This guest post is by Ali Hale of DailyWritingTips.com.
Blogging can feel like a long, hard road—especially when you’re starting out. You haven’t hit 100 subscribers, let alone 1,000, and it feels like you’re writing into a vacuum.
And even when you’re a little way down that blogging road, it can still be tough. You might be spending two or three hours a day on blogging—writing content, answering comments, building up friendships on Twitter and Facebook. Chances are, you’re not making much money from it, though.
I’m not going to suggest that you give up. I’m not going to suggest that you work harder, either, pouring more and more hours into your blog.
Instead, I’m going to suggest something which you might never have considered before: becoming a freelance writer as well as being a blogger.
This might sound like a huge step. But really, you just need two key things:
- the ability to write well
- some contacts who’re willing to pay you.
These might well be challenges—but they’re not insurmountable hurdles.
Prerequisite #1: Being able to write
You certainly don’t have to be a budding Shakespeare in order to write a competent, professional blog post—but you do need a strong grasp of grammar, and the ability to write engagingly.
There are certainly a few sites out there which will pay you for sloppy, lazy content—but the rate of pay will be abysmal. If you’re going to write for a good, reputable blog, your writing needs to be solid. That doesn’t mean flawless (even professional authors have copy-editors) but you should know:
- how to construct an engaging blog post, with a gripping introduction, clear message, and strong conclusion
- how to format your posts for easy readability, using subheadings, short paragraphs, bold text, and bullet pointed lists
- how to adapt your writing style for different purposes—some blogs will want a much more casual approach than others.
I firmly believe that writing is a skill. It comes more easily to some of us than to others, but everyone can learn and improve. (Reading the posts here on ProBlogger is a great start.)
Prerequisite #2: Contacts who can pay you
You might not have many contacts yet, but if you’re thinking about freelancing, you’ll want to start getting to know editors of big blogs and websites. Sure, plenty of jobs are advertised (you may well have taken a look at ProBlogger’s own job boards), but most higher-paid positions never get publically advertised.
If you feel a bit intimidated by the idea of networking with editors and blog owners, take the pressure off. Believe it or not, big bloggers are human too! I’ve met several of my blogging heroes—like Darren Rowse and Daniel Scocco—and they’re lovely, friendly, normal people.
A great way to strike up contact is by using Twitter or Facebook to send a friendly message letting an editor know how much you enjoyed a recent post. Don’t be smarmy or fake about this—focus on blogs which you personally love.
My first few blogging jobs all came from sending in guest posts. A well-written, targeted guest post is a great way to get an editor’s attention. It proves that you can write, and that you know their audience. (And even if you don’t land a paying job as a result, you’ll still get some traffic to your own blog, plus great exposure.)
You’ve probably got your hands pretty full with just your own blog. You might think it’s not worth taking the time to improve your writing ability, or to build up your contacts.
But here’s why you might want to think again.
You’ll make money (fast)
Of course, money isn’t everything, but if you’re in the problogging game, chances are that you’d like to see some financial reward for your hard slog. Problem is, you can’t attract big advertisers and you don’t have any products to sell yet.
If you write a piece as a freelancer—whether that’s for a blog, a magazine, or a newspaper—then you get paid. For a typical freelance blog post, you’ll receive around $40–$60.
Doesn’t that sound a lot more efficient than watching the pennies trickle into your AdSense account?
The money from your freelance writing might let you quit your day job, so you can put more time into your own blog or other projects (that’s how it worked for me). Or, if you keep your freelancing as a job on the side, it’ll at least let you afford hosting, premium themes, and training materials for your own blog.
You’ll build your blogging network
When you’re Joe Newbie in the blogosphere, you’re probably used to big bloggers ignoring you. It’s not personal—they just don’t have the time to reply to every single comment and tweet.
But when you’re a freelance writer, your editor will definitely know your name. In fact, they’ll probably get to know you while you’re building up your freelancing contacts—perhaps you’ll have been a regular commenter on their blog, or you’ll have sent them a couple of guest posts, before landing that paid gig.
Plus, when you’re regularly having work published on large blogs or websites, other big bloggers will start paying attention to you, too. Instead of trying to get attention to your own blog, you’ll be able to leverage an existing audience—quite possibly one of tens of thousands of readers. And you’ll be getting paid to do it.
Even if you only freelance for a few months, you’ll have made contacts which you can maintain throughout your blogging career.
You’ll get audience feedback
When you publish a post on your own blog, how many comments do you get?
It’s probably not as many as you’d like. Maybe most of your posts seem to sink like pebbles dropped into an ocean—no-one ever sees them, and they don’t make any ripples.
If you write for a blog that’s big enough to pay writers, you’ll get feedback. That might be:
- comments from readers who loved the post
- comments from readers who hated the post—this can be tough to take, but it can also teach you what doesn’t go down so well
- tweets about your post, or Facebook “likes” for it
- indirect feedback from the editor—if bits of your post were edited, try to work out why the changes were made
- direct feedback from the editor—they may tell you to do more of the same, or they may ask for something different next time
- emails from readers—there’s nothing better than a heartfelt message from someone who was really touched by your writing.
As a writer, you need to get feedback on your work: this is how you know what’s going well, and what’s in need of improvement.
You can write about anything you want
This might seem like an odd reason to freelance—but it’s one of the reasons I love it: you get to write on a whole range of topics, and you can often choose exactly what you write about.
If you find it hard to stick with one interest—perhaps your own blog is suffering because you post about several diverse topics—then freelance writing will give you an outlet. You might be writing one post every week or every month, so you won’t run out of things to say.
Plus, writing about lots of different topics is a great way to stay fresh and to continually hone your writing skills. You might end up researching an area that you knew very little about—or writing for an audience of people who have a very different background from yours. Getting out of your writing comfort zone is an essential part of your growth.
I know that the problogging dream is to have your own huge, successful blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, a line of products, some great advertisers and lots of affiliate income. The truth is, though, that it takes an awful lot of time and hard work to get to that stage. So while you’re working your way up, why not give freelance writing a try?
Have you done freelance writing? Share your experiences in the comments—I’d love to hear about them.
Ali Hale is a writer, blogger and writing coach. You can read more from her on DailyWritingTips.com, where she also offers a course for those who want to get started with freelance writing.