Writing is a dying art — or so we are told. Print journalism is going the way of the dodo and authors are barely paid enough to sustain themselves (if they are lucky enough to actually get a book deal).
And yet, out of the ashes of “traditional” writing professions rises the phoenix of online content creation. A new generation of writers are earning full time incomes through blogging, web copy, white papers, eBooks, documentation, and just about any other form of written content that you can imagine.
You don’t have too look far to see that plenty of people are thriving in this so-called writing recession. In fact, you are reading words written by one of them. My rapid and seamless transition into freelance writing has come as nothing short of a shock to me.
In 2011 I was in a job that I no longer loved, doing work that no longer excited me. I yearned for independence and I longed to demonstrate to myself that I could successfully launch my own business. I just wasn’t sure how to achieve my goals.
I stumbled into freelance blogging almost by accident. My first pitches were submitted on a whim, but from that day onwards, I haven’t looked back. In 2012 and 2013 I successfully built a solid and lucrative freelance blogging business that now generates thousands of dollars per month.
If you consider yourself a competent writer, you may well have the potential to match (or even exceed) my achievements. I don’t care if you have never written professionally in your life or even if English isn’t your first language. You can become a professional blogger. I’m going to teach you how.
Before We Begin
I don’t want to put you under any illusions — if you want to become a successful freelance blogger you will have to work hard. You will have to commit yourself for the long term. At times it will be difficult and you will probably doubt yourself along the way.
The potential upside is huge — flexible working hours, a great hourly rate and work that you enjoy and take pride in. But it won’t come easy.
If you are not prepared to commit yourself to freelance blogging in a manner that reflects the potential rewards, I recommend that you seek a refund for this course and focus your efforts elsewhere.
A Brief History of Blogging
Blogs are now a mainstream source of content assimilation.
I would be willing to bet that the majority of your friends and family regularly read at least one blog. From the Huffington Post, to Mashable, to theChive, there is something for everybody in the blogosphere.
And yet, blogging as a content platform is still in its infancy. The term “weblog” was coined in 1997, when Jorn Barger sought a word for his process of “logging the web”. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that blogging really started to take hold, with the creation of some hugely popular blogs such as the aforementioned Huffington Post, Gizmodo etc..
By the mid 2000s, blogging was a huge force. The WordPress blogging platform was well established and sites like ProBlogger had become a destination for those who sought to profit from the most accessible of content platforms.
Fast-forward to present day and blogs have become a part of life for most people (with 77% of internet users in the USA reading blogs). According to Technorati, there were 164 million blogs in existence as of July 2011 of which 39% were owned by professional bloggers, corporations, or entrepreneurs.
You may be wondering what the relevance of all this information is. It is my intention at this very early juncture to make something absolutely clear — freelance blogging, as a profession, offers huge potential.
To put it simply, blogging is a big deal. It is a money-spinner. And where there is money to be made, there is money to be paid. That’s where you come in.
Why You Should Be a Freelance Blogger
You may wonder why this guide focuses on freelance blogging specifically, as opposed to freelance writing in general. There are two main reasons:
- It is where the bulk of my experience lies
- It is an extremely accessible field that offers enormous potential
However, many of the principles I explore in this guide apply to all forms of online writing and even freelancing in general. I personally have been paid for blogging, website copy, white papers and eBooks in my time. These days I focus solely on blog posts, because that is what I love to do.
The reality is that freelance blogging offers potential for growth and expansion into a wide variety of related fields. Not only does it represent a viable long-term career choice, it also affords you a great number of options down the line.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of freelance blogging.
Just about anyone in the developed world can blog — all you need is a computer and an Internet connection. You can “prove” yourself as a blogger without an expensive (and lengthy) education. The same cannot be said of many other writing professions.
