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Ah, the blogging dream.
You, in a coffee shop or sitting on a beach, earning an income. You discovered how to make a living blogging and it’s smooth travel from here on out.
Whoa, now. Let’s slow down and think things through.
You might not be able to spend the rest of your life tapping out blog posts on your laptop swinging in a hammock as the sun sets behind palm trees, but you can still make a living blogging on more realistic terms.
I bet you’ve heard a few myths about how to make a living blogging and instead of thinking about those bogus promises rationally, you’ve adopted them as truth. That’s a bad move to make if you’re going to quit your day job and bank on blogging. What are the myths you often hear?
The most important thing to do is to just start.
How many times do you hear the advice to “just get started” or something about the longest journey begins with the first step?
The most important thing to do is not to “just start.” It’s to have a plan on what you’re going to do before you start. There are so many things to consider before you sink time into a blog or freelance career. What are you going to write about? Will you have a niche blog? Will you write for other blogs? How will you monetize your blog? Will you have ads? Will you have a product or service to sell? How much income do you need? Will you need a part-time job?
You have to start, but perhaps you should start blogging before you quit your day job. Get a feel for it. And, more importantly, make some serious plans. Figure out what you’re going to do before you make the leap. Do some research. Ask tough questions and provide honest answers, and then start. Start knowing where you’re headed. Even if your direction changes, you didn’t start out by wandering around, lost.
Working for myself will be much easier than working for someone else.
Making a living as a freelance writer and blogger isn’t easy. This isn’t a story of you not working for the man, and sleeping in until noon every day, wandering over to your computer and tapping out a few thousand words before taking a nap. It’s not like a “regular” job; you can’t clock in and clock out.
Freelance writing and blogging means you have to have discipline to self-start and make the chase every morning. It means you will need to get a handle on what to charge as a freelance writer and blogger. You can’t undersell yourself with your own pricing structure. It means working directly with clients; no more hiding behind the company or policies. It means organization, the best tools, and learning how to work when you don’t feel like it. It means you will still be taking “orders”–not from your boss, but from your client.
In effect, you might be working twice as hard for every dollar you make. That’s not a bad thing. There are lots of benefits in working for yourself, but “easier” isn’t one of them.
I have to have a hugely successful personal blog or it won’t work.
As you’ll read below, huge amounts of traffic on your own blog are only one small way you can make a living as a blogger. You do not have to have a blog with massive amounts of traffic unless you plan to fund a winter home in the Bahamas solely off of ad clicks from traffic.
Be honest. That kind of outcome happens to very few writers and bloggers, mainly the ones telling you they did it and getting traffic and clicks from bloggers like you who want to figure out what they did. That’s a pyramid, and not everyone is at the top. Traffic is important, particularly if you’re selling a product or using ads or affiliates for income, but not everyone needs a million hits a month to still make a decent living off of their blogging.
Just tell me the formula and I’ll go do it.
Making a living blogging is, sorry to say, without a clear formula. What works for one blogger won’t work for another. What works in one niche won’t work for another. What works in one year won’t work the next. Trends change, blogging changes, available tools change–there is no one-size-fits all formula for success.
This is what you don’t want to hear, but…find what works for you. This comes about with trial and error experience. It’s not usually fun. Be cautious when reading about a sure-fire way to make money on a blog, because there’s no guarantee that will work for you.
I only want to blog on my blog.
Don’t put all of your income eggs in one basket.
It will take time to make your own blog an income-generating behemoth (if ever). It is foolish to restrict your blogging to one income source only. Find many ways to make a living blogging so that you are on secure ground should something change. When you are new and starting out, you don’t have the luxury of being a purist (unless you have a trust fund to live off of).
Ideally, you’ll make a living off of your own blog property, where you call the shots.
Your blog is about more than personal writing freedom, though. If you don’t love your own writing, you’re going to have a hard sell making your clients love the writing you do for them. Your blog just happens to be the perfect place to find your voice, figure out blogging, and learn to love your writing.
Great writing isn’t all that you’ll need. What do you think of when someone talks about making money off of their blog? You think ads and affiliates. For ad revenue or affiliate links to really work, you are going to have to build serious traffic. And, even then, you’ll likely need other sources of income from your writing or even a side job. How do you build that traffic?
There are many websites that list reputable companies that offer ad campaigns and services, but you’ll likely have to show you have significant traffic. If that is the route you wish to go, do your research well and choose a company with a good reputation for both payout and privacy.
But maybe that isn’t the route you want to go. Maybe you don’t want ads on your site. Don’t forget what else your blog has to offer, besides the potential for ad revenue:
Don’t overlook the power of your own blog when you think about making a living as a freelance writer and blogger, but don’t let that be where you stop your efforts to make a living blogging. Your blog is your home base, but writing is your skill. That skill is portable.
Writing for other blogs can go beyond guest blogging without pay. There are some blogs that will pay you for content, just as any other freelance client would. The trick is finding blogs that will pay you for your writing.
This doesn’t happen by accident.
Block out time to find blogs that will pay you to write for them.
Rather than a hit-and-miss approach of saving bookmarks as you find them, create a list of search terms and make an effort to block out time to find a place to blog. Whether you use a spreadsheet or an organizing app, sift through the resources and note where, what, and how they want you to write for them. Save the links, decide which blogs you’ll write for, which ones pay and which ones are unpaid guest blogging.
In other words, be purposeful about finding blogs that pay just as you would any other paying client, and organize your results so that you can organize your plan of attack.
Get in the habit of being paid.
It should be obvious that if you don’t get paid in a timely manner, you should not write more posts until you do get payment. You’ve agreed on a set amount before you start? Then that’s what you should receive.
