If you are looking for a new job or are planning on making a career change, there is one way you can set yourself apart from other candidates that's completely within your control: start a blog.
I started Financegirl in February 2014 while I had a job where there wasn't a lot of opportunity for growth. The job also wasn't in the area of practice that I wanted to be in.
The market was saturated with other professionals, and it was hard to switch jobs.
After trying, unsuccessfully, to make a move, I decided to start blogging about what I was interested in most (personal finance).
Over the course of the year, I built my brand and started writing for bigger publications, including The Huffington Post.
By the time I applied for another job at the end of 2014, I had established myself online.
My blog was a huge part of the interview process and ultimately "set me apart" from the other candidates, as I was told. Needless to say, my blog helped land me a six-figure job, which was a huge promotion.
If you don't have a background in the field that you want a job in, a blog is a great wait to give you credibility.
I don't have a background in finance, but I was able to use my blog as evidence of my interest and commitment to the subject matter.
So, my advice to you is this: If you want to change careers and move into a field you don't have experience in, start a blog that focuses on that niche.
Within a year, you can establish yourself in that area and set yourself apart from other candidates.
If you don't know how to start a blog, there are tons of online resources that describe the process, but here is the seven-step breakdown:
7 Steps To Start Your Blog
1. Choose what you want to blog about (keep in mind the quote: "the riches are in the niches").
This means that it's better to tackle a niche than it is to tackle a big topic (e.g.: starting a "technology blog" or a "social media" blog would not be the best of ideas).
Once you know what you want to talk about, think about how you want to present it and what your ultimate purpose and vision is for your blog.
Take the time to brainstorm during this step because it sets the tone for everything that follows.
2. Write five-to-10 posts before you start your blog.
This is a tip I received from a successful blogger: Doing this before you start your blog will give you a database to work from, so you can focus on the logistics of getting your blog up and running and not worry about the content while you're figuring out how to operate it.
3. Register your domain name for the year.
Make sure the site name you want is available, and if it is, purchase it (you'll have to renew yearly).
4. After you register the domain name, buy a 12-month hosting plan.
A quick Internet search should lead you to several options. Again, you'll have to renew yearly. Follow the steps and connect your domain name to your host.
5. Next, set up a WordPress account.
Using WordPress allows you to own your content and is widely accepted as the best place to establish a blog.
6. Design your blog.
You can choose a free design, build your own design or pay to have a web designer design your blog.
I bought a theme for $100 and ended up changing the entire design myself (learning css in the process). It's not that hard, it just takes time.
7. Once you have your site up, start publishing your content.
Start connecting with other bloggers and promoting your content on social media. The more your write on your blog, the better your writing will become. Practice makes perfect, so keep going.
Aside from starting a blog, there are a few tips I wish I knew prior to starting Financegirl. Here are seven:
7 Blogging Tips
1. Always keep a stash of five plus posts available so you're not scrambling to publish.
The more ahead of deadlines you stay, the less stressful your blog will be. Things come up and you may not have time to post when you're supposed to.
To avoid inconsistent posting, have a stash of posts ready to go.
2. Post consistently every week.
It is more important that you post at the same time and on the same days every week than it is how many times a week you post.
So, posting every Monday and Wednesday at 5 am is better than posting sporadically four times a week. This will help your readers know when to come back to your blog.
3. Interact with the blogging community that you're part of.
The blogging community online is huge. Whatever niche you're in, start following other bloggers on social media and commenting on their blogs.
Establishing these relationships is key to setting the stage for bigger opportunities (like guest posts) down the line.
4. Do not monetize until you have at least 700 plus readers a day (at a minimum).
If you want to make money from your blog, wait until your page views are high enough for you to actually make money.
The opportunities come based on your traffic. Focus on getting your traffic and page views up and wait to focus on monetizing until you have established yourself in your niche.
5. Keep your posts around 750 to 1,200 words.
New bloggers often want to know how long posts should be. It depends on your niche and your readers, but in general, somewhere between 750 to 1,200 is a good place to be.
Even more important than the word count is the content and value you provide. Keep this in mind.
6. Have a consistent tone in all of your posts so your readers know what to expect.
If you like lists, use a lot of lists. If you like to write more diary-esque posts, stick to that. You want to try to have a consistent tone across your blog so your readers know what they'll get when they come back.
7. Provide value to your readers (it's not about you; it's about them).
A common mistake bloggers make is to talk too much about themselves and automatically assume their readers care. Focus on providing value to your readers while giving it a personal touch.
A Final Note
If your ultimate goal is to land a job in the niche you write about on your blog, be sure to include your blog on your résumé, or at the very least, talk about your blog during the interview process.
Blogging in your free time shows you're truly interested in the niche, which can set you apart from other candidates.