There is little in the way of qualifications snobbery in the blogosphere. The decision as to whether you are fit for task is more often than not based entirely upon the quality of your writing. I have not once been asked to reveal any professional qualifications I have that are relevant to writing (the answer: none). I spoke to my first ever client about this recently and he stated with no hesitation that qualifications are irrelevant to him when it comes to choosing writers.
You Don’t Need to Be a Great Writer
Blog content is typically informal in nature. Whilst writers should always strive for perfect spelling, punctuation and grammar, most readers won’t blink an eye at the sight of imperfect prose.
Blogging lends itself to a conversational writing style, and the last time I checked, people don’t speak without error (on the contrary; I write far more ably than I speak).
I believe that any competent writer can learn to become a good blogger (and earn a good rate) in a relatively short period of time. Even those who don’t speak English as a first language can become well-paid bloggers — just ask my friend Onibalusi:
It can be difficult convincing non-native English writers that they can make it online, but it is possible. I am a non-native English speaking freelance writer, and not only do I regularly make four figures monthly, I’ve had five figure months. I also know more than a dozen non-native English freelance writers making it online, so it’s definitely possible.
Having said that, no matter your ability, you should always aspire to improve as a writer. The better you are, the more valuable you are.
It Pays Well
One of the biggest complaints I hear about freelance writing in general is that the market is saturated. It is often argued that there is an oversupply of writers which drives prices down to sub-minimum wage levels.
Whilst this is absolutely true at the bottom end of the writing scale, it is most definitely not the case for the level you will be aiming at.
There are an enormous number of freelance writers out there, but there are most certainly not an enormous number of good freelance writers. If you ask a lot of blog editors they will explain to you just how tough it is to find a good writer.
So take it from me — good writers are well compensated. If you can elevate yourself above the bargain basement level (both in terms of the work you actually do and the way in which you position yourself), a whole world of opportunities will open up.
You Don’t Need to Start with Specific Expertise
The first blog I was paid to write for focused on WordPress — the popular blogging platform. When I got the job I had been blogging for just five months. Before then I hadn’t even heard of WordPress.
To be perfectly honest with you, I was shocked to be given the job. After all, I was no WordPress “expert” — far from it. But soon enough, I realized that expertise is relative. I was able to write content that helped WordPress users at or below my level, which was all that I needed to do.
You may feel that you have no specific expertise, but you’re wrong. These days I produce content about everything from entrepreneurship, to social media, to strategic commissioning — all areas in which the majority of my learning has taken place over the last two years or so.
You don’t need specific expertise to thrive as a blogger. But if you do have specific expertise in a particular area, you will really be in for a treat. The ability to blog on relatively complex and/or technical matters is highly sought after.
You Can Write About Your Passion(s)
Whatever your passion, there are probably a whole load of active blogs focused on that topic, and probably several with tens (or hundreds) of thousands of subscribers and a small platoon of paid writers. What’s to stop you from becoming one of them?
There is a caveat to this benefit however — not all topics are created equal in terms of the amount you will get paid to write about them. We’ll discuss that in detail later in the guide.
It Will Make You an Accomplished Blogger
There is a lot of money to be made from blogging — both as a paid writer and as a blog owner.
There are more examples of bloggers who have made a small (or big) fortune out of their blog than I could possibly list, but here are a few examples:
- Fraser Cain owns Universe Today — a news blog dedicated to the space and astronomy niche that pulls in a six figure yearly income through advertising.
- Keith Snow’s Harvest Eating gives away tons of free advice on local and seasonal foods, whilst operating an integrated membership site.
- Darren Rowse has been running Digital Photography School for many years now, and has made an astonishing amount of money from it.
- Steve Kamb has created an enormous community in Nerd Fitness that attracts over one million visits per month.
Not only can you make a healthy income from freelance blogging, it can also make you a far more experienced and capable blogger overall. You will be able to observe the machinations of far more developed blogs, learn how to create engaging content, better understand how to convert visitors into subscribers and much more. In time, you could choose to utilize your experience and create your own income-producing blog(s).
