Issue 34 - Writing the Web - Jodi Picoult, Mignon Fogarty, Thursday Bram


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Blogger for Hire: Get Paid To Blog

   
   

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logs represent an opportunity for writers: while it is difficult to create a blog of your own that will replace a full-time income, it is more than possible to support yourself by blogging. The secret is becoming a blogger for hire.

The number of blogs continues to grow. Technorati, a blog search engine, reported in 2008 that it had indexed more than 133 million blogs since 2002. While not all of those blogs remain active, numbers are still rising as businesses and individuals come to the conclusion that they need a blog in order to maintain an online presence. These numbers represent a huge opportunity for freelance writers: few businesses have an employee on staff capable of routinely writing interesting blog posts, and even individuals find themselves in need of help in producing quality writing on a regular basis. In order to find the high-quality writing they need, the owners of these blogs are increasingly hiring writers to handle the workload.

While a few companies bring in bloggers on a full-time basis as part of their marketing or public relations teams, the majority of blogging opportunities are on a freelance basis. Just as you might write several articles for the same magazine, you can write posts on a continuing basis for a blog.

“Most blogging opportunities are long-term gigs, meaning that you can get a paycheck every month to supplement your other writing.”

Getting Started as a Blogger For Hire

On the surface, blogging for clients isn't that different from other freelance writing jobs. You're writing for a publication, although it's always an online publication. You get paid for your work as well as receive a byline—although there are some ghostbloggers out there.

As you dig a little deeper, though, you can find some subtle differences that can make blogging a career option all its own. Many blog owners want to find a blogger that will write for the site long term: rather than querying an editor every few months, a blogger will post articles on a regular basis. The timeline can be one of the biggest differences. While a magazine publishes a new issue perhaps once a month, many blogs update once a day. Some even update multiple times a day. Most blogs focus on publishing shorter articles, with 500 words being a common post length.

The speed of publication means that a blogger for hire needs skills that may be a little more specialized than the average freelance writer. Many blogs have minimal editing procedures in place due to both time constraints and costs. However, clients who hire you to write for their blogs will still expect high-quality written work. That means a blogger must have the ability to edit her own work without relying on an editor.

Writing quickly is another important skill: if you need to publish a new post every day or two, you don't have a lot of lead time to find stories, research them, and write them. For this reason, many bloggers choose to only take on writing for blogs that cover a topic they already know well.

However, many freelance writers find that the specialization is worthwhile: most blogging opportunities are long-term gigs, meaning that you can get a paycheck every month to supplement your other writing. Blogging, whether you're working with one large client or several smaller ones, is much more flexible than even many other writing careers.

That flexibility has led to a growing number of women in blogging. Many of the early bloggers were men with a tendency to write about technology. As blogging has grown as a medium, many women have made a career out of it. Mommy bloggers are among the best known: women write about their experiences as parents, connecting with readers about topics ranging from money to food. However, women are blogging about just about everything.

Meryl Evans and Celine Roque are two women who blog for hire. While both taking on other freelance writing projects, Evans and Roque write for several different blogs on a regular basis and get paid in the process.

“Responding to comments is generally considered part of a blogger's job.”

The Blogger's Job Description

A good blogger is a good writer—but that's not all she does. While a more traditional freelancer will write an article, turn it in, and be done, a blogger often takes several more steps to make her work successful.

Responding to comments is generally considered part of a blogger's job. A good blog post routinely gets comments from readers, ranging from questions about the blog's topic to responses to the piece. As a matter of course, writing even a brief reply to such comments is important—it builds community and promotes readers to keep coming back.

Many bloggers also go a step beyond and promote their posts elsewhere: social networking sites, other blogs, and anywhere else a blogger can find relevant readers. Some freelance writers are uncomfortable with this element of blogging. The concern is that bloggers are expected to promote and link to their writing on various blogs. This means that bloggers are actually doing more work for less money than many writers would expect for projects of a similar length. Because there are several blogging networks that offer to only pay bloggers based on traffic revenues, the worry that these networks take advantage of writers has led some freelance writers to the conclusion that the promotion that goes along with writing a blog post should not be their concern.

There is a counterargument: while there are blog owners who take advantage of writers, there are a comparable number of print publications that ask writers to work for free. In the end, it's a matter of your own comfort level with the promotional work a client might ask you to do. You may be happy to do such work but may ask a higher rate for your work. You may prefer to avoid the promotional work and look for blogs where the more marketing-oriented work is not considered part of your project.

