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5 reasons why you need to blog

May 15, 2012 · 21 comments

in Journalism how-to's

Unfortunately, I know too many talented, smart people who are sitting home unemployed or underemployed. Oh, if only they would blog! Launching this website has made me quite marketable. In one case, I was hired for a teaching gig within 24 hours of sending out my initial query email, which was amazing.

I’ll bet some of you are reading this and squirming. Hey, been there, done that. To be honest, I never wanted to blog either. I fell into it against my will. The journey began a few years ago, when I suddenly had the urge to be a newspaper columnist again. So I called my former editor, Jim Willse. In 1986 he hired me at The New York Daily News and eventually gave me a column. When we reconnected more than a decade later, he had moved on to running the Newark Star-Ledger and I was teaching journalism to college students.

“Talk to me,” he said over lunch. With great enthusiasm, I pitched my idea for writing an irresistible, brilliant column about being a single, divorced woman of color making my way through the 21st century — and he turned me down!

“Good idea,” Jim said. “But I’m not the one you go to. The business has changed. You need to have a blog and build your own audience.” He went on to explain that every media organization wants a bankable commodity. Hence, the importance of me having a blog with readers, who might become a following that could build up his readership.

Then Jim said the most important thing of all: “Once you have your own following, you can go anywhere. In fact, you may not want to come to me anymore.”

I’m presenting this conversation from memory. I couldn’t forget it because our chat left me annoyed and disappointed (it helped though, that Jim paid for lunch, in a nice restaurant to boot). I went home and spent nearly a whole year convincing myself that blogging wasn’t for me.

By Thanksgiving 2008, I launched BettyMingLiu.com.

Why blog? Five reasons:

Reason #1: Blogging helps me in reinventing my identity. In the three years since, I’ve updated my website at least a dozen times. While I still struggle for a shaper focus, I’m enjoying the process of getting to know my online self. Along the way, I’ve learned to use Twitter and Facebook as tools that drive traffic to my site.

Reason #2: A blog is the 21st century version of the old-fashioned resume.  My blog isn’t a moneymaker. At least, not yet. Still, it’s a great marketing vehicle.  Google my name and this website pops up to present a very clear sense of who I am. When I interview for gigs, looking Internet-savvy always gives me an edge.

Reason #3: My blog functions as a living room for conversations that help me grow. Everyone tells me that my site looks good and the content is interesting. What often impresses them the most are the reader comments. People take time to write heartfelt, thoughtful things. And when I’m job hunting, y’all make me look good because prospective employers notice the company I keep.

Reason #4: Blogging is a dynamic outlet for developing my passions. Do I really need a job to have a platform for my ideas? Why put myself in such a powerless position? Blogging has made me responsible for my own destiny in pro-active way. Having a website allows me to showcase me on my own terms. Blogging also gave me something absorbing to do while I looked for work.

Reason #5: Your blog can connect you with people, ideas and opportunities you would otherwise miss. This last reason is why I keep blogging. This blog — and you — have given me profound insight on my life. Sometimes, clarity comes from simply getting down the words that were rattling in my head. Add to that the comments, which get me looking at things in different ways. The interaction with you is 21st century magic-making. And couldn’t we all use a little more magic?

If you want to give blogging a try, consider this fact: You can get started for free. If you want a simple, user-friendly setup, go to Google’s Blogger.com. If you like messing with tech design, then try WordPress.com, which gives more design options but demands more work. (Note: This website is a design that I bought from DIYThemes.com but there’s no need to go that route unless it appeals to you.)

Yes, the learning curve can be steep. But the struggle is worth it. If you have questions or comments, I’m here to help. Good luck!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dorothy May 15, 2012 at 7:48 am

Betty, I totally agree. I had to drag myself to blogging and once I started found a level of clarity about my relationship with my artwork. A great bonus in addition to the connections and relationships developed via blogging. You inspired me!

2 Dorothy May 15, 2012 at 7:49 am

Oh! Forgot to give you the link! (I’m still learning the marketing bit!!!)
http://dorothylorenzepainting.blogspot.com/2012/05/tribute-to-produce-pete.html

3 Toby May 15, 2012 at 7:50 am

Betty, you are so right! I would compare the importance of a personal blog to our magazine’s website – which is quite like a blog for the magazine. For years it was just a placeholder. We were all about print and putting out a good paper edition. Then we got some young people involved, overhauled the site (www.outinjersey.net), made it more of a “daily paper” kind of thing – gave it some immediacy and a lot more content and – pow! all of a sudden our readership went through the roof. Waaaay more people read us on line and the print issue is now a mere storefront, lending legitimacy to the website. Advertising at least tripled as our numbers climbed – and webvertising came pouring in also. We might actually make a buck someday! Never would have believed it!

4 Ann May 15, 2012 at 7:59 am

Betty – there’s not to much I can add to this. Sharing this post!

5 betty ming liu May 15, 2012 at 8:02 am

Dorothy, I also hope to market my art more via my blog. And you don’t need to add the link. Your name on your comment is the active link!

Toby, thanks for sharing the details — they’re really inspiring.

Ann, your waterwinetravel.com blog is such fun. The fact that we are strangers who found each other via our blogs is a perfect example of the possibility of new connections!

