At this point in the game, having a blog isn’t unique. People aren’t surprised when you mention you have one. However, blogging is one way to make yourself stand out when you’re interviewing for a professional writing job.
But it’s not just that having a website or blog makes you look good. Yes, editors and hiring managers like to see that you have an online presence, that you keep it updated and professional. There’s a lot more having a blog can do than make your resume shine, though. Here’s how keeping a blog might make you a much more worthy candidate than someone without one.
Finding your voice and refining your style
At first, writing is uncomfortable. The same way you learned to read in short, simple sentences, you began writing simply — and, consequently, rather robotically. The fish did not want to swim. The fish wanted to fly. The fish flew. The fish was happy. You don’t notice it, but the longer you spend writing, the more comfortable, readable, and conversational your writing becomes. There are different forms of writing — you wouldn’t write an academic abstract in the same style or tone you’d write a blog post. But regardless of the genre, you develop your own writing style the more you write. Blogging really helps you learn how to write well, in your own style — and trust me, that makes you much more likely to get hired.
Writing for an audience
Many, if not most, writing-related job interviews will involve a pitching stage — you pitch a set of articles to prove to an editor you understand the audience and appropriate subject matters and angles for the publication you’re applying to work for. That requires familiarizing yourself with an audience made up of people you don’t know — you only know what they like to read about. As an editor, I’ve come across many writers who can’t make it past this part of the process. I think blogging really has the potential to teach you how to write not for yourself, but for others and their specific interests. When I started blogging, I still struggled with the “who” part of writing. Eventually, I figured out I was writing to other writers. Now, identifying the preferences and needs of audiences is much, much easier.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that during EVERY writing-related job interview I’ve ever had (and most client inquiries as well), I’ve been asked about my WordPress experience. Not only did I use WordPress during my first writing internship, but I’d already been using it three years prior to that as a blogger. I know not everyone uses WordPress, but if you do use it to publish your blog content, you’re going to have an advantage over anyone that doesn’t. You don’t have to be an HTML wizard or anything, but having prior experience is likely an important bonus checkmark. Even if you don’t host your blog through WordPress.com like I do, you can still use it through whatever hosting you do use.
Blogging takes a lot of effort, especially if you’re super serious about growing your audience. You have to write even when you don’t want to. You have to respond to people’s comments (*gasp*). There are a lot of “I need to do this if I want my future self to be happy” moments. To write professionally, discipline is essential, especially if it’s a remote writing position. I wouldn’t be able to work full-time from my home “office” if blogging hadn’t taught me how to sit down, stop whining, and get stuff done. Blogging is an excellent practice tool for learning to be productive when it’s the last thing you want to be doing today (or ever).
Diversifying your skill set
It’s not just about how well you write anymore. It’s about how good you are at sourcing photos, your design or photography skills, your social media savviness. Writers have to do more than just write — and there’s no better way to learn and master that than hosting your own blog. I’m no expert in most of these things, but I’ve been asked where I get photos from, if I’ve ever shot video, if I know anything about Facebook. Most of what I know about all of these things, I’ve taught myself, on my own time, for my blog.
Having a blog doesn’t guarantee the job is yours. But you’ll learn many of the things you might need to know when your next — or first — job interview comes around. You know you’re in good shape when you can think to yourself, “Oh yeah. I know how to do that. I do it on my blog all the time.”
Now, go blog something. You know you want to.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.