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9 Profound Lessons I Learned by Starting a Blog

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“I think I’m going to start a blog.”

Eighteen months ago, I uttered those words to my wife and haven’t looked back since. News To Live By, which shows Millennials the career advice “hidden” in top stories, is the toughest — and most rewarding — challenge I have ever taken on.

Any time someone asks me how to get ahead professionally, my answer is swift and uncomplicated: start a blog. A personal website contains all the wisdom you need to be a successful young adult.

Looking for a project in 2014 that will help you for years to come? Create a blog on something you’re passionate about. The easiest way is with Bluehost, the company I use for hosting services. In about 15 minutes, you can have a free domain name, install WordPress and have access to 24/7 live support. I rely on Bluehost every day for News To Live By. Couldn’t do it without ‘em. Click here to visit Bluehost.  If you need detailed instructions on how to get started, visit this handy page on my blog.

Without further ado, here are the nine biggest lessons I learned from starting my own blog.

1. I finally know how the Internet works

Sure, I go online all day long, but until I started News To Live By, I really didn’t understand how websites come to be or operate. I have gained all kinds of insight on user experience, site maintenance and content strategies. Now I look at other sites and think, “Ah, I know what they’re trying to do here.” I have plenty left to learn, but my perspective has completely changed over the past year and a half.

2. The fastest way to get better is to let my guard down

Am I a good writer or do I THINK I’m a good writer? It’s not up to me. The decision rests with people who read the blog. When I look at my columns when I first began versus today, the content now is much stronger. That’s because of repetition and a steady diet of critiques from friends, family and complete strangers in the “Comments” section. Criticism sustains me.

3. All I needed to do was light the spark 

The toughest part of any project is getting started, right? Once the flame began to flicker, News To Live By generated its own momentum and kept me busy. The next phase of the project always reveals itself in time. It feels like training for the real world: put an idea in motion and let the process unfold organically. Doesn’t seem as intimidating that way, I think.

All it takes is a single spark. So go find a match.

For detailed instructions on how to “light the spark” and create your blog in a few short steps, visit this page on my blog. Watch the instructional video at the bottom and read about the #1 thing I did wrong at the beginning of News To Live By. Don’t make the same mistake!

4. I don’t mind if I get rejected. What’s the worst that happens?

In 2013, I applied to two companies that syndicate newspaper columns and was roundly told “Thanks, but no thanks.” Undaunted, I then approached an editor at Parade Magazine and said, “Would you be interested in News To Live By columns?” He said “Yes, and thanks for asking us.” So now I contribute to Parade Magazine. Why? Because I figured, “What do I have to lose?”

As a young writer, I don’t care if someone slams the door. Frankly, it energizes me. I love doubters and relish the opportunity to prove them wrong. Blogging has given me that confidence.

5. Great advice is like solving a 1,000-piece puzzle in two minutes

As I work to improve News To Live By, I always think: “Who can help me with the next step?” I relied on a blogger friend (with a great healthy eating site) for the Bluehost suggestion, a journalist buddy for the crucial tip on why I should build an email list (subscribe here), all of you for spot-on content suggestions through a short reader survey and my friends to tell me flat-out if my columns are any good.

Each time I ask for assistance, it feels like I’m handed step-by-step instructions out of an elaborate maze. I say to myself, “Ah, THAT’S how you do it.” Blogging has shown me the tremendous power of sound advice. Worth its weight in gold.

6. Relationships are everything

Since my blog is written for Millennials, I have developed a network of inspiring 20-somethings who do wonderful work on their own blogs and platforms. We rely on each other for advice, resources and encouragement. Dynamic movers and shakers like Paul AngoneErin LowryRebecca Fraser-Thill and Chelsea Krost. We all realize the more we pay it forward, the more it comes back.

I never anticipated my blog would connect me with people who share my passion, interests and drive. Pretty awesome bonus.

7. Every blogging skill is transferable

The work I do with News To Live By impacts every part of my day job in PR and marketing. I understand social media on a deeper level, uncover all kinds of creative billable ways to improve a client’s online presence, sharpen decision making and manage my time better. Hell, I even started a blog at our PR firm to highlight recent projects and expertise. And no matter your job, EVERYONE can sharpen their writing (for starters, stop using “in order“and “amazing“).

8. We are worth more than a 9-to-5

As I wrote in 2013 on why every 20-something needs a side hustle, a work/life balance isn’t enough. What we really need is a work/hustle/life balance. A blog is a perfect side hustle and will make you feel productive every day — especially if your actual job leaves you unfulfilled. Plus, your blog could ‘wow’ an employer and help you move on to a better situation.

9. Don’t wait for opportunities; create them

The beautiful thing about blogging is that you don’t need permission. Just start a site, give it a name and go. Once you begin, you put your career on an entirely new trajectory. Now, you can impress at an interview with your blog (in other words: a portfolio to showcase your work and experience). Once on the job, the site becomes an indispensable teaching tool that informs and enhances everything you do.

With a blog, you are the employee, HR manager and CEO. Congratulations, you just got hired — by yourself!

Kick off 2014 with the best decision you’ll make all year. Even if you only want to write for yourself and not a larger audience, it’s absolutely worth your time and energy.

Click here to get started!

Did you create a blog or website? What has it taught you? Let us know in the comments!

(This content was originally posted at News To Live By.)

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More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of NBC Universal’s Live Digital with Shelly Palmer, a weekly half-hour television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.