You can make a living as a paid blogger (spoiler alert: but maybe not in the way that you think)
Believe it or not, making money as a blogger is probably easier now than it ever was.
As I mentioned in my last post, where I told you how to take charge of your pathetic freelance writing career, regular monthly blogging contracts are how I make my baseline income.
I’m very, very happy to share with you how I do this. But first, let’s be very clear about what kind of work we’re talking about here and what kind of work we’re not talking about.
It’s time for some tough love from one writer to another.
We are not talking about you pursuing your dreams of creative writing while companies and/or your adoring public send you money every month for the pleasure of reading the words that you’ve strung together in only the way that you can. (Patrons of the arts can be hard to come by in the digital world, yo.)
Rather, what we’re talking about is you showing up like a grown-up professional person, learning someone’s business, and then creating content for them in a way that solves their business needs.
What we’re talking about is you becoming a business person.
But I don’t have business skills!
I know, I know. You’re a writer. You’re creative. You’re not a business type. You just want to write and get paid for your talent. Is that too much to ask?
Well for right now, yes, it probably is for most of you. Because no one wants to pay you to wax poetic about your morning meditation — that is, unless doing so can accomplish a business objective.
And therein lies a big key to what we’re going to talk about: Finding the intersection between what you already know about/are passionate about and what someone will pay you to write about.
How to match your skills to business needs
The 30,000-foot view is this: You pick something you’re interested in and then find someone to pay you to blog about it.
So let’s go back to that morning meditation for a sec. If that’s something that really interests you and you’re spending a lot of time thinking about it, I’d tell you to go find a yoga studio that needs a blogger.
Interested in holistic health? Find a healthfood store or a company that sells herbal remedies.
Interested in beer? Blog for a company that sells home-brew supplies.
Easy enough equation, right?
Now let’s drill down a little bit …
Did you do your homework from last week? That is, you were supposed to make a list of all the seemingly worthless knowledge you have and every industry you’ve ever worked in.
If you haven’t already made your list, make it now. Here are some things you should include:
- Every industry you’ve ever worked in
- Any topic you consistently google just for the fun of it
- Any volunteer work you do/have ever done
- Any sort of business that you feel you understand well, because you patronize it, grew up around it, or follow it for another reason
This is your starting point. Pick an industry associated with something on your list and start checking out websites. Notice which businesses have really great blogs, which ones have horrible blogs, which fall somewhere in between … and which don’t have any blogs.
Spend some time determining what separates the good from the bad.
Which ones are more fun to read? Which ones are a chore?
Which blogs seem more likely to build trust with current and potential customers?
Which blogs seem to have a personality behind them?
The upshot is this: That list is full of a number of opportunities that you could pursue.
However … I must caution you before you start pounding the cyber pavement too much.
Not every opportunity is a good opportunity
Once I realized that companies would pay me to blog, I saw opportunity everywhere: from the coffee shop down the street to any business owner I’d interviewed for stories or rubbed elbows with in the past year.
However, it’s really important to remember that all clients are not created equal. You want to build your client list with a certain amount of precision. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a roster of clients that are going to waste your time and drive you nuts.
So how can you narrow your focus and decide who to approach?
Go back to your list and ask yourself if you have any specialized knowledge about any of the industries listed there. Because while you could probably write about any category on the list, you’re going to make a whole lot more money if you have something to offer that other writers don’t have.
What this looks like
As one example, I was the editor-in-chief of an employment law newsletter for 10 years. Blogging for an employment law firm makes a lot of sense for me. I’m already intimately familiar with employment law so I’m able to fill a need that other writers just walking in off the street might not be able to meet. I’m valuable to my client because I can come up with story ideas, do research, and write blog posts with very little input from their side. Basically, I’m saving them a ton of time that they can then use to work on their core business.
But I don’t just blog for them. I also blog about technology and higher education — both fields that I’ve written about in other capacities over the past few years. The knowledge base that I’ve built up means that I can ask for more money than a writer who isn’t familiar with those fields because I’m bringing more value to the table.
Separating the good and bad clients
Once you have an idea of what industry you’d like to target, go back and check out the websites associated with that industry a little more. You can save yourself a lot of time pitching clients if you’re strategic about who you want to work with.
Here’s what I do: I look for the company that’s already blogging, but is doing a poor job of it. Usually that means they’re not posting regularly, what they’re posting is poorly written, or the content is too high- or low-level for their potential client base.
If I see that, I can surmise a few things:
1. They understand the value of blogging enough to have given it a try, so I’m not going to have to sell them on why blogging is important
2. They’ve probably already figured out that blogging is more work than they thought it would be, so they may be frustrated enough to consider farming it out
Avoid these companies at all costs
Never, ever, ever pitch a company that has never attempted blogging. Even if they understand the value of blogging, they’re likely to be so far behind on the technology curve that they’re going to ask you to do all kinds of things you shouldn’t be doing. Next thing you know, you’ll be re-writing their entire website and trying to hunt down designers and programmers to fix all the other little issues they don’t like about their site. You’re there to write, not to be the website handyman.
I also avoid big companies because I assume they have writers in-house or that I won’t be able to get to the right decisionmaker. Pitching can be time consuming, so I want to focus my energies where I’m more likely to see a payoff sooner.
Yes, you have homework
It may be a snow day here in the greater Philly area, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have homework, suckas. (And you have to do it because I wrote this with two elementary school kids vying for my attention — you kind of owe me now.)
Your assignment: Take the PAYlance Pledge if you haven’t already done so! Then, dig into your list and start researching companies you’d like to blog for. Next week we’re going to talk about how to approach these companies so they’ll not only meet with you, but they’ll see your value.
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See you next week!