|afkatws, via Flickr (CC license)
|Don’t just start blogging. Spend some time scoping things out first.
Almost daily, people e-mail me to ask me for advice about their online-media careers. I just got such an inquiry this morning. It started out pretty typically:
“I found your Contentious.com recently. I’m very interested in online writing as a career. Can you tell me something about it? How do you start, etc.”
OK, after I explained that I needed his question to be more specific so I could offer a meaningful answer, he offered a bit more detail: He’s about to graduate with a sociology degree, likes writing, and wants to combine those skills to earn a living. Still an overly generic inquiry — but since it’s a basic question many people have, here’s my honest answer:
Don’t assume in advance that being a writer (in any medium) is your ultimate career goal. Often, media is merely a means to an end — I guess that’s why they call it “media,” since it’s usually “in between” real stuff happening.
In my experience, it’s more useful to pay attention to what’s really going on, what people really want or need, and what you really have to offer, than to assume you already know what you “should” be doing. You can’t really be in business by yourself, since business is about the exchange of value. Who are you going to trade with, and what do they need?
Increasingly, participating in online, conversational, and social media (from blogs and forums to Twitter and Second Life) can help nearly anyone find their niche and their path. Because ultimately, these forms of media are about PEOPLE (especially binding communities) — not technology.
On the practical side, here’s the advice I offered this reader…