6 Brian May 15, 2012 at 8:05 am

Bety,
So you think I should make my own Blog? I doubt that it would work for me, I doubt anyone would read it. RE-inventing my identity. I guess that may be therapeutic. Stop being “The Invisible Man”. This brings me to your second reason… an online resume. Well I am reluctant to do that. Actually I will NEVER do that. I think in your world it is a good thing. My brother has is own domain (www.markwinn.com) I think it may be fun to document some of my projects and adventures.
The last three reason seem to be the strongest. Now that school is out and I am receiving disability payments each month I am not sure why I am living in a house. Maybe I should sell it or rent it out, live on the land. Go back to traveling full-time again.
Of course I could have a interesting blog that way. My modem works where ever cell traffic is supported. Which isn’t everywhere. Maybe i should pack up the jeep and go camping for a month or so. Have you ever been camping Betty? I went camping for a month which included going to the highest point in six states ( got thrown out of Canada) Did you know that the highest and lowest points in the lower 48 states are only 90 miles apart (as the bird flies that is) There is a trip I have thought about taking.
Well, here I am going on and on about nothing. I am glad you decided to create a blog…gives me something to do!

7 Madeline May 15, 2012 at 8:26 am

Hi Betty, When I started blogging it was a organized way for me to approach friends and family to ask them to cook with, or rather for me :) I started connecting with other women writers in the area, and now we meet twice a month to write together. It’s been a fantastic way for me to connect with folks and learn of their work, and happenings in the area.

8 Adriana May 15, 2012 at 8:54 am

While I agree that it is important to get stories out especially for those individuals that have life lessons to share, I think you left out that it takes a lot of time to blog between generating ideas, photography, writing, and design.
And then there is the work of marketing the blog. It isn’t just about writing but about reading other blogs and creating an online presence with social marketing tools. Again, as a blogger, I don’t discredit the practice but would emphasize that before anyone dives in, they should be ready to devote lots of time to the practice.

With that said, it is nice that you offer to help if anyone has questions.

9 Drew May 15, 2012 at 9:29 am

Hey Betty,

My problem with blogging is exactly what Adriana mentioned–it just takes so much time. Of course it’s worth it in the end, but I’ve tried to build two different music blogs in the past 3-4 years and wound up letting them both fade away. There is one I’d like to bring back, perhaps, but it’ll take some time and more design work to revamp it. We’ll see…

That being said, do you think a personal blog is the route to go? I know as writers we’re pretty much meant to create our own “brand” in terms of our writing and such… but with so many ideas floating around, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing. I’m so scatter-brained that I can never really focus on just one subject.

Also, which site is this blog hosted on? I’ve done WordPress before, and I like it, but I’ve also dabbled in a few others in my day (remember when LiveJournal was cool?)… Just curious where to start again, I suppose. :)

Thanks Betty!

10 HapaMama May 15, 2012 at 10:34 am

Yes! To everything you said. I think the part about blogs being money makers may change. As the nature of technology and communications shifts information to the Internet, I hope businesses will follow, too.

In the meantime, love your blog and the wisdom you share!

11 tony ramirez May 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Excellent, Betty.

12 jaimie May 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm

love you, betty! sooooooooo glad you are sharing your wonderful self with all of us!

13 Skye May 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I agree with Adriana. I don’t think I’m ready for blogging yet. I’ve said no a few times, but whenever I do it, I’d like to do it right.
What can I say? Betty, you set a standard:)
But this is a great post I plan to share with a few.

14 betty ming liu May 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Hey! I just finished work and was horrified to see all the typos in this post. But they’re cleaned up now so I can exhale…

Brian, blog about camping! The key thing to remember is that whatever you put on line stays out there forever. So decide what you’re comfortable sharing and save the rest.

Madeline, what a great story about making new friends. You go, girl!

Adriana, you’re right. Blogging is a time commitment. Then again, why not do what you can, whenever you can? There were two stretches over the last three years where I barely blogged for a few months. It’s okay! I had other priorities. We learn from those breaks as well as the starts and stops.

HapaMama, I’ll bet I could make money on this blog if it was important to me. But the people who do well financially really are full-time about their blogging. Something to keep in mind.

Thanks, Tony. Always nice to hear from you!

Jaimie, you’re the best. You have no idea how much you’ve influenced me over the years. :)

Skye, thanks and just do it!! I don’t think there’s such a thing as “doing it right.” As long as you care about what you’re doing, that’s right enough. At least, that’s my opinion!

15 Susan May 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Really great points, Betty! Thank you. They’re reigniting my own passion for blogging – a passion that has foundered unfortunately in the last year due to employment concerns. (But I’ve always referenced the blog on my resume, so that’s another reason I must keep it up!) I’ve also focused on learning more about digital media since 2010, so I’m prepared for anything in marketing – my field. And I’m advancing my knowledge of HTML and CSS via a Meetup course (GirlDevelopIt). The current homework requires that I code (create) my own resume website. So here I go! Again, thanks for your inspiring words! Best, Susan

16 betty ming liu May 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Susan! You have a very nice yoga blog. Keep at it, girl! Esp since you’ve got so many skills. I envy you. Would love to get on your track and learn some basic HTML. Now you’re inspiring me…I keep looking at those Meetups but have yet to attend one. That may change. Thank you!

17 betty ming liu May 15, 2012 at 10:00 pm

By the way, this is so rude of me but I hope it’s clear that I am grateful to Jim Willse for giving me such straightforward, wise advice. Thank you so much, Jim!

18 loh siew fong November 22, 2013 at 2:53 am

Thanks for finally talking about >5 reasons why you need to blog | betty ming liu <Liked it!

19 betty ming liu November 25, 2013 at 6:10 am

Thanks, low siew fong! Your comment has inspired me to link to this post in my latest blog post. These tips are still hold true, even more than a year later. :)

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