The most important thing I did was starting and running a local music blog. (It was called Rock Iowa, if you’re curious. I went scorched-Earth on it years back for reasons that now escape me, so there’s not much left to find, unfortunately.)
The blog forced me to collaborate with other writers and designers and photographers and videographers. Doing this taught me a lot of things about guiding an editorial vision and managing content.
I ran some other independent projects around that time, too, like helping to start a shared workspace for artists, networking events for designers, and a pop-up art and craft market. Running my own projects meant that I had to write things about those projects, and when the projects were interesting people noticed the things wrote, and some of them thought, “I like how this guy writes and explains things, I wonder if he would help me explain my things to people.” So they asked me if I would do that for money, and I did, and then I kept doing it for more people for more money and now here we are.
Before all this, I studied journalism, majoring in Radio and Television Production. That was helpful, but more for the access to opportunities to run projects and be part of student media than for any particular element of the program.
Before that, I was an indoor kid who taught himself HTML 4 and CSS, and spent a whole lot of formative years on BBS, the early web, and making my own little websites for projects and school. The stuff I learned then is getting fuzzier every day, but still comes in handy.