Ed has seen it for himself—at every advice panel, there’s always a whippersnapper in the back of the room who asks, “But what do I do if I don’t have any writing experience yet?” Or better yet, “What can I do if I don’t have any online writing experience?” How have both magazine and web editors been answering lately? Start your own blog.
“Blogging is like yesterday’s résumé,” says Beth Blair, who started The Vacation Gals with two of her travel-loving friends and has since been quoted as a travel expert on CNN.com and in Better Homes & Gardens. “You can share your experiences and prove your worth, all in a little space on the Web.”
When it comes to getting big writing gigs in college, freshmen have it the worst. But Elysia Mann, a former Penn State University student, was the editor of her own fashion blog, Fashion Fille, which became so popular that Mann got to be Alloy.com’s prom blogger in 2009.
“I started my own blog after reading a couple of style blogs that sucked me in and inspired me, especially Fashion Toast,” says Mann. “I looked at other sites, and thought, ‘I want to do this.’ So, I did!”
While blogging is great for beginners like Mann, it also helps seasoned writers and editors sharpen their skills in between jobs. Ellen Collis started her blog, Fired N’ Fabulous, after being let go from her reporting job at a tabloid magazine.
“It helps you develop your own voice – the more you write, the better you will get,” she says. “I’ve seen a distinct improvement in my writing from when I first started the blog to now.”
Tim Leffel creatively named his travel blog Cheapest Destinations because he knew people would search phrases like “cheapest destinations” or “cheapest places to travel,” which would lead them to his blog. [Ed note: That’s called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO!] Because of this, Leffel says his writing has appeared in articles in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Guardian, Newsweek and Smart Money.
La Dolce Vita, a design blog that Paloma Contreras created in 2007, began as a series of personal essays that she posted a few times a week.
“I have gone from blogging maybe three times a week, to once a day during the work week, to twice a day Monday through Friday as I do now,” she says. “I eventually found my voice and the more you post, the more people will return to read what you have to say.”
Rachel Mount, now the Co-founder of Guesterly, formerly an EA who handled internships at O, The Oprah Magazine, says she always read at least a few posts when potential interns submit a blog with their application.
“One of the blogs had a post where the intern candidate tried out a recipe in a recent issue [of O],” says Mount. “It made it really obvious that she read the magazine and we hired her.”
Mount says that personality is important (don’t be too negative!) and always check for grammar and spelling, “especially because you can go back in and change things after you publish. There should never be a typo in something you’re sending an editor,” she says.
Starting a blog because you’re obsessed with fashion or traveling is great, and starting a blog to gain writing experience is, too. What’s not OK, according to some bloggers, is starting a blog with sky-high expectations.
Contreras, who blogged for two years before receiving any sort of major recognition, says the most important thing is just to have fun.
“This should be something that you enjoy doing,” she says. “If you update your blog regularly and infuse it with pertinent information and enthusiasm, the traffic will eventually come and one can only hope that new opportunities will follow.”