As someone who started their first blog in 2000 – back then we used to argue a LOT over whether the format was pronounced “web-log” or “we-blog” – I cannot endorse creating and maintaining a blog purely for financial gain. This is, primarily, because it’s a crazy idea that will never happen.
I mean, okay, yes, some people do make a living from advertising, but the opportunities there are incredibly niche and often don’t have anything to do with writing interesting posts and communicating interesting ideas. But generally it’s like any online content creation right now – maybe you’ll be the next blog version of Twitch streamer Ninja, with Drake doing guest posts, but it’s vastly more likely that you’ll end up like the rest of us, with a nice site and some nice readers and a fun hobby.
But take heart – just because you’re probably not going to become internet rich and famous from your blog doesn’t mean it can’t add value to your wallet. The skills you use and learn from being a blogger can help the next time you look for a job, particularly if you are looking in an adjacent career path.
In my case, my experience as a blogger helped me land a truly awesome job in communications at Microsoft. So how can you make this work for you, the newbie blogger? Follow me on a journey through bullet points!
• Don’t sell yourself short
At any point while reading the above, did you think to yourself something like, “but my blog is too new” or “but I have too few readers” or “my writing is so bad, it doesn’t count”? STOP THAT. Seriously, stop it! I can see you! You are doing a cool thing and no matter how many visitors you have or how much you like your own writing, you should be proud of it. Owning a blog shows consistency, it shows a curious and creative mind, and over time it shows how you’ve grown as a communicator.
• Keep learning and be curious
Owning a blog gives you a wonderful excuse to try different things and expand your skills. You could play with fancy Photoshop tutorials to create a new header graphic, or see how tweeting about your posts at different times of the day affects how many people click on the link. You could become a WordPress ninja and write your own plugins, or edit videos, or try writing a short story. Read a book on persuasive communication. Use your blog as a platform to explore.
• Track your numbers
Okay, clarity time: I am NOT saying that you should live for your visitor analytics, because that leads to desperate content and burned out bloggers. However, “data-driven” is a phrase that comes up a lot nowadays, and your blog is a great generator of data. How do you measure “success” for your blog? How can you impact those measurements? Learning what metrics matter and how you can track them is a wonderful and in-demand skillset.
• Have an opinion
You don’t need to set out to irritate and anger people (in fact, I’d rather you didn’t), but it’s hard to be interested by a post with no point of view. Blogging is a good way to practice having strong opinions, breaking down your argument, and being engagingly assertive. Occasionally, when commenters disagree, you can practice active listening and conflict resolution, and perhaps even have your mind changed. (I know, I know, that never happens on the internet.)
Blogging itself might not be a way to make money, particularly on a small hobbyist scale, but it can definitely help you learn new skills and become more confident when it’s time to get out there and look for a new role.
On one hiring committee I was a part of, we called a guy in for an interview who seemed, on paper, decently qualified but uninspiring. I remember feeling pretty meh about him halfway through the interview. And then, in response to a question about project management style, he mentioned offhand that he ran had for the last four years run, out of his basement, an online-based used book store specializing in out of print science fiction and fantasy. And we all kind of cocked our heads and collectively went, “Wait…what?” and then we spent basically the rest of the interview talking about that. It was absolutely amazing experience – he had been running this “little hobby business” (as he put it) that demonstrated many of the skills we were looking for. Sure, it was small scale, but he had experience researching, setting up, and managing a web-sales platform. He had experience with inventory management, sales forecasting, value/profit analysis on various titles, advertising, and sourcing inventory. Not to mention the creativity, initiative, and dedication that it demonstrated. It wasn’t even on his resume (he said he didn’t think anyone would care) and it was hands down the most interesting and compelling thing about him as a candidate. We ended up hiring him, and once I got to know him a little better I made him promise he’d put it on his resume the next time he looked for a job.
So basically, I agree with everything you said. Skills are skills no matter where they come from and you shouldn’t downplay things you’ve learned for fun rather than in school. If anything it says a lot about you that you spend your free time learning new skills and using those skills to create things and engage with people.