Networking & Putting Yourself Out There
12 Blogging “Blogging is a great way to show your talents and interests to prospective employers while adding an edge to your resume. If you blog consistently, it shows your dedication, passions, and creativity – all of which are key attributes employers look for in job candidates.” Lauren Conrad, popular blogger, author One of the best ways to get your name out there is by keeping a blog. Think of your blog as somewhere to keep all of the details of your foray into programming – your struggles, triumphs, and everything in between. This chapter will cover the ”why” and give you all the details you need to start blogging right away. Why You Should be Blogging While there are many benefits to blogging, these are the main ones that will align with your goals of learning to code and getting hired: •Keeping a regular blog can help you track your progress. Imagine working at your dream job several years from now and looking back at the blogs that you are writing now. You are going to be able to look back on your transformation into an awesome engineer detailed step by step. It will also help when you feel down or frustrated; you can look back at all of your progress to remind yourself that you are capable of achieving your goals. •Blogs are a great way to impress future employers by making you stand out and showing that you are serious about your work. Employers will be able to see what you are learning as well as how you are learning it. As more people see your blog, you may also get job offers or interview requests just from employers reading your posts. Another important thing to remember is that employers will look you up online and blogging is a great way to show them the part of you that you want them to see: that you are dedicated, focused, articulate, and able to explain concepts well. •You can get feedback on what you are working on, whether that’s topics you are studying, projects you are building, or concepts you are stuck on. This is a good opportunity to ask for feedback from your audience at the end of your post. Many people have left me comments or sent me emails that were helpful in making me a better programmer. •It is a great way to retain the concepts that you are learning. Quincy Larson of freeCodeCamp.org said, “One of the best ways to reinforce your own learning is to turn around and teach it to someone else, and a technical blog post is an excel- lent way to do that.” •If you want to freelance or get contracting work, blogs are a great way to do that too. People can get to know you – and to some degree trust you – through your blog. You can use your platform to brand yourself as a thought leader which will lead to speaking engagements, podcast interviews, and other opportunities. •Finally, blogs are a great way to feel like part of the community and give back. When I was starting out, nothing made me feel better than comments on my articles and blog posts saying that I had helped someone. So many people put themselves out there with awesome content that helped me while I was learning, and it was nice to be able to help oth- ers who would follow in my footsteps. Negative Ideas about Blogging Some people have negative perspectives about blogging and writing that prevent them from getting started. Here are a few of them: “No one wants to listen to what I have to say.” “Everything has been said before, how can I contribute something new?” “I’m not the best writer.” Do not listen to your inner critic! Everyone has lots of valuable insights to share, no matter their experience level, and it does not matter if the topic has been written about once or a hundred times before, you can still lend your own unique voice to the discus- sion. You do not have to be a good writer to blog but do make sure to use spelling and grammar checks. Like with coding, devel- oping your writing skills also takes repetition and practice. What Platform Should You Use? There are three options I recommend for getting started: (1) buy a domain name (e.g. yourname.com), sign up for a hosting service, and install an open source copy of something like WordPress; or (2) sign up for, and use Hashnode which is a developer specific, managed blogging platform. It is important to note that there are pros and cons to both options. Here’s a breakdown: As you can see, hosting it yourself is the more versatile solution. You can customize your own website as much as you want. No one can police what kind of content you post and you always have the option to include ads and affiliate links if you want at any time without worrying about the rules of the platform you are on (they can always change the rules at any time). If you want to host the blog yourself, I recommend using WordPress or Ghost, they are both easy to setup and use and have robust ecosystems. Personally, I used to use WordPress on the Bluehost hosting platform for my blog, but switched to hosting Ghost on Digital Ocean over a year ago because I love the interface and speed. Either option will allow you to have your own name in your domain – like mine, gwenfaraday.com – which makes you look more serious and professional. I highly recommend purchasing one if you have not already. Hashnode has a beautiful, fully-managed platform specifically made for developer blogs. When you first join, they walk you through a few setup options, prompt you to enter some general information and upload a profile picture, and you are all set to go. Quincy Larsen, the creator of freeCodeCamp recommends the platform, saying, “You can start a blog in just a few seconds using @hashnode and then you can move that to your own domain if you get one later.” I completely agree with that statement, it is so easy and quick to get started. Choose the option that works best for you, as long as you set up your blog as soon as possible. If you want to use a free platform now, you can always move your blog to your own hosting account later. TIP: Blog Analytics Wordpress has lots of plugins to easily see how many people are visiting your site and what they are doing while browsing your articles. This can give you very good insight into what is working and what isn’t. However, do not get down if your analytics num- bers are low; it is completely normal to have almost no visitors for months while you are starting out. I personally used Slimstat Ana- lytics when I had a WordPress blog, but there are plenty of other options. Hashnode can actually give you a leg up when you are starting out because they will try to promote your posts to their audience with similar interests. For example, if you write a Python article, and add the hashtag #python to it, then people like me who follow that hashtag may see your post in our feeds. Hashnode also has primitive analytics and feedback mechanisms so you can see how well your posts are doing. When you start guest posting your articles (more about this later on in the chapter), some platforms will let you see the analytics for how many of their readers are clicking on your article and how much time they are spending reading it. Check with the platform to see if they can provide you with these details. Getting Started What to Write About Write about yourself and your journey! It doesn’t have to be anything mind-blowing or overdone when you are first starting out. Writing more complicated articles or tutorials can come later. Your