This blog is based on episode 169 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Most blogs start out as a solo effort, with one person doing all the writing, marketing and social media updates. That’s certainly how I started all my blogs.
But while I still produce most of the content on ProBlogger, it’s a completely different story over at dPS (Digital Photography School). There I have 50 writers and one editor working for me to produce 14 new posts every week.
And I don’t write any of them.
So how did I go from writing all my own content to having a team of writers doing it all for me? And should you be thinking of doing something similar with your blog?
I can’t really answer that question for you. But what I can do is tell you how and why I did it, and point out the pros and cons of doing it.
But first I need to tell you something important.
This isn’t the endgame.
Don’t think you need a team of writers before you can consider yourself a successful blogger. There’s nothing wrong with doing it all yourself, no matter how long you’ve been blogging and how many readers you have. In fact, having multiple people writing for your blog could do more harm than good, especially if it’s a personal blog or one where you’re central to its branding.
But if your blog’s focus is on content and information rather than your personal view on things, then bringing in multiple writers might be worth considering.
The dPS story (stage 1)
When I started Digital Photography School back in 2006, I wrote three posts a week. At that stage I was an intermediate-level photographer and had done a few weddings, and so wrote content aimed squarely at beginners. And while that may seem limiting, I came up with around 200 topics I could write about, which would keep me going for a good couple of years
Back then my goals were to:
- build my traffic
- build up my archives
- rank in search engines
- hook people into subscribing to my blogs and email lists
- build my brand
- build a bit of engagement.
And while they were all important, it was building that engagement that helped me take the blog to the next stage.
The dPS story (stage 2)
One of the things I did to build engagement was to start a Flickr group. It was the perfect place to engage with other photographers. And looking at the photos they posted I could tell that some of them knew a lot more about photography than I did.
And they seemed more than happy to share their knowledge. Many of them read my blog posts and provided great information in their comments.
And it got me thinking. Would they be willing to write guest posts for the blog?
Now I could have sent them all an email saying, “Hi. Would you be interested in writing a guest post for my blog?” But I decided to take a somewhat gentler approach. I simply asked them if I could use their comments as part of a blog post. And most of them were totally fine with it.
I also set up an area of the Flickr group where people could submit tips for me to include in future blog posts. (I made it blatantly clear that’s what I’d be doing with their contributions.) If I was doing a post about portrait I’d ask for tips and tricks, and pretty soon I’d have enough for a post. In fact, some of them were so long and detailed that they became posts in and of themselves.
A lot of the photographers let me use their photos in my posts, and even provided information about the equipment and technique they used to create it. I also got to interview them about various shooting scenarios (wedding photography, landscape photography, etc.)
Some of them emailed me to say how much they enjoyed contributing to the blog. And in my reply to thank them I said that if they ever wanted to write a longer piece I’d be happy to talk about it.
At this point Digital Photography had been running for a couple of years, and there was a real sense of community and engagement on the blog. And because of that, a few people agreed to write guest posts despite the fact I couldn’t pay them. They simply wanted to give back to the community. Later I created a “Write for dPS” page where people could submit their ideas, and soon I had a pool of guest writers who were all willing to contribute one guest post a month.
And this paved the way for…
The dPS story (stage 3)
By now the blog was growing steadily and getting more and traffic. But I wanted to keep the momentum going by increasing our publishing frequency. My aim was to publish 14 posts a week (two each day), which meant I needed a team of writers I could rely on to create great posts week after week.
But that’s a lot to ask of someone who’s been doing it for free. And so I started contacting people who’d written guest posts for us and asked if they’d be willing to write a post a week if I paid them.
We started with two regular contributors, and paid them US$50 per article. They were also allowed to promote their eBooks on the blog, which helped them earn even more.
As the blog got more traffic (and more revenue) we grew our team of writers and started publishing more and more posts each week. We now have a team of 50 writers working together to produce 14 posts a week. Some of them write a post every week, while others write one every month.
As you would expect, some of them become so successful that they no longer have the time to write for us. Which means we need to hire more writers from time to time. And here’s how we do it.
The hiring process
Rather than advertising for a writer whenever we lose one, we hire people in batches. We tend to advertise every few months of so, and typically hire five people at a time.
We start by posting an advertisement on the ProBlogger job board. In that advertisement we clearly state the kind of person we’re looking for. We also ask each applicant to submit a sample of their work to help us make our decision.
A week later we stop accepting applications and start going through them all.
We start by sending those we know aren’t a good fit an email that says something along the lines of “Thanks for applying. We’re really sorry, but we can’t progress your application”. (We use a template to make it as quick and easy as possible.)
We then send an email to those we’re interested in that says, “Thanks for your application. Here’s what happens next. We’ll be in touch soon.”
Nest, we sort these applicants into groups (‘Great’, ‘Good’ and ‘Okay’). We’ll grab as many people as we need from the ‘Great’ group first, and if we still don’t have enough we’ll move to the ‘Good’ group, and so on.
We then tell the people we’ve short-listed about the job – what it entails, what it pays, etc. – and ask them to write a trial post for us (which we pay for). This helps us determine not only the quality of their work, but also what they’re like to work with. Can they deliver on time? Are they high maintenance? Do they understand what WordPress is and how to write for that audience? Will they respond to comments people make about their article?
It’s also a way to see whether their style resonates with our audience – what voice they write in, how accessible their content is, how inclusive they are, how clear they are. And it also gives us a chance to see how our audience will respond to them. Do they get a lot of comments? Do they write in a way that’s engaging and gets lots of shares? You get a real feel for people through this process.
And if we’re happy with them (and they’re happy with us), we hire them.
Hopefully this story will help you find writers for your own blog. But before you start putting out offers, I’d like to point some of the pros and cons of having multiple people contributing to your blog.
The pros and cons of new writers
Let’s start with the benefits. Obviously you’ll have more content to publish on your blog, which both your readers and Google will appreciate. But having multiple writers can also add a variety of personalities and styles of writing to your blog. And any one of them could bring in a new wave of readers.
It also allows you to publish more specialized content. One of the benefits of having so many people writing for Digital Photography School is it now has so much more content that’s written for expert photographers – content I could never write myself.
But there are also a few drawbacks. It takes time to find, select and train new writers. And if you don’t have a dedicated editor in your team, you may find yourself editing every post that comes through as well.
You may also find that some of your readers don’t like a particular writer’s style or personality. If that happens you need to consider whether keeping them on is worth the potential risk to your readership, and even your brand.
And of course, most regular contributors will expect to paid.
Over to you
For those of you who have been thinking about hiring writers for your blog, has this post helped you make your decision? Let us know in the comments.
And for those of you who already have multiple people writing for your blog, do you have any tips or advice you could add?
Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash