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How to launch a career with your blog
Leslie Taylor, FastCompany.com | November 01, 2006
Silicon Valley start-ups and media behemoths aren't the only ones realizing the rewards of the rebounding Web economy. Already, many A-list bloggers have generated significant income from running advertisements on their blogs.
Though with an estimated 53.4 million blogs expected to launch by year-end, according to Perseus Development Corporation, it's safe to assume that not everyone is going to get rich from blogging. So what's in it for the up-and-coming blogger, beyond creative self-expression?
Blogging can be transformative -- placing you on a new career path, earning you a book deal, or catapulting you into the field of your dreams. Just ask some of the folks we spoke with.
"My blog has led me to change my life," says Jeff Jarvis, author of the media and news blog, Buzz Machine. "I left my corporate job to take the consulting gigs, speaking gigs, and writing gigs that have come my way as a result of the reputation I built up through my blog."
Jarvis, a former critic for People and TV Guide and a founding editor of Entertainment Weekly, gained blog popularity while criticizing mainstream media and lauding citizen media. He eventually said good-bye to his full time gig to consult for The New York Times Company and the Guardian, among other media companies. He's also associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program the City University of New York's new Graduate School of Journalism. "All of that came about from the blog," says Jarvis.
Hugh McLeod, artist and creator of the blog, GapingVoid, which was rated as the most influential UK blog in a recent survey conducted by Edelman and Technorati, has also parlayed his blog into a consulting gig from his former career on Madison Avenue executive. McLeod's blog began in 2003 as a forum for sharing his thoughts and his cartoons about blogging, marketing, and life.
He later turned Blog Cards and limited editions of t-shirts, both bearing images from his cartoons, into successful ventures. Later it led to other professional opportunities as a marketing and blogging consultant for the South African vineyard, Stormhoek. He also does marketing for a bespoke Savile Row tailoring firm, and recently acted as blog consultant for the feature film, Hallam Foe.
"My focus has shifted away from the blogosphere a lot in the last year, towards the more capitalist world of selling wine," wrote McLeod on his blog this week.
Blogs can also lead to full-time conventional employment, particularly for people who work in media. Blogs can provide a talent pool, from which mainstream media outlets recruit staff. In the past month, two bloggers were hired for high-profile positions in mainstream media because they earned reputations for their unique approaches to writing celebrity gossip.
"It makes sense for people to discover talent this way," says Jarvis. "I've had people tell me they wouldn't hire [a writer] without reading their blog. I've encouraged all my students to start one."
Gone are the days of sending in clips or walking a portfolio into an office. Employers, like everyone else, are checking out potential hires on the Internet with a few clicks of a mouse.
Writing a blog, could improve your chances as a candidate because an updated sites boosts your ranking in search engines and offers potential employers a full sense of who you are. "I have gotten a couple of freelance clients from my blog, simply because they liked my writing style," says Laina Dawes, a freelance writer and the creator of the blog, Writing is Fighting.
"I also think that by linking to articles you have written, online or otherwise, tells your readers that you are active and serious about writing or whatever profession that matches your personal blog to your chosen profession," Dawes says.
According to Jarvis, a personal blog can function as a promotional platform for people in any profession.
"When people go looking for thoughtful people to work with, like anything else, they're going to Google it. If they come across you, and find that you have good things to say, you're steps ahead of the next guy, who the person doesn't know," says Jarvis.
Sarah Brown, who writes the blog, Que Sera Sera, used her blog to promote Cringe, her reading series in which people read excerpts from their teenage diaries.
"I've really lucked out in that my blog-reading audience has helped promote my non-blog endeavors," says Brown.
Sarah now has a deal with Crown to write a book based on Cringe and she is co-producing a Cringe television show.
"I'm glad that my recent success was buoyed by my blog and its readers, but is not actually blog-related," says Brown. "I'm much happier being known to the world as the person behind Cringe who also writes, rather than the person behind Que Sera Sera who also Cringes."
Brown joins a long list of bloggers whose blogs have led to book deals with major publishing houses.
Stephanie Klein, writer of the blog, Greek Tragedy, caused a stir in 2005 with her six-figure, two book deal. Ana Marie Cox of Wonkette and Jessica Cutler of Washingtonienne, also signed big blog-to-book deals.
While books based on blogs have met with mixed success, the fiercely loyal community a writer can establish through a blog keeps agents and publishers searching the blogosphere for their next author.
It is the community that a blog engenders that can lead directly or indirectly to career opportunities.
"Blogs enable you to have a relationship with your public, whatever that public is," says Jarvis. "Having a conversation with people -- that will yield dividends."