How to Become a Freelance Blog Writer
For years now, I’ve done freelance writing for newspapers and magazines as a way to make side income, supplementing my full-time job. But this year, I’ve made the conscious move to freelancing for blogs instead of print publications, to the point where I now make about $2,000 a month as a blog writer (not including my own blog’s income or my full-time salary).
Becoming a freelance blog writer isn’t always easy in the beginning, but I’ve found that it’s vastly more fun and rewarding. It’s worth the effort.
First, let’s talk about what it’s like to be a freelance blog writer. To write a good post, you’ve got to do some research first, and add to that the writing time, and it can take between 90 minutes to 3 hours to write your best stuff. I can generally research and write a good post in 90 minutes if I’ve given it a little thought first (I do my thinking while exercising, driving, showering, etc.). So if you plan to do some freelancing, be sure you’ve got the extra time. I write between 6-7 free-lance posts a week (in addition to the 7-10 I do for my own blog), so that’s about 9-10 hours of work on top of your regular job.
But the cool thing about freelance blog writing is that you can do it from any place, any time of day. So you can write late at night, during your lunch hour, or in the early morning hours. You can do it while traveling, or while sitting through a boring conference. There’s a freedom to it that’s very appealing.
So how do you go about becoming a freelance blog writer? Here are some of my best tips:
Don’t quit your day job. Even if you’d like to become a full-time free-lance writer and eventually quit your job, don’t do it just yet. Test the waters and sharpen your skills before you do anything drastic. I suggest free-lance blogging on the side for at least a few months (if you’re already an experienced writer) and for 6 months or more if you’re completely new to the game. Get good at what you do, develop a relationship with blogs that pay, and get a feel for the workflow necessary.
Create a blog. The first step to freelance blog writing is to create a blog of your own. This will serve as a showcase of your writing, and a way for you to practice your skills. Blog writing isn’t the same as writing for print — not exactly anyway. Many of the same rules apply, but you need to get a good feel for the medium before you ask people to pay you for it. Don’t just write any old thing on your blog — write high-quality articles that would serve as excellent samples to any potential employers.
Get noticed. No one will read your blog at first. Don’t expect the traffic to come immediately. But write great articles with great headlines, submit some of them to social media such as Digg and Netscape, and you might get a few hits. If you get some popular articles, you could get some regular readers. Once you’ve got some subscribers (a couple hundred would be awesome), don’t submit your stuff to the social media — let your readers do it for you. And they will, if the article is worthy. If it’s not worthy, you don’t want to submit it anyway. The effect of a popular article — or more accurately, a few popular articles — is big, in terms of becoming a freelancer. It gets you noticed by other blogs, and they’re your real market.
Guest blog. Another great way to get noticed. Write to a bigger blogger and offer to do a guest post. Suggest a great idea for a guest post, one that will do well for the blogger. Include links to some of your best posts as a writing sample. If you write to 10 good blogs (start with the medium-sized blogs at first, not the ones in the Technorati Top 100), you might get 1-2 say yes. If so, rejoice! Now write an awesome post for them, with a link back to your blog at the end. Do a few of these, and you’ll get a wider audience for your own blog, and even better, you’ll begin to get noticed more. And that’s how you begin to brand yourself as a good writer.
Write to good blogs. Once you’ve developed a brand for yourself, and gotten yourself noticed, and developed a good sample of writing on your own blog and elsewhere, take the plunge and write to some of the bigger blogs. The ones with some money, because the smaller ones (written by one person) can’t pay you. Send a polite email, asking if they have any openings for freelance writers. Tell them a little about yourself (be very brief), include a link to your blog and a couple of your best articles. Offer to write just one article as a trial run. Write to 10 good blogs and see if you get any response.
Look on freelance job boards. FreelanceSwitch.com has a job board, and a number of other blogs have good job boards too. Keep your eye open for blogs looking for writers, especially in a niche that you’re knowledgeable about. Feel free to post yourself as a writer looking for work, with a link back to your blog. Apply for a bunch of jobs, just to see what they have to offer.
Know your worth. Have a target per-hour rate that you’d like to charge. And charge a little below that when you first start, just to get your foot in the door. Once you’ve been writing a little while (a few weeks) at the lower rate, only take jobs at your higher rate after that.
Give your best. If you do get a freelance writing gig with a blog, or a trial post or two, be sure to submit y our very, very best stuff. Only submit a post that has a chance of doing extremely well on Digg or Delicious. A mediocre post doesn’t help the blog you’re writing for, and certainly doesn’t help you.
Meet your deadlines. This is an obvious one, but if you constantly miss deadlines, you will appear unprofessional. If I’m an editor with the choice of hiring one good writer who meets deadlines and another good writer who misses them, guess who I’m going with. And your reputation is all you have to go on.
Know your topic. It’s best to write about stuff you know. If you know nothing about a topic, you will probably look dumb. If you only know a little about a topic, research it like crazy until you know a ton. Writing about topics you’re already very familiar with will save you a lot of time, and will probably be a much better read.
Professional details. As a professional blog writer, be sure to insist on a contract, and know the other details of a job before you start: the payment rate, when and how they’ll pay you, the desired length of the post, what format it should be submitted in, whether images or other media are required, the exact deadline, how to submit it, etc.
Note: A few times a month we revisit some of our reader’s favorite posts from throughout the history of FreelanceSwitch. This article was first published in June 5h of 2007, yet is just as relevant and full of useful information today.