“Many blog owners prefer to pay writers on a per post basis...”

What To Expect When Blogging For Clients

Because blogging is a relatively new field, you're likely to see a wide variety of pay rates offered for work. While there are some sites offering more than $150 per post, there are others offering pay rates as low as $1 per post. Some offer a set rate per blog post while offering a base rate plus a certain amount for the number of visitors your posts bring to the site. While payment can come down to a question of what the blog's owner is willing to pay, you can see some correlation between the type of client you're working with and the type and rate of payment you receive. If you write blog posts for an established business's website, you may find some of the higher pay rates. In contrast, blog networks or blogs owned by individuals often pay a little less.

If you're an experienced writer, you can often command higher rates, although it can take time to build up to the highest rates per post. Roque has been blogging for five years and has increased her rates per post over the years. She started out earning about $10 per post.

"It depends on the word count and how intensive the job is,” Roque said. “Thirty dollars per post is my absolute minimum for short posts, but I prefer longer posts worth sixty to one hundred dollars because I get to explore a topic better."

There can be some variation in what clients expect when they hire you. Over the years, Roque has found that different clients have varying expectations: "I've had some clients in the past who were looking for nothing more than filler content and couldn't care less about the audience or the direction of the blog. The clients that I've had the best experience with are the ones who have a message and know what it is—they're just looking for someone to be the voice and explore the message."

Many blog owners prefer to pay writers on a per post basis, although some will offer a weekly or monthly payment for writing a certain number of posts over a period of time. If you're working for a company, you may find yourself paid just like any other contractor working with that business.

While some businesses will offer a bonus for reaching high levels of traffic, they rarely base your overall pay rate on the number of visitors your blogging brings to their site. Some individuals, as well as blog networks, rely on their blog’s monthly traffic for income and use it to pay their bloggers. This approach can be hard on bloggers: it almost always translates into a lower overall pay rate. However, some bloggers have found traffic-based pay to be quite lucrative.

“A good writer can learn the mechanics and style of blogging.”

Landing the Best Blogging Gigs

The longer you've worked as a blogger, the easier it is to move forward, landing better gigs and earning more. You need to focus on improving, however, or you may stagnate. "It took me three years to have the confidence and experience to ask for that much, but it can take others a shorter amount of time to get there," says Roque. "My mistake was not having a career plan and settling for low-paying jobs for a long time."

However, few bloggers can point to years and years of blogging experience: it's a relatively new format. Even bloggers who were there at the beginning can barely claim a decade of blogging experience. In consideration of that fact, many companies routinely look to hire someone who can write, rather than focusing on experienced bloggers. The logic of the situation leads to the conclusion that a good writer can learn the mechanics and style of blogging. Someone who knows the mechanics of blogging, but can't write well, will have a harder time picking up those lacking skills.

Evans is one of those bloggers who has been in the game for a long time: "I started blogging in 2000 and writing on a regular basis after that...editors and publishers started coming to me around 2003." Because Evans has that experience, she has more choices when it comes to selecting her blogging clients. She can stick to the higher paying opportunities. "Once in a while, I'll apply for a gig because I'm passionate about the site or topic," Evans said.   

On top of applying for blogging jobs, Evans has found that she has received referrals from good clients as she's expanded her portfolio. Blogging is like any other industry—many projects and jobs don't ever make it on to a job board. Many of the most lucrative blogging opportunities are entirely unadvertised. Instead, a blog owner—whether an individual or a company—will find out who writes well in their niche or hire bloggers their colleagues trust. They'll seek out who they want to write on their blogs and make their own offers.

There are a few job boards that list blogging opportunities on a regular basis: the ProBlogger Job Board and BloggerJobs.biz are among two of the best. Many freelance writing job boards have also made a point of including blogging opportunities over the past several years. You'll find a mix of opportunities on job boards. Some can be quite good gigs with excellent pay. There are other listings that can turn out to be less useful to you. It's a matter of reading through and recognizing opportunities that will work for you.

Once you've found a gig that is a good fit, it's a matter of following up on that opportunity. Most job listings will have specific guidelines for applying, such as including links to relevant posts you've written. It is an application, of course, so it's important to do your best to show why you are the best writer to cover a particular topic. There is no correct background that will guarantee you blogging projects. In general, it's a question of showing that you can write well and that you're knowledgeable about the topic you're covering.

