Every week or so I get an email in my inbox, a comment on Lifehacker, or some other question asking how I came to write for Lifehacker, and if I have any advice for aspiring tech bloggers. Here's my answer.
Since I get this question all the time, I figured I'd write out my response here since it's a bit long, and that way I don't have to write it out all over again. And, since I expect to get this question in today's Lifehacker AMA, I figured...what better time to finally bang this out quickly.
My story is a little weird (and not all that interesting) so I'll keep it short: I was a senior in college in 2010 and looking to go into media, and after interning at the local TV station decided TV wasn't for me, so I started looking at blogs. I noticed that Lifehacker, my favorite blog, was (at the time) hiring new interns every six months or so. So, I figured out when the next call for interns would be, and prepared myself to apply.
The call never actually came on Lifehacker, but Adam Pash (Editor-In-Chief at the time) put out a call on his personal Twitter account, so I sent in an application with a link to my blog and my commenter profile. I got the internship, got a job as soon as I graduated, and have been here ever since (which, okay, isn't all that long, but you get the idea).
I've learned some things, both from my experience applying to Lifehacker and my experience hiring others at Lifehacker, that I think make a big difference in getting a job at a place like this. But one thing stands out above all else:
Write, write, and write some more. It's become a bit of a cliché, but that's because it's true. If you want to become a writer, start building your writing chops. More importantly, though, Write the kind of stuff you'd see on the blog you want to write for.
We get a ton of applications at Lifehacker for new writers. The best way to stand out is to write the kind of stuff you'd see on Lifehacker. Everyone sends in writing samples, but it's not super useful to me to see the stuff you wrote for that political blog, or your senior thesis. It's incredibly useful to me to see how you'd write about tech, life hacks, how-tos, and other stuff like that. It will immediately put you on my short list. And I'm sure this goes for other blogs too.
When I decided I wanted to apply for Lifehacker, I immediately started blogging about apps, tech, how-tos, and those sorts of things so I'd have something to send them that would actually be relevant (unlike my other personal blogs I'd had over the years). I'm fairly certain no one read that blog, but that's not what matters. The only person that needed to read it was the person hiring me, and that's exactly why I wrote it. And I'm sure that's part of the reason why I'm here today.
This kind of goes along with that, but also know your audience—in this case, the people who run the blog you want to work for. I can't tell you how many people apply for a job at Lifehacker but clearly have never read Lifehacker before the day they applied. I don't blame them, after all, it's a tough job market out there, and sometimes you have to apply for everything you can. But if it's clear you aren't familiar with the blog you're applying to, your chances are pretty slim at working there.
Lastly, don't neglect anything else those individual blogs deem important. Here at Lifehacker, if you write on Kinja and/or are a regular commenter, that gives you a big boost (try your hand over at our reader-run blog, Hackerspace). Other sites may have similar preferences. I know you can't waste a ton of time creating the perfect online persona for every site you apply to, but at least pick out your one or two "big picks" and try to write for them. In the end, that will take you pretty far.
Not all of this advice will apply to every blog out there—like I said, my only experience is here at Lifehacker. But hopefully this gives you a bit of insight as far as what you need to do. Good luck!