I’ve been blogging professionally for about six years now (you can read more about my story here: In blog years, I’m a dinosaur).
Many people see blogging as a pocket money thing where you earn small amounts from sponsored posts and get sent things to review, or work freelance and write articles for someone else’s website. This post focuses on something entirely different: being a salaried in-house blogger.
One of the most interesting things about blogging as a career is that you find out just how many people absolutely hate the idea. For personal bloggers, being able to write posts all day and getting paid a regular, decent salary for it seems like living the dream. When you work in-house for a company you realise that most people dread the thought of putting hands to keyboard and getting a blog post out there – for all kinds of reasons. This is a good thing if all you want to do in your role is blog, and bad if part of your responsibilities include getting other people to blog.
But how do you even get to that stage? Firstly, you need to decide whether blogging for a business is really something you want to do.
How is professional blogging different from personal blogging?
In many ways, professional blogging is very similar to personal blogging. You’ll be working with the same (or similar) tools, relying on a lot of the same skills, and completing a lot of the same tasks in terms of formatting, working with images, etc. However, there are some very important differences:
If you’re a personal blogger, you probably fit blogging in when you have time or give yourself a bit of leeway when it comes to tidying up or finally getting those images right. Corporate blogging is subject to more specific timeframes and demands, which means deadlines. These may be set by yourself or someone else, but it’s important not to let things drag on or creep into other time. Being organised and having a realistic sense of what you can achieve are really useful skills.
Direction and topics
Corporate blogging will only be as fun and interesting as you make it, which is why it’s so important businesses hire someone who genuinely wants to do it rather than someone who sees it as just another task. Ideally you want to be in an environment where you’re free to come up with your own ideas. You may have to pick topics or position things in a certain way in line with company goals, and it’s likely that some posts will be directed from higher up the chain, but having your own post ideas approved for the majority of the time is really important. In most businesses, you’ll get a lot more guidance when you first start out, but it’s vital it doesn’t become long-term micromanagement.
Once you’ve written a post, it will probably be reviewed by at least one person, so there’s a fair chance you’ll have to make changes. There’s no more hitting publish on a post and sending it off into the world as soon as you stop writing.
You may occasionally have to write against the grain, i.e. argue the opposite of what you actually believe. In my opinion, that’s one of the biggest challenges you can have as a writer and it really tests how good you are at forming cogent arguments and making something sound appealing.
The biggest lesson to take out of this section is that in a professional context, blogging won’t always be fun.
Communication and relationships
Depending on your role, team, and company, your blog tasks may have quite a narrow focus. For example, you might not even write many blog posts, just edit them. Or you may write blog posts, but someone else is in charge of sharing them on social media and otherwise marketing them. If this is the case, it’s important to talk to this person and form a good relationship with them so you have more say in how your work is presented. You also need some kind of access to analytics so you can see which types of posts have performed well, and which topics do better on which days.
You’re not working alone any more, so it’s a good idea to form relationships with people throughout the company so they can help you with questions or even contribute posts or post ideas. You’ll also have far less control over how things look and behave; it’s not your website. On the plus side, it’s not your job to deal with weird quirks or keeping software up to date. On the minus side, you need to learn how to be diplomatic and nice about the things you want changed and the little (or big) niggles.
You’ll need to be a quick learner. If you’re writing for an agency, your role will probably be a bit more research-based as you get to grips with different niches and their quirks. If you’re writing completely in-house for a brand or brands in the same industry, you’ll want to learn as much as possible so you can cut down on the time it takes to research and look things up. Ideally, you want to get to the stage where you’re only googling for sources to back up your claims. This is especially true if you’re working in a more complex field.
Capturing and engaging an audience is more challenging; people are often at a corporate blog because they’re curious about the company or because they’re visiting the site for business not pleasure. For this reason, you’ll see most success if you base your writing around curiosity (it must deliver on its promise though) and providing genuine value. Many companies think they should just talk about themselves in their blog posts; that’s the last thing you want to do unless the company has a reputation like Google’s or Facebook’s.
Customers are not like personal site visitors. They’re generally not abrasive as Facebook and newspaper commenters, but they tend to be pretty honest. If you’ve made any typos, expect to be told about them. If they disagree with anything you’ve said, expect to be told about it. If they respond to your blog post with a totally unrelated support or order question, they expect to have it answered. Replying to comments requires patience, excessive amounts of hearts and unicorns, and a tone of professionalism that takes a long time to develop.
Making a difference
If you blog for a good company, you’ll be able to really see how you’re making an impact on the business. A good mutual relationship means you’re making them money (directly or indirectly), and they’re giving you money and helping you build your reputation. Company blogging can be really rewarding in this respect, because instead of just you telling yourself you’re doing a good job, other people are complimentary about your work too. You’ll also learn a lot of skills and valuable insights into how other people work in the web industry.
So, if you’ve decided that professional blogging is still for you, here’s how to get started.
Finding full-time blogging careers
It’s extremely unlikely you’ll go to a careers website, search ‘blogger’, and immediately see dozens of blogging roles you can apply for. It might happen in the future, but these days you’re likely to be looking at marketing or copywriter roles. Blogging, if it’s mentioned at all in a job description, tends to go hand in hand with tasks such as copywriting, social media, content creating, content marketing, search engine optimisation, and so on (watch out for job descriptions that feature programming or web design if those aren’t your areas).