first post should be about where you are currently at in your learning, what you are planning to do, and any other relevant details. You want to paint a picture of who you are and where you are coming from for the reader. If you sit down without any dis- tractions, you can easily finish writing this in under fifteen minutes. If you are using WordPress, navigate to ”posts” > ”add new” on the left menu. You will see a main text area where you can enter the title and body for your blog post. On the right-hand side, you will see a bunch of options that expand to let you enter tags, categories, and other information. You do not have to enter anything there yet, but I recommend adding a featured image if you can. For subsequent posts, if you can’t come up with anything to write about, try answering at least one of the following questions and writing a short post about it. •What have you been working on? •What do you want to do with your coding skills? •What struggles have you encountered? •Do you have a date or specific goal in mind for getting hired? •Is there a success story you would like to share? TIP: Talk about Struggles Without Being Negative To struggle is human, and it makes you relatable. This journey is full of challenges and it is okay to talk about them openly, but don’t be overtly negative in your posts or use your blog as a place to express (or rant) about frustrations you’ve experienced. Saying things like, ”this stinks”, ”I hate doing this”, and ”I’ll never be any good” isn’t a good look for you. That will turn people away from your blog and be harmful when potential employers are reading it. Instead, you can say something like, ”sometimes I start thinking that I will not be good at this, but then I remind myself how far I’ve come and I keep pushing forward” or ”I’m really stuck on ABC and I’m feeling pretty frustrated; I’m going to sleep on it and try XYZ tomorrow.” When to Publish You should aim to publish your blog posts at least one or two times per week. Some people write a new post every day. If that works for you, great. If not, just make a goal to write as often as you can. You do not have to outdo anyone else. It is better to be consistent than burn out. There is no perfect day or time to publish your blog. However, I recommend that you do not publish more than one at a time. If you write multiple posts at once or close together, you may want to use a scheduling feature (WordPress and other platforms have this built in) to publish them on certain dates in the future. This also helps if you have a publishing schedule, like every Monday and Thursday; you can write the posts in advance so you never miss your goal. Taking it to the next level Writing Articles Short and personally honest blog posts are great for starting out, but where can you take it from there? A great way to reinforce what you are learning is by writing in-depth articles and tutorials. If you just figured something out, why not write about it so you can understand it more deeply and benefit others at the same time? You do not need to be an expert to write tutorials, either. There are people who can learn from your experiences regardless of your skill level. Blogging is also a great way to connect with beginners who may relate to your struggles more than someone who has been coding for many years. Writing tutorials and articles that explain concepts also helps brand you as a thought leader. People who write are not necessarily better than those who do not, but they are perceived by others to be more knowledgeable. The format for this content should include a header, sub-headers, and images, and do your best to be concise. Your audience will be far less likely to read it if there’s nothing but blocks of text for them to scroll through. Here is how I normally approach writing an article: 1.Write a few sentences about the idea and goal of the article. Who is the article intended for and what are they supposed to get out of it? 2.Try to create a catchy title. It should not be clickbait but it should make people want to read the rest of the article. ’How to…’, ’3 Ways to do XYZ’ (lists), and ‘Complete Guide to ABC’ are all good options. An exercise that can help is to look through popular technology blogs like freeCodeCamp news and Hackernoon to see what titles are popular or stand out. 3.Create subheadings for each section of your article as an outline. 4.Write the introduction. This can just be a paragraph or two about what you will cover in the article and for whom the article was written. 5.Skip to the end and write the conclusion. This section should simply be labeled ”Wrap-up” or ”Conclusion”: no need to have anything fancier than that. People may skim through your article before they read the whole thing and it is good to give them a recap at the end. Since I started writing the conclusion before the body, I’ve been able to more clearly focus on the end goal throughout the writing process. 6.Write the body under each sub-header. 7.Ask a question at the end of your post. This will get more people to comment and interact with your article. 8.Read through the whole article at least once to catch any simple spelling or grammar errors. 9.Most importantly, send it to a friend or family member to proofread before you publish it. There is a stark difference in the number of spelling and grammar errors I’ve found in the articles written before versus after I asked someone to double-check my writing. I always use a proofreader for my guest posts now. 10.Publish and share! More about ways to share your content later in the book. For more information about writing good blog posts, see the content for this book at gwenfaraday.com/learn-to-code-book. Guest Posting Once every month or two, you should try to guest post your longer tutorials on a publication like freeCodeCamp, Hackernoon, Dev.to, or Software Engineering Daily that have large communities of people interested in anything programming-related. This is an excellent way to get your name out there and build a following without a lot of extra effort? If you already have a track record of writing on your blog, you can use your previous content as a portfolio in case they ask for links to recent work. Platforms are always eager to post more well-written articles. You should be linking back to your own website and blog from the article to grow your following. Sometimes the platform will have analytics where you can see how many people are reading the article and clicking on the link. These articles can be on any topic. Here are some ideas to get you started: 1.Write about a problem you recently had and how you solved it. 2.Write about how and why you are learning to code – what techniques you are using, etc. 3.Write an explanation of some part of a programming language or a library you have used. Conclusion Blogging can be a valuable tool for people breaking into the tech industry. Push away the negative thoughts and start writing without delay. People will appreciate your honesty and openness. Start as soon as possible and stick with it! Action Steps: •Decide where you will house your blog and get it set up. •Write your first post. •Schedule the days/times that you will write and post your blogs every week. •Set reminders and calendar events to keep you on track with your writing. •Send me a link to your blog by tweeting @faradayacademy. I cannot wait to read it!