bigwigs and people who are passionate about your interest. Read all of the recommended titles (and then some) to know what the agenda is and what the big stories of the day are. And then when you feel that little buzz in the centre of your body, your hands shaking of anger, or hatred, or inspiration from what you have been reading or what you have discussed or argued with somebody else… that is when you write. That is when you somehow manage to bash a piece out in an hour page without thinking or deciding to spend twenty minutes looking at various YouTube videos first. That is when you write something good.
The biggest thing that I’ve learnt from blogging is that you should never ever EVER write for the sake of writing. Don’t set an agenda that you have to write every single week or every single day at a certain time. I can guarantee that in most cases what you will write will be half as good as when you write when you are ‘in the moment’. Columnists for various national newspapers have to write at a certain time each week because their mass audience expects them to, because it suits their reading habits. When you start blogging you haven’t got an audience reading out of habit yet. Write a couple of brilliant posts rather than a distinctively average ten and audiences will follow and come back. Let columnists work out have their “I haven’t got anything to write” problems for themselves.
I wrote earlier that shouting on social media with “OH HERE’S MY POST AGAIN HAVEN’T YOU ALREADY IT” makes you a giant tit. So how do you get a good audience?
It’s easy. Part one: Write well. Some of the best blogs that I read don’t need that much marketing (if any at all) because they have such good content I start suffering from withdrawal symptoms from not catching up weeks later and feel that I should go back to get my next fix.
Part two: Use social media, effectively. Mention each new post each time you get one done on twitter (“I’ve written about ‘X’ and why ‘X’ is a giant ‘X’”) and then leave it. If the topic that you’re writing about is what other people are talking about or are interested in they’ll click on it – they don’t need reminding several times. Then maybe mention it again passively several hours or a day later. Then, use social media constantly between articles. Network like hell and discuss the issues with all kind of people (not just people who you’re interested to work with) and add your points within 140 characters or less in a regular and consistent fashion. Then when you’ve got another blog post on the way, people know who you are and what quality they are likely to expect.
Part three: Slowly, but surely, build on it. Create a newsletter (you can do it for free with MailChimp), set up a Facebook Page for your work so people you don’t know can see it on Facebook.
That’s it, really. You don’t need any money to market your content. All it takes is a good word of mouth from your work and a not-too desperate way for you to promote it.
Don’t do this for the money
You might quickly get the bug of writing, see some consistency in your hits and wonder “Hey, how can I make money from this?” It can work, you can make money. For example, the people behind Domestic Sluttery have written this great little piece about how they’ve managed to do it. Then there are fashion bloggers who somehow manage to get sent stuff before it is in the shops and get enough money from advertising that they get money on top of that.
But here’s what I think. If you’re really keen about blogging don’t do this for the money. If you’re good, advertising opportunities and maybe something random like paid speaking opportunities might flow into your inbox. If you do this for the money from the start, it shows. It alters your thinking and I think could potentially block you from thinking up some really good stuff, because you’re concentrating less on the words on the page and more on your bank balance.
Also, you might in the early days get the attention of big PR agencies who would like you to write about their latest product they’re flogging or ask if they could do a ‘sponsored post’ on your blog. They say that they’ll pay you or give you “exposure” if you agree to do so. Don’t give in. Any cash that you will make this way will cost you your reputation. You’re there and you’re getting great hits because people want to see your work and hear your views remember? If they wanted to see an advert that takes a thousand years to finish looking at they would just open a new tab and watch something on 4OD.
So in conclusion…
Can blogging lead you to get a job? Possibly. Don’t bet on it.
But if you it isn’t going to lead a job then why do it? Because it is an unpredictable, creative wonderf*ck. You can have the freedom to start something you want from scratch and throw all of your energy and passion into it. You also learn so much about something, and that in turn, might lead to something down the road.
If that sounds up your street, give it a go.
You can read more from Scott over on his own blog – www.ohitsscottbryan.com