Another important thing to remember is that web-based companies are much more likely to offer these kinds of roles and value them more highly. More traditional industries and those businesses who target an old or young audience are much less likely to create a position for this (and if there is one, it’s likely that you’ll spend a lot of time editing, re-editing and revising pieces and have far less flexibility with what you write about). Personally, my view is that the more technical the company, the better. Technical companies hire technical staff, which means rather than defining and explaining every tiny thing you’re doing and every decision you make (multiple times, and having to fight for what you know is right if you’re really unlucky), you can just sit down and write. Bliss.
Often you’ll need to take a few steps into the recruitment process and actually talk to someone at the company to find out what the job includes, and approximately how much time (if any) would be spent blogging. You may have to compromise when you first start out and take a copywriter or website admin role. From there it’s your responsibility to get the tasks you want or get enough experience writing to be able to move on.
Promoting your skillset
The next step is to make your CV/resume and cover letter look appealing. The rule of thumb is that the smaller the company, the more skills you have the better. The bigger the company, the more specific your role is going to be. There are pros and cons to both these things depending on your skillset, your personal preferences, and how much of a control freak you are.
Many people apply for blogging-related roles because they like the idea of writing. You can set yourself apart from these candidates easily by talking about what else you can bring to the table. For example, do you have relevant contacts that would be good for link building? Do you have experience, backed by figures, of growing an audience? How have you built relationships with others with regards to your own blog? Past experience and thinking beyond the specifics of writing will get you much further, even if your past achievements haven’t been in a business context. Experience with CMSs such as WordPress and basic HTML and image editing skills will go a long way too.
Include links to select pieces of content that you’re particularly proud of. These should be well-written, still relevant, and well-designed. Accompany them with a hook where possible, for example, ‘This blog post brought X thousand visitors to the site’, ‘This blog post was mentioned/shared by Y influential source’, ‘This blog post helped me rank #1 for Z keyword’, ‘This blog post was based on a talk I did at [conference]’. If you can’t do that, don’t worry. If your writing is good enough, people will see your potential.
Once you’ve been offered that all-important interview, it’s time to move to the next step…
Doing the company research
As well as memorising information for that all too common interview question, ‘What do you know about the company?’, have a look at their website and blog in detail. Don’t be put off by an existing blog that sounds boring or tired – that’s why they’re hiring someone. Come up with a handful of ideas for blog posts, including titles and brief summaries of content.. It’s good to go broad for this, so something with a clickbait title, something without a clickbait title, something news-formatted, something list-based, something ‘how to’-themed etc.
Make two lists for the existing company blog: 1) what they do well and 2) improvements/value you can add. The first list is great for flattery. The second list needs careful phrasing so it comes across as value-adding rather than criticism. Bonus points if you can suggest changes that have worked for you, for example a particular social media plugin you’ve seen measurable success with. Don’t be afraid to bring brief notes to the interview: it shows an impressive amount of prep and prevents awkward silences as you desperately try to remember what you wrote down originally.
The interview stage
The strongest candidates I’ve interviewed have been the ones who back up what they’re saying with real examples and/or make the answer relevant to the role/company. You could answer the question, ‘How would you describe yourself as a writer?’ with something like, ‘I can adapt to a range of tones and styles easily, which I think would work really well for you because I noticed that your blog entries cover everything from company news to tutorials’.
If you have figures, use them. If you have a website or portfolio, show them. Be interested, be positive, and fill any awkward silences (such as walking to meeting rooms) with compliments about the decor or positive comments about your journey. It sounds a bit crazy, but it gives a great first impression.
A lot of people approach interviews with the ‘I hope I’m good enough’ mentality. Switch that out for a ‘Let’s see if they’re good enough’ mentality. (Note: be careful not to be arrogant. This is as much about you finding out about them as it is them finding out about you. Try to collect information and evaluate it to determine whether it’s a good fit for you).
Some things you want to find out about are:
- Company culture – Ask how the company is structured and how the team you’d be joining operates. The danger signs are lots of middle management staff, responses that seem a little vague or confused, and open criticism.
- Workflow – Medium to large companies frequently suffer the problem of inefficiency and stagnation, while smaller companies often want a lot of tasks done in a very short time. Watch out for workflows that suggest endless stages of reviewing. Brief reviews of blog posts are fine, but you don’t want to be spending weeks making no real changes to a post as it’s filtered through different people who want tiny, unimportant changes or take a long time to get to your work. You’ll also want to find out how much freedom you get in terms of ideas, topic and style, and how much support you have in terms of design resources, developer changes, marketing, and so on.
- Future prospects – Never rely on potential future plans for the role or team unless they have a concrete backing (e.g. it’s a measurable work in progress rather than a future idea). However, you want to get an idea of the kinds of things people in the team go on to do and clues to the internal promotion process if you have aspirations.
- Attitude – The attitude of your manager is crucial too. How much do they value blogging? I’ve had managers who couldn’t see the point and managers who have insisted everyone in the marketing team writes posts as an explicit part of their job. It’s usually at the interview stage where you can ask subtle questions around this and make a judgement accordingly. It makes all the difference having someone who respects the tasks you do and understands their value.
From your interview, you can then decide what direction you want to go in and look at the finer points of what you want from your role as a professional in-house blogger.
Good luck! If you have anything you want to ask me about blogging as a career, just leave a comment below
Pin for later: