11 Skills That A Freelance Blogger Should Have

So you think you’re a good writer and you’ve read Skellie’s 10 tips for freelance blogging income, in which she says that you shouldn’t accept less than $50 for a 400-word post – even when you’re starting out. I agree that good bloggers deserve this (though whether they’ll get it is questionable). But are you a good blogger? What skills do you have that warrant getting $50/post?

Here are at least some of the “skills” (which include knowledge and activities) that I feel you should aim for if you want to be a consummate bloglancer and command the rates that Skellie suggests.

  1. Conversational writing style. This is a given, of course, but so many new bloggers think this is the only skill they need.
  2. Topical knowledge. Build a thorough understanding of the topic you’re writing about, else you’ll just be regurgitating. (Regurgitation can be purchased for far far less than $50/post.) If you’re still learning a topic, then at least start by offering your viewpoint.
  3. Analytical skills. The reasons for this are many – but one reason is so that you can read X other posts about a topic and produce one solid post from your viewpoint (with appropriate references). Question: can analytical skills be taught, or are they built up over many years?
  4. Building dialogue. Ability to build and maintain a dialogue – i.e., get visitors to comment, especially on a regular basis. (Though don’t get depressed if this doesn’t happen right away. Most visitors don’t comment, so without lots of traffic, you might not get responses. Ask friends to comment regularly, if you have to. Visitors are more likely to comment when someone already has.)
  5. Deep linking. An understanding of why deep linking is important to building a successful blog, and actually doing it.
  6. Building backlinks. Ability to build/ solicit/ induce/ seduce backlinks – especially quality links.
  7. Traffic building. Ability to build suitable traffic, either by promotion or by writing secondary articles – posted to other sites – that link to the main article.
  8. Web metrics. An understanding of web/ blog metrics, and the use of a good package, such as Performancing PMetrics or Google Analytics, to analyze visitor behavior and site performance, and to determine the effectiveness of activities #5-7.
  9. Socializing. Spend time “socializing” online, building up social media friends to help you promote articles. Suggestion: join the Hive.
  10. Being a watcher. Willingness to stay on top of the trends, by monitoring your niche. This helps you to
  11. Monitoring your work. How much time are you spending on paid work? Are you achieving your desired average hourly/ weekly/ monthly rate, all while still managing to have a life outside of work?

Do You Deserve A Better Rate?

Now, if you happen to have ALL of these skills (or more), and can successfully apply them, then you deserve more than $50/post. Though if you build only your writing skills, then you don’t. Plain and simple. (However, there are a lot of good bloggers out there. How many of you are actually getting $50/post gigs, let alone are finding them?)

I should point out that I left a comment on Skellie’s post saying that I felt her suggestion of asking for $50/post when you start out was unrealistic for most bloggers. If you’ll recall, I just wrote a post about leveraging your research to make the best of $10 and $20 per post fees. I hadn’t read her post at the time, but I’m not totally in disagreement with her. I strongly disagree with a couple of points, but I also strongly agree with most of the other points.

Can the Market Support Increased Article Rates?

The real issue is whether the online market can support that rate. Only two years ago, $10 was about the top rate. Then I’d heard last year from some people that $25-30 was standard, but only for experienced bloggers. A couple of very popular tech sites pay $100, but those posts are much longer than 400 words and typically require a fair bit of research.

Can the market currently support $50/post as a basis for qualified bloggers? I seriously don’t believe that’s the case. Having once been a struggling print publisher, I know the feeling of wanting to pay writers more (or anything at all), but also the feeling of whether I’ve got enough to pay the bills. I happen to know a lot of “successful” web publishers who’ll admit they really aren’t making all that much. Web publishers don’t have costs such as newsprint and printing, but there are other costs.

Now I don’t want to be all pessimistic. I do believe that the market will change, and that qualified bloggers will be able to make a good living, comparable to what many successful print freelance writers make/ once made. For the present though, you have to make the best of the work that’s out there.

13 thoughts on “11 Skills That A Freelance Blogger Should Have

  1. Hello again Raj, I have followed this article from the most recent one you posted. This is great advice and it should inspire those of us getting the low $xx per post to strive into the mid to high $xx per post at the least. Very good write-up. It is loaded with tips and very informative. I will keep my eye out for future articles.

  2. Virtual: Absolutely right. Typically for print magazines (even industry magazines), a freelancer sells to the editor. But blogs transcend industry and, aside from copywriting for small businesses, writers are now dealing directly with business owners. The latter are not necessarily converts to the blogosphere. So the value of a well-written blog post is not necessarily understood. Increased revenue is still the bottom line, not a good post that might bring in leads 5 months from now, due to inducing backlinks.

    But there’s the other type of web publisher: the ones that don’t have a bricks-and-mortar company and who thus are at the mercies of ad revenue. While more of them can afford $50 per post, most have a ways yet to go before that’s really a standard rate for 500+ words.

  3. If you’re engaged in a “real” business…(not selling false hope of internet riches to the masses) a well written blog post can be worth a LOT more than $50 to a “real” business owner with a blog!!!

    For my service based clients, paying $50 for a well written, well researched blog entry would be money well spent… and it pales in comparison with copy writing fees for professionally prepared radio or television spot!

    I think the “problem” is in selling the intangible quality of a well written blog post! The average business owner can’t tell the “difference” between a well written piece and one that is not well written. In other words, your clients can’t measure quality.

    I’ve created a post here about that:

    @James… you are the king of the comments!!!

  4. Skellie: Thanks for the tips. My response above was made before seeing your second response. I’ll drop you an email.

    James: I’ll ask Ryan look at it as he handles those aspects of the site. Excellent post at MwP. I’ve dropped a comment there.

  5. @ Skellie – I’ll work for FWS Send them my way; that’d be an honor.

    @ Raj – the subscribe to comments plugin isn’t working – no comment notifications received.

    More later, need coffee.

    Both of you might be interested in checking out today’s post at MwP. I’d love to have your views.

  6. Skellie: I completely agree that we need to get professional/ freelance bloggers paid a better rate than $10/post. I’m just saying that my experience after two years is that not many blogs seem to be paying that sweet $50 rate. The ones that are don’t openly advertise that fact, but I guess you listed a few. (Though I was under the impression that Lifehack.org did not pay. At least, that’s what I was told last year, so I guested a few times.)

    Re Performancing, not quite $60. But I get paid on a package basis, with some flexibility in word count per post. It’s a very reasonable monthly rate, given that this blog isn’t exactly monetized. So I get a pretty good per post rate and I’m pretty happy with it. I wouldn’t mind one more gig similar, but it’s a tough call for me because then I’d have less time for the big projects I’ve been offered elsewhere (but which take a considerable amount of time and effort).

  7. OK, judging by your comment to James, you’re not being paid properly. There’s really no excuse for Performancing, a popular blog, to pay you — an experienced and talented freelancer — less than $50 a post. (In fact, I’d suggest that you should be getting at *least* $60, based on my experience with other blogs in this niche and their average rates). Daily Blog Tips and North x East both pay $50+.

    I don’t want to stick my nose in your freelance business, and it really is up to you, but I hope you’ll think about it. You’re simply worth more!

    Just let me know if you’re interested in writing at FSw, too.

  8. Well, it was actually $50 for a 500+ word post ;-).

    While you probably know why I believe this (I’ve worked with a lot of bloggers who pay at least $50 or more, and known a lot of freelancers who are consistently paid $50 or above), I’ll say one thing: if you don’t believe you can get $50 a post, or you don’t believe you deserve it, you won’t get it. And I do think promoting a low standard of pay makes it a lot easier for bloggers to feel it’s OK accepting that and not aiming higher. My experience in the industry shows that it *is* possible — and I would never have suggested that as a guide if I wasn’t convinced.

