A lot of bloggers don't realize that they have basic HTML and basic design experience.
In real life, for a lot of jobs, there's a basic level of HTML experience needed. You have to know how to bold something or italicize something in the coding of a newsletter if your automatic stuff is freaking out. The codes aren't hard to know, yet many people don't take the time to memorize them.
A lot of bloggers go deeper into it than that; they can edit their layout to suit their needs - and even if they don't, they know somebody who could and could probably help teach them if they were really curious.
One of the great things about having a blog is that you have a medium to practice skills like HTML and designing websites in a way that doesn't affect anybody's websites but your own.
Now, you can do this a few ways. The first is obvious: you can practice on your own and mess about with your HTML and CSS on your blog layout and all of the coding stuff. That's how I learned a lot of what I do.
You can ask friends for help teaching you some basic things - for instance, I had no idea how to make a drop-down navigation bar for a website until Rachael from The Book Muncher taught me how.
Or you can teach yourself using a variety of methods.
The same applies not only to coding design, but to graphic design as well. A lot of people have played with making banners or buttons or fan art for their blog, and that's a skill that can be valuable later: it shows you have a sense of how to make things look nice, or even the talent to do so.
Of course, for some people, you need Photoshop; there are free systems like paint.NET you can download to practice on, and plenty of free textures and tutorials are available around the Internet.
You can use these skills for a variety of things, from web design to social market manager to publicity to librarian - actually, anything that has a website or could use a flyer needs these kinds of skills.
Somebody who has those skills is Katie - you all know Katie, from Sophistikatied Reviews! Sophistikatied (Quite the mouthful, yes? I thought it was clever at the time ...) is a book blog that focuses primarily on YA books, reviews and news. I also make a ridiculous amount of bookish fan art that I try to post whenever I can!
Why did you start blogging?
I was reading all of these amazing books and I had absolutely nobody to discuss them with. My friends at the time had that "omg you read YA? That's so immature of you" attitude (funny how we're not friends anymore) so when I discovered the blogosphere, I jumped in headfirst. Best decision ever!
You're going into the design! What were some of your first designs?
Any design in general? Not just commercial designs? Oh geeze, this is awfully embarrassing but I used to run fan sites for the boy band Dream Street and former member Jesse McCartney when I was fourteen with a bunch of other squealing preteens. I did the layouts and all of the graphics for those but I was just beginning to teach myself graphic design around that time so they were pretty horrible...
What were some of your inspirations to start designing?
I've been a Tim Burton fan girl since I was really little. And while I've never and WILL never do anything even close to his brilliance, his movies and artwork are one of the biggest sources of my creativity today. But as of lately, books are100% the inspiration behind my designs. A beautiful story with an amazing world and admirable characters can do wonders for my imagination, even if it's for something as simple as a button for a blog feature.
How do you think blogging and design were connected for you?
I wouldn't be designing to this extent if it weren't for my blog. I didn't really even consider graphic design to be a real job for me until I started getting emails from book bloggers who had seen my fan art and blog design and wanted me to give them blog makeovers for free!
Have you had any opportunities that you wouldn't have had without your blog?
I'm still starting out so I don't have along list of experience to write home about but without my blog and the blogosphere I wouldn't have a cover being published on a Razorbill title next month!
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller! I won the contest back in August. I think they might have made it a reversible cover situation but I'm not sure. Either way, something I designed will be on a published book! Eeek!
Katie's cover for How To Lead A Life Of Crime
What's your favorite part about blogging?
The people! I'm an oddball and I have no shame in admitting that but at conventions and signings with my fellow book bloggers/authors/librarians/etc, I feel like I'm finally among my own kind.
What's your least favorite part about blogging?
The time that it consumes! This is a frustration that I didn't have when I first started because I wasn't working so I had all of the time in the world to write reviews and make fan art. But now that I have a job and writing (or trying to, I should say) I wish there was an extra three hours in the day so I could squeeze in some TLC for my poor, neglected blog.
What advice do you have to bloggers who want to use their blog in 'real people' stuff?
JUST DO IT! All Nike slogans aside, I daydreamed about designing in the blogosphere/publishing world for so long but it took the motivation of a good friend to actually push me to start my freelancing. Creating book covers has been one of my dream jobs since I was a kid and look at me now! If you think you have a good idea/chance at applying your blog to something in the real world, research and work and make it happen! That's really the only advice I can give!