Some blogs might offer their writers a percentage of the ad revenue, or other payment options. Know what you need, and don’t let the myth of “it’s good exposure” convince you to let slide a previous agreement of payment.
Ghost blogging is controversial.
It’s the practice of being paid to write blog posts for another blog without receiving any recognition or rights to your work. Payment varies, from as low as $20/600 words and up. Once you’ve submitted the post and received payment, your writing is out of your hands and you’re done with it. You will likely find more paid ghost blogging opportunities than you will paid blogging opportunities.
Most people who ghost blog don’t make a big public announcement about doing it. It’s a controversial practice, and if you do an online search on ghost blogging, you’ll get a slew of popular bloggers decrying the practice for its lack of authenticity, claiming that it hurts other writers and bloggers, and that it cheats the reader.
Such claims have elements of truth to them, perhaps, but sometimes impending bills and payments speak louder than a call to authenticity. You have to make your own decision on whether or not you’re comfortable writing for another blog without receiving credit.
If you’re ready to try your hand at ghost blogging there are a few things you should know. Though getting paid for your writing is a good feeling, there are aspects to ghost blogging that you will need to come to terms with before diving in.
You don’t always get to write about the things you love.
You may luck out and be able to find blogs to write for that cover topics you enjoy talking about, or are an expert at. Chances are pretty good, though, that you’ll find yourself writing about things you didn’t give much thought to, you can’t believe anyone would read, or you have zero interest in. For example, are you ready to write about choosing the perfect houseplant, or how to take care of goldfish? (Sometimes you’re relieved your name isn’t associated with the post.)
That’s ghost blogging.
This means you’ll need to come up with a system that makes sure you get your work done. You can’t miss a deadline. You will have to force yourself to write on things that aren’t “fun”, you will have to do research that takes up time, and you will have to deal with feedback from the client you may not agree with. It’s not all that different from other forms of freelance writing except one thing: your name isn’t on it.
Get rid of the idea that writing is mystical, and treat it like work you can complete. That’s the most wonderful thing that ghost blogging will teach you, the truth that quality writing doesn’t always stem from feeling inspired; you can work through and write well about anything. That’s a powerful and necessary skill if you’re going to make a living blogging.
You get no recognition.
You give your work to someone else, they get the recognition. This may bother you. This may bother you a lot, if the blog you’re doing the anonymous ghost writing for gets excessive recognition for their great content.
In a recent blog post, freelance blogger Carol Tice shared a few real-life scenarios for writers, and one included a ghost blogger whose client was asked to write a column for a print publication because the blog was so good. This was obviously not part of the plan, and caught the blogger by surprise.
If you need recognition for your writing, ghost blogging will not work for you.
If you don’t need the recognition, be sure to write down and agree on clear terms with you and the ghost blogging client or agency what you will do and how you will allow your work to be used. Don’t sign up for ghost blogging under terms you aren’t comfortable with. Do this before you start.
You have no tangible record of your work.
Your work is online, but you have no record of it.
In fact, if you’re working for a ghost blogging agency, you may get paid for writing that never gets published. If you’re a prolific writer, and if you’re writing blog posts you don’t particularly care about and are merely doing ghost blogging to earn money to pay bills, you might not care. If you’re an organizational record-keeping nut like I am, and you want to have a copy of everything you’ve written, you will care.
Ghost blogging won’t be like your blog where your writing is saved in one place. It’ll be all over the web, and it won’t have your name on it. Save your work in the cloud or on your computer. Keep records on what blog received the post, when it was submitted, and when you were paid. It’s good to have records should there ever be a situation where you would need proof that you wrote the content.
You might work directly with a client, or with an agency.
Working directly with a client or through an agency provides a very different ghost blogging experience.
Working through an agency means they’ll take a percentage of your pay, but they’ll also act as a buffer between you and the client. They usually hammer out the details of payment and how the client wants the blog post to arrive (Word, in the blog, Google Doc, etc.). The agency usually has the headline and due date, as well as style rules, all laid out for you so that you can treat each blog post as an assignment. It does make the process easier, and the agency pays you, not the client. They have to do the work to get the payment from the client, not you.
Working directly with the client means you’ll likely receive more money, but you will have to do all of that foundational work that an agency would usually do yourself. Be sure that the amount of money you are being paid compensates you fairly for this extra time, as you are doing more than merely writing to fill word counts. You are also managing the process leading up to the actual writing.
You already know if you’re great working with clients, or if you’d do anything to avoid the headache. If it’s the latter, find reputable ghost blogging agencies and submit your name, a writing sample, and the topics you’re willing to write on. You may not hear back immediately, but do get your name in.
If you’d rather work with clients, you will have to do a bit of work to find clients who want someone to blog for them. In fact, you may have to sell the concept of a blog to a client, and offer to write it for them. I would encourage you to try starting locally, with the region you live. It’s tempting to want to focus on big corporations, but there are plenty of small and medium businesses that could benefit from blogs, and their money is as good as anyone else’s. Working with the businesses in the place you live is a good fit for you, and an easier sell for the business.
Networking is very important if you are trying to make a living blogging. Staying aware of trends and opportunities isn’t difficult.
Make these activities and participation a habit. Put it in your daily schedule to sift through the jobs for the week, and set aside time to apply for them.
Remember, freelance writing and blogging means that, to make a living blogging, you can’t sit around and expect to have “assignments” just show up in your email. You’re going to have to chase jobs down and build up both regular clients as well as constantly pursuing new ones. And you’re going to have to build your own blog, too.
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