By Danny Rubin
Want to get ahead professionally in 2014? The answer is swift and uncomplicated: start a blog on something you're passionate about. A personal website contains all the wisdom you need to be a successful young adult.
Specifically, here are nine important lessons I've learned from starting a blog:
Sure, I go online all day long, but until I started News To Live By, I really didn't understand how websites come to be and operate. I've gained all kinds of insight on user experience, site maintenance and content strategies. Now, I look at other sites and think, "Ah, I know what they're trying to do here." I have plenty left to learn, but my perspective has completely changed over the past year and a half.
2. The fastest way to get better is to let my guard down
Am I a good writer, or do I think I'm a good writer? It's not up to me. The decision rests with people who read my blog. When I look at my columns when I first began versus today, the content now is much stronger. That's because of a steady diet of critiques from friends, family and complete strangers in the comments section. Criticism sustains me.
3. All I needed to do was light the spark
The toughest part of any project is getting started, right? Once the flame began to flicker, News To Live By generated its own momentum and kept me busy. The next phase of the project always reveals itself in time. It feels like training for the real world: put an idea in motion, and let the process unfold organically. Doesn't seem as intimidating that way, I think.
All it takes is a single spark. So go find a match.
4. What's the worst that happens if I get rejected?
In 2013, I applied to two companies that syndicate newspaper columns and was roundly told, "Thanks, but no thanks." Undaunted, I then approached an editor at Parade Magazine and asked, "Would you be interested in News To Live By columns?" He said, "Yes, and thanks for asking us." So now I contribute to Parade Magazine.
Why? Because I figured, "What do I have to lose?"
As a young writer, I don't care if someone slams the door. Frankly, it energizes me. I love doubters and relish the opportunity to prove them wrong. Blogging has given me that confidence.
5. Great advice is like solving a 1,000-piece puzzle in two minutes
As I work to improve News To Live By, I always think, "Who can help me with the next step?" I relied on a blogger friend (with a great healthy eating site) for a suggestion on Web hosting services, a journalist buddy for the crucial tip on why I should build an email list, all of my readers for spot-on content suggestions through a short reader survey and my friends to tell me flat-out if my columns are any good.
Each time I ask for assistance, it feels like I'm handed step-by-step instructions out of an elaborate maze. I say to myself, "Ah, that's how you do it." Blogging has shown me the tremendous power of sound advice. Worth its weight in gold.
6. Relationships are everything
Since my blog is written for Millennials, I've developed a network of inspiring 20-somethings who do wonderful work on their own blogs and platforms - dynamic movers and shakers like Paul Angone, Erin Lowry, Rebecca Fraser-Thill and Chelsea Krost. We rely on each other for advice, resources and encouragement. We all realize the more we pay it forward, the more it comes back.
I never anticipated my blog would connect me with people who share my passion, interests and drive. Pretty awesome bonus.
7. Every blogging skill is transferable
The work I do with News To Live By impacts every part of my day job in PR and marketing. I understand social media on a deeper level and uncover all kinds of creative billable ways to improve a client's online presence, sharpen decision-making and manage my time better. Hell, I even started a blog at our PR firm to highlight recent projects and expertise. And no matter your job, everyone can sharpen their writing. (For starters, stop using "in order" and "amazing.")
8. We are worth more than a 9-to-5
As I wrote in 2013 on why every 20-something needs a side hustle, work-life balance isn't enough. What we really need is a work-hustle-life balance. A blog is a perfect side hustle and will make you feel productive every day - especially if your actual job leaves you unfulfilled. Plus, your blog could wow an employer and help you move on to a better situation.
9. Don't wait for opportunities; create them
The beautiful thing about blogging is that you don't need permission. Just start a site, give it a name and go. Once you begin, you put your career on an entirely new trajectory. Now, you can impress at an interview with your blog (in other words, a portfolio to showcase your work and experience). Once on the job, the site becomes an indispensable teaching tool that informs and enhances everything you do.
With a blog, you are the employee, HR manager and CEO. Congratulations, you just got hired - by yourself!
Kick off 2014 with the best decision you'll make all year. Even if you only want to write for yourself and not a larger audience, it's absolutely worth your time and energy.
This post originally appeared on News to Live By.
Danny Rubin is a PR professional in Virginia Beach. He writes News To Live By, a blog that shows us the career advice that's hidden in the day's top stories. Danny is also the author of 25 Things Every Young Professional Should Know by Age 25, available on Amazon. Follow him at @NewsToLiveBy.