6 Comments

Summary:

An introductory look at two of the key tools of the trade.

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of posts from our writers covering all aspects of web working for beginners)

Doing what we do here at WebWorkerDaily, it is sometimes easy to forget from whence we came. That is to say, everything has a beginning, including a career, or part of a career, devoted to working online. For many of us already in the field, the starting point may have been a natural inclination towards technology that gradually blossomed into a full-fledged professional pursuit.

But for those just getting their feet wet, the process might not be so organic. You might be showing up late to the game, and with only a basic grasp of the rules to begin with. Let’s take some of the pressure off by taking an introductory look at two of the basic tools of the trade.

Blogs

wordpress-comBlogs (or weblogs, to give them their original name), are a web worker’s best friend. They help with research, networking, sales, and brand establishment (personal or corporate). Once upon a time, you could just put up a web site and forget it, or maybe go back and update content once a quarter, or once every two quarters. That was fine when the Internet was just a supplement to real-world business, but it’s become much more than that. In web working, your web site is the social face you present to the client, and having a blog helps keep you relevant.

Imagine a salesperson who checks in with a prospect once a quarter. Now imagine that salesperson provides exactly the same information in exactly the same way to exactly the same stakeholder every time. That’s what you’re doing if you’re not providing frequently-updated content on your web site. With a blog, which you might update on a daily or weekly basis with articles about new developments and trends in your field, you can show prospects that you’re engaged, excited about your field, and always aware of shifts in the business landscape.

That’s the “why”, but what about the “how”? The best way to get started is to become familiar with some basic blog publishing software. Try out a free WordPress.com (disclosure: WebWorkerDaily is hosted on WordPress; see additional disclosure related to WordPress below) or Blogger account, both of which offer visual editing and preset templates; leaving you to concentrate on the content, not the geeky back-end stuff. Read around so you get familiar with the blog writing style. Note the average length of posts, where paragraph breaks occur, the use of hyperlinking, etc. You don’t have to share your blogging with the public until you’re comfortable doing so. Take your time and build competence first.

Twitter

twitter_logoYou’ve probably heard about it, but you may not yet have gone so far as to sign up for an account. Twitter is a relatively new kind of social network, that, unlike its popular predecessors MySpace and Facebook, is focused primarily on users’ content and less on users’ profiles or identities.

When I first discovered Twitter, which was not all that long ago, I had no idea what to do with it. I couldn’t figure out how to find people to add, no one I knew was using it, and the 140-character limit seemed arbitrary and somewhat cruel. I came to realize that it is a valuable way to expand your network of potential clients, collaborators and service providers, and to conduct spot research and enhance your reputation as an online professional.

Nowadays, you will find that most professionals working online who have active blogs will also have a “Follow me” button or at least link to their Twitter profile in some way. Twitter takes the concepts I talked about with blogging to the next level. To successfully use your account to further your professional goals, you have to provide updated content with a frequency previously unheard of, and with significant brevity, as well. Those in advertising will probably relish the challenge of drilling down meaningful content to 140 characters, as I soon came to.

How to use Twitter succesfully is a topic that is still subject to fervent debate. If you’re looking for a good starting point, Darren Rowse of Problogger.net is frequently considered an expert in the field, and you can find his Twitter-oriented blog at Twitip.com. With Twitter, as with blogs, the key is to follow others and take in as much as possible, in order to get comfortable with the unique form of communication it presents.

I know the “watch and learn” method of gaining familiarity with these basic web working tools might not appeal to those newcomers who’ve been forced by the loss of employment to seek work online, rather than chosen it themselves. But like starting any new career, there will be ramp up time, and training and orientation are required if you want to become truly successful. Hopefully our Web Work 101 series of articles will help cut down the time on that learning curve.

(Disclosure: WordPress is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.)

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. links for 2009-02-12 at DeStructUred Blog Thursday, February 12, 2009

    [...] Web Work 101: Two Tools to Get You Started (tags: Web Blog social) [...]

  2. Lee, Blogger’s Workshop Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Blogs are indeed a crucial element of any business, whether they exist entirely online, or are brick-and-mortar businesses supplemented by online marketing efforts.

    It will be particularly interesting to see how traditional businesses develop marketing strategies using blogs, as well as Twitter and other social media, to redefine their businesses. I suspect that social media will eventually become more important than aggressive branding, especially as the economy continues to deteriorate.

    See, as people have fewer dollars to spend, the maxim that people buy from companies that they know, like, and trust will become even more apparent. Trust is built through individual connections, rather than multi-million dollar branding campaigns.

    I think that the deteriorating economy, coupled with the low barrier of entry of online communication and social media, will have a drastic and lasting impact on business as a whole.

    Lee, Blogger’s Workshop

  3. If you want a really simple blog to get you started then I recommend http://www.posterous.com. I’m not affiliated with them. I just use it (for a blog about technical “how to” writing) and think it’s great.

    You make your posts by sending an email, so you don’t need to learn anything new — just send emails to post@posterous.com and it turns them into blog posts for you.

    There isn’t a choice of template, but the standard one looks professional and elegant. I think it looks better than any other template I’ve seen on a free blog service.

    When I’ve tried other blog services I’ve found myself fiddling a lot with the different settings — different colours and so on. With Posterous I don’t fiddle, I just post. And I’m finding I really like it.

    It also works well in conjunction with Twitter… you can have links to your Posterous posts sent to Twitter automatically — which brings in some extra traffic and is the best way to get started.

    Visit my site to have a look!

  4. I have yet to get used to Twitter.

  5. WebWorkerDaily » Archive Web Work 101: Planning, Budgeting and Goal-Setting « Thursday, February 26, 2009

    [...] to avoid, how to find support, about joining groups, how to set up your office, and some of the tools of the trade. In this post, I’m going to get back to basics. The key to successful web work, and getting [...]

  6. WebWorkerDaily » Archive Web Work 101: Wrap-up « Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    [...] Web Work 101: Two Tools to Get You Started [...]

Comments have been disabled for this post