    I think the question: should we be advocating bloggers not to work for less than $50? is flawed.

    We should be asking: how can we change the culture in the industry so that $50 per long post is an agreed upon minimum — by both bloggers and freelancers?

    There are some really low paying jobs out there, but there are some really fair deals, too. Freelance Switch, the blog I edit, pays all of its writers $50 or more. If you look with confidence, you will find good work.

    Bloggers who are charging less than $50 are doing it because they think they can get away with it, or because they’re unaware of the effort that goes into producing a long, quality blog post. The real question should be: how can we change the culture so that freelance bloggers never feel forced to devalue their writing work?

    Overall, though, some great tips.

    They are paying you well enough, right? If you didn’t get at least $60 for this, I’m going to write to Mr. Performancing myself.

  9. James: very good points. I’ll keep an eye on your MwP site.

    Part of the problem is that some web publishers don’t want writers to mention rates. I mean, employers generally don’t want employees saying what they’re earning. Also, both of us are Canadian. It’s quite Canadian not to discuss earnings. I’m not sure how other bloggers feel about disclosing their earnings.

    But based on what you’ve just said, I’m going to break with tradition and disclose info I generally don’t discuss:

    (1) My freelancing brings in between $1000-3300 per month, depending on how much I get done. I often DO have opportunities to bill $7000 for one month, but I have NEVER been able to complete the work. And often as a result of the intense pressure, I’ll go some months getting only one or two “big projects” (e.g., linkbait) completed and published. Those are the months I wish I had some smaller projects that I can complete and get paid for. I.e., $50/post gigs.

    (2) I generally no longer do per post blogging, but I won’t accept less than $30, unless I’m guesting. I get paid for a package of content for a given month, or I write linkbait or comprehensive content. By comprehensive content, I mean a package of 50 related pages of posts tied together with a single index page.

    (3) I would make more money as a technical writer, but Canadian companies (and headhunters) have an annoying habit of trying to make you feel stupid and incapable, and offer you as little as possible. And I’d probably have to commute to the outskirts of Toronto – which I got sick of doing about six years ago, when gas was still somewhat affordable. I got tired of the speedracers, road ragers, and the drivers that put on makeup and talk on cellphones at the same time, while driving – then claim it’s your fault that they almost slammed into you. If getting away from that madness means making less money working at home, I’m actually okay with that.

    I am much happier, for the most part, making far less than 50% of what I made as a web consultant/ programmer/ tech writer and not having to deal with all the crap of working “career jobs” in the Toronto area. It’d be nice to find some of those fabled $50/post gigs, but I get by and have always blogged for very understanding web publishers. If I not feeling well (which unfortunately is a very regular occurrence, due to my health), then generally don’t mind me catching up later. Not too many offline employers can offer this sort of option. What’s more, if you get offered profit share, it CAN be more lucrative if you have the patience, stamina and determination to spend 1-2 years to achieve this. Or you can blog for yourself and hope you succeed.

  10. Hey Raj,

    I just wanted to drop you a quick note to mention that I’ve been reading and keeping an eye on your views. I participated in the discussion at Skellie’s post as well, and I have my own post coming up tomorrow at MwP that you may be interested in.

    The subject of who earns what for how much is always an interesting one. It’s rare to see a writer admit what he or she really earns. Unfortunately for all of us, our own peers tend to be the ones that keep us unwilling to really discuss rates and get down to the bottom of it all.

    Many writers look down on those who earn less. Many more feel bitter about those who earn more and who criticize. Still others wonder where in hell those magical jobs are – I sometimes wonder that myself. I also wonder how many people slam out numbers but actually work at much lower. It’s a game of saving face.

    Sad, really, that writers don’t trust each other not to jeer – how many writers and bloggers do you see posting rates? Very few.

    So yes. This is an interesting conversation. Keep it up.

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