You Spend Less Time Prospecting
By definition, blogging is an ongoing process. New blog posts are needed on a regular basis. When you secure a blogging client, you are often securing a long-term income stream.
This, combined with my passive lead generation model (discussed at length later in the guide), essentially means that you can eventually spend literally zero time prospecting for work. In turn, this means that you have more hours in the day with which to earn money.
Don’t be fooled by what other freelancers say they are earning on an hourly basis. The only real comparable metric is equivalent hourly rate, which takes into account both billable and unbillable hours. With freelance blogging, you can keep those unbillable hours to a bare minimum.
It Can Lead to Greater Things
Freelance blogging is like a well-paid apprenticeship for a world of potential career paths, such as consultancy, coaching, editorial work, and much more.
In learning to become a good blogger, you become a jack of many trades — content creation, design, marketing, social media, networking and so on. You will have an opportunity to learn how genuinely large blogs (i.e. your clients’) operate.
All of this experience (not to mention your ever-growing network) will open all sorts of doors to you and offer opportunities that would not have previously been available.
Let’s face it — writing corporate white papers isn’t particularly enjoyable (I say that from personal experience). I was once chatting with a very successful freelance writer (who works primarily with corporate clients) about her work, and whether or not she enjoyed it. This was her answer:
I don’t particularly enjoy the work, but I like the amount I’m paid for it.
The amount you are paid for work can in a sense make it enjoyable. And make no mistake — writing for corporate clients can make you a lot of money. The average rate for corporate writing work is way in excess of “normal” blogging work.
However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making the enjoyment of your work a priority. With that in mind, blogging can be a lot of fun! As mentioned previously, blogging is a very informal and conversational style of writing. You typically get to engage with your readers via comments. It’s very interactive.
The clients I most love writing for are those who give me carte blanche to write about whatever I like, how I like (within reasonable bounds, of course). I am able to inject as much of my personality into my writing as I see fit and am able to publish outspoken opinion pieces without fear of censorship. I’d like to know of any corporate clients who extend you that kind of freedom.
How Much You Can Expect to Earn as a Freelance Blogger
Freelance blogging is a curious way of making a living in that you can earn anything from pennies to $150 per hour and even more. At my freelancing peak I achieved an equivalent hourly rate of $161, which I would consider to be right near the top of the scale of potential earnings for a freelance blogger not working in the corporate sector.
With this guide you will be able to get much closer to the top of that scale rather than languishing at the bottom, as so many writers do. However, as I am sure you appreciate, you can’t expect to earn $100+ per hour straight off the bat.
The first job I landed paid $20 per hour. That is not untypical for beginner freelancers. My second job was on a pay-per-article basis at $50 per article, which soon increased to $75 per article. These articles would take me anything from 90 minutes to several hours depending upon the scope and scale.
In my experience, as an established freelance blogger it is reasonable to charge $150-$200 for blog posts of 1,000-2,000 words. In time you will be able to produce these articles in under two hours on average. You can earn more than this by working on particularly in-depth articles, although clients who are willing to pay more than $200 per article (regardless of quality) are far more difficult to come by. Furthermore, you equivalent hourly rate may be no higher (as you end up spending more hours on the piece).
If you want to break through the ~$150 per hour earnings ceiling then you will need to turn to the corporate sector. If you are happy to get into bed with Fortune 500 companies, you can potentially make a lot more money. For example, a friend of mine (who started off as a freelance writer in 2010) charges $600 per article to her corporate clients in the tech sector.
Although a section of this guide is dedicated to corporate blogging, it is a direction that I dabbled in but decided not to commit to. I enjoy blogging for “fun” blogs too much.
Ultimately, you will define how much you earn through the quality and perceived value of your service and the clients you choose to work with. But rest assured — if you follow this guide to the letter and apply yourself properly, there is no reason why you can’t make in excess of $100 per hour through freelance blogging. Furthermore, in doing so you will open yourself up to a world of opportunities beyond freelance blogging.