Roque's background is not too different from many other freelance writers: "I got into the habit of writing as a kid. I've been keeping journals since I was ten. Between my diary entries, I wrote short stories and essays. I also worked on the school paper from fifth grade until I graduated from high school. It made sense to pursue it professionally, so I ended up writing articles in local tech magazines and looking for writing jobs online. Writing is the only career I've had so far, although I've done the odd design work occasionally."

There are many paths to blogging. Evans started her first blog on Blogger.com in 2000, writing about personal topics at first and slowly moving towards writing about tech and business. At the time, though, Evans didn't really think that she was headed towards a writing career. Instead, she was working through New York University's Internet technologies certificate program in order to become a web designer: "I subscribed to a few web design e-mail newsletters. One of my favorites had a contest where you could submit an article. If they published it, they gave you high quality software. So, I submitted an article and won a copy of Photoshop. The article did so well, they asked for another and another..." By 2001, Evans had a steady freelance writing career.

It's necessary to run your own blog if you want a shot at many of the better blogging gigs. "If you want to land blogging gigs, you need to have your own blog for starters or at least contribute to a blog on a regular basis. With many bloggers out there, experience helps," Evans suggested. "Interact with the community on blogs and social network sites like Twitter and LinkedIn."

Roque writes a personal blog at CelineRoque.com as well as a personal finance blog aimed towards Filipinos. Evans writes Meryl's Notes; TheGameZen.com, which covers game news; and Bionic Ear, which covers Meryl's experiences with a cochlear implant as well as deafness.

Any time you apply for a blogging gig, the blog's owner will ask for samples of your work—and she's not asking for newspaper clippings. Instead, you need to be able to provide examples of your efforts at blogging: a blog of your own allows you to not only showcase your writing but also demonstrate that you have the skills that make you an effective blogger. These skills are being able to respond to comments and promoting your work on other sites.

By specializing in a specific niche or two, you can build a presence that will help you land future blogging gigs. For instance, much of Evans' writing is related to two niches—business and games. Between her own game blog and one of her clients, she writes game reviews on a regular basis. She also writes on three blogs, besides her own, that cover topics like PowerPoint presentations and business financing. By having a solid presence in both niches, she has a good portfolio of work to show any prospective client who wants to hire her to work for another blog. Working in a niche can also enable you to build a following—readers that will check out posts you've published on other sites. Such a following will make you more employable in the eyes of a client.

“The immediate feedback of comments and the sense of community can add to the pleasure of writing.”

Moving Forward As A Blogger

There's always room to grow as a blogger: some blogs now have readerships larger than major newspapers with hundreds of thousands of readers checking out the site each day. A blogger for hire with excellent writing skills can often get hired on with a large blog without years of blogging experience. Blogging can also lead to other lucrative projects. Many writers picking up blogging projects don't consider themselves primarily bloggers for hire.

"The title I use is 'freelance writer' because it allows me to apply for other kinds of writing jobs such as e-books and website copy," Roque said.

Evans has taken a different approach, labeling herself a ‘content maven.’ The title is different enough to catch potential clients' eyes, although Evans often has to explain that she's a writer and an editor.

Since blogging gigs are typically considered freelance projects, the title of “freelance writer” is more than accurate. Furthermore, it offers an easy way to expand the projects you work on for your clients: many do not restrict themselves to blogs, but they may want you to produce white papers, e-books, and static websites. All of those can add to a writer's bottom line and increase blogging income. A few posts can be a gateway to work with a client you may not otherwise have access to.

Many bloggers find that they enjoy blogging more than other kinds of writing: the immediate feedback of comments and the sense of community can add to the pleasure of writing.

"I love the feedback from the readers if you don't count the occasional troll,” Roque said. “Most readers are helpful and contribute to the discussion. They tell you exactly what they want, too. It's a constant challenge trying to filter out the noise to get to the useful comments, but it's worth it. The only feedback I got for my magazine articles were from editors. Plus, with blogging, there's the constant pressure of developing content that doesn't waste the reader's time. It's the good kind of pressure."




Thursday Bram 
is a freelance journalist with over five years experience. Her work has focused primarily on small business topics as she tries to make life easier for entrepreneurs.

More information about Thursday is available at www.thursdaybram.com.

For more on freelancing, read Thursday’s articles on WOW!:

How 2 Set Up a Retirement Plan

How 2 Manage Your Freelance Invoices

For more on blogging, check out these articles on WOW!:

Get a Blog, Get a Job: How To Start, Optimize, and Monetize Your Blog

How 2 Craft an Irresistible Blog


 

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