You're about to find out.
I met Jenn Mattern through online conversations, and met her when Devon Ellington and I decided to meet for lunch. I invited Jenn along. The result: a fun, lively, decadent friendship. If we don't email every day, it's close. I have the added bonus of living within a short drive of Jenn. Her family live in my town. I've propped my feet up on her footstool a few times.
Besides being wicked fun, Jenn is a wicked-good business pro. Her background in PR and social media is evident -- hers is one of the most comprehensive, top-ranking sites for freelancers you'll find. What's more, you can trust her advice. She's done it herself. No borrowing from others, nor does she tell you what you want to hear. She tells you what you need to hear, and it's the wise freelancer who listens.
Here are Jenn's tips for improving your freelance writing business:
10 Tips for New Freelance Bloggers
by Jennifer Mattern
Something I frequently hear from new freelance writers is that they're afraid to pursue blogging gigs because they've heard there's no money in it. That usually when I let them in on a little secret -- what they've been told before is complete and utter BS.
Freelance blogging can be quite lucrative as long as you know what you're doing and you don't associate yourself with bottom-of-the-barrel providers like search engine spammers. These ten tips should point you in the right direction.
I can't say this enough: clients do not pay top dollar because you can string pretty sentences together. They pay top dollar when you bring specialized expertise to the table.
If you want to earn top rates as a freelance blogger (as in at least $500 for a 1000 word post, and often much more), you need to specialize. That might mean specializing in an industry or niche. Or it can mean specializing in a specific type of blog content such as tech tutorials or being a ghostblogger for CEOs.
2. Know your target clients (and their audience).
It's not enough to say "I want to be a freelance blogger." Who do you want to blog for? If you can't describe your target clients, you're unlikely to find them. And that's how you can find yourself surrounded by low-paying "prospects" who shouldn't be on your radar in the first place.
It's where many of the misconceptions around blogging pay rates come from. If you want to ghostwrite corporate blog posts for Fortune 500 clients, then make sure your marketing very carefully targets that group. Go beyond that though. Know who they are trying to reach, and make sure your samples show you understand your prospects' audiences and how to appeal to them.
3. Don't limit yourself to advertised blogging gigs.
One of the worst things you can do as a new freelance blogger is rely on bidding marketplaces and advertised jobs. You can occasionally find mid-level gigs advertised publicly (and yes, $100-200 per post would be a mid-level gig even though it's the highest you'll often find advertised). But most of the really high paying work is never advertised. These include many corporate blogging gigs, small business blogging gigs, and ghostblogging jobs.
These clients tend to find writers through referrals or through their own searches. If your search engine ranking rankings and lack of a network make you invisible, it's unlikely you'll land these gigs. This is why your writer platform is so important. Occasionally these kinds of clients will post jobs through their own internal job boards. So if you do a bit of digging, you can sometimes find decent public leads through those.
4. Pursue prospects who don't have a blog (yet).
Sometimes the best prospects are the ones who don't realize they need you yet. That includes potential clients who don't have their own blog. By approaching them and convincing them to give blogging a try, not only can you land ongoing blogging gigs, but you can also get paid to help them set their blogs up or consult with them on an initial content strategy.
5. Price by the post.
Like with most types of freelance writing, it's in your interest to price by the project (in this case by the post) rather than advertise hourly or per-word pricing. Everyone knows what they're getting. It eliminates some of the tension between freelancer and client (where your interest is in doing a good job and their interest is in having you rush to keep costs down). And as you get better at your job, you essentially get paid more per hour without always having to raise rates. It's like having a built-in bonus system where you earn more the more you get to know each client.
6. Make sure you're being paid for all of the "extras" involved.
Blogging isn't like many other kinds of freelance writing. Your work doesn't stop when the client's happy with your latest revision. They often expect you to answer comments on your posts (sometimes indefinitely). And they might expect you to find legal images they can use or even promote your posts via social networks.
You can account for these things by increasing your per-post rates. Or you can offer a base rate for writing only and charge more for extras. I take the latter approach because much of my freelance blogging work is ghostwritten (which almost always means the client will take care of comments addressed to them).
I also don't consider my social media profiles "for sale." Those networks are for my own audiences -- usually colleagues -- and not for promoting things for clients. A post would have to be incredibly relevant to my own audience for me to make an exception, in which case I'd likely promote it on my own without being asked to do so. I do, however, contract with some clients to manage social media promotion on their accounts.
7. Secure ongoing blogging contracts.
One of the biggest perks of freelance blogging over other freelance writing projects is the fact that clients usually need blog posts on an ongoing basis. That means you have the potential to turn a one-project client into a regular.
My suggestion is to let new clients order a single article from you if they want to "test" you. It makes sense that they'd want to see how their readers react to your writing. But if they're happy and they want to continue, I suggest requiring a certain minimum commitment (anything from at least $XXX per month to at least a three-month commitment).
This can be a good way to stabilize your blogging income early on, and you can always loosen the rules later when you want more flexibility to pursue new projects.
8. Market yourself every day.
You need to market yourself regularly -- as in every single day. (Well, every single work day at least.) This doesn't have to involve a huge time commitment. Email a new prospect. Post to your own blog. Write a guest post. Review and update the copy on your website. Update your social media accounts. Research your biggest competitors. These little things add up.
Need more ideas? Lori's e-book, Marketing 365, is full of them.
9. Don't be afraid to give up a byline.
Not all blogging gigs need to come with a byline. Many of the highest-paying freelance blogging jobs do not. And that's okay. Prospects who need a blog to give them a voice, but who have no time or inclination to write their own posts, are often happy to pay you handsomely to do that for them. Don't get so caught up in seeing your name plastered on everything you write that you miss out on the best gigs. If you can't stand the thought of not getting credit, remember that a testimonial from the client can be just as valuable as a byline -- sometimes more.
10. Have your own blog in your specialty area.
If you want to be a freelance blogger, there's no excuse for you not to have your own blog. Clients expect it. And they should. After all, they want to know you're familiar with blog platforms, comment management, and all of the basics of writing for the web. Your blog shows them that you can handle those things (plus social media promotion, strategic content planning, and search engine optimization). Just make sure your blog speaks to either your target clients or their target readers.
What else would you recommend to new freelance bloggers? If you are a new freelance blogger or you're considering becoming one, what other questions do you have?
Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger and freelance business writer. You can join her free community for freelance writers, bloggers and indie authors at AllIndieWriters.com where you'll find business advice, writing forums, free tools and templates, and much more.