A number of bloggers have made a variety of informative comments recently about how they’re blogging for pay. Go visit the Exchange blog for a view of some good advice. Here are a few tips of my own in the form of a point list. Keep in mind that I’m using the term biz-blogger in the sense that you are blogging for someone else for pay, be it online publishers or companies with a blog, not necessarily in the sense that you are blogging about business topics.
(1) Choose a few (niche) topics. The amount of effort that it takes to really learn one topic is a lot more than you might think. Even when you are an expert at something, there are probably new things to learn all the time. If you blog about too many topics simultaneously, you run the risk of producing sub-par work. That’s what happened to me on my own blogs. Now, I try to focus most of the weekdays on client blogs, and spend the weekends for my own blogs – but at a reduced number. If I have blogs that overlap that of clients’, in terms of topics, I might publish to those on weekdays as well, but I limit myself to one long article or several short posts.
(2) Be realistic. A professional writer of any flavour must be able to learn new topics on the fly. This is especially true for professional biz-bloggers. But as per point #1 above, there’s only so much time in a day to learn AND write. I’ve limited myself to 5-6 topics that I blog about daily. I’m not including one-off writing projects, most of which I can do on weekends. Though accepting this many topics means putting in 10 hours or more per day. (As I get more efficient on a topic, I find myself relaxing and actually spending a couple of hours watching TV without guilt.) If you are working at a daytime (or nighttime) job as well, don’t try to take on more than one or two topics all at once – unless you plan to devote your entire weekend to blogging. I’m not a vacation person, preferring instead to meditate, but do consider taking a vacation from blogging.
(3) Leverage your time. If you are focusing, try to write at least three posts per day, Mon-Fri, on a given topic. It seems to be a magic minimum number for improving the ranking of blog over time (other factors are involved, of course). Unless I have some personal reason for doing so, I generally won’t accept less than 5 posts per week on new contracts. However, some clients may want less, and you might choose to accept.
My suggestion, if you have the time, is to write the remaining quota of posts for your own related blog. That is, if you get a contract for 5 posts/ week, write 15 and post the excess on your own blog. Why not leverage the time you already spend on research for yourself? It might eventually lead to additional work with the same client, or for someone else.
Even though this is point #3, for me, it’s the most important point for leveraging your research. Doing it for yourself, without pressure, helps prep you for the time when you might get a lot of work. You’ll already know how much you can handle. It’s helped me to be able to handle 12-20 posts per day (mix of long, medium, and short), on weekdays – for both myself and clients.
If you can build yourself up to a point where you’re writing 10 posts per day on one-three topics, at $5/post and up, that’s at least $50/day. (Brett Burn pointed out something similar, in response to a post on Tribal Trends in Professional Blogging that Markus wrote.) That’s not a lot of money, not enough to live on. But the more you leverage your research, the less total time you’ll spend each day writing each post. I generally find that I may spend, say, 1-3 hours per day reading on one topic, then about 10-20 minutes per post (for short and medium length), including organic SEO work. So why not spend a bit more time writing a few more posts? Obviously, it’s not possible for longer pieces, which can take me 1-3 hours to write and polish. However, I can write the longer piece for the client and a couple of short pieces for my own blog(s).
Leverage your time. The general rule of thumb is that, if you can write one or two more posts in less than an hour, with no further research, then you increase average hourly earnings for that day.
(By the way, go have a look at how Brett’s structured his member profile, so that clients looking for bloggers will get a sense of his areas of expertise.)
(4) Learn to know when you have too much work. If you’re reliable and do good work, you may soon find yourself being asked to accept more work than you can handle. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to an opportunity. If you don’t have time, you don’t have time. Be polite and turn it down, or suggest another blogger that you trust. It’s better than saying yes and not delivering on time. If you have family or other commitments, they are always far more important than over-working yourself. Don’t quit the working world to work for yourself, and then end up doing the same thing at home.
(5) Share your bounty. Consider brokering work you can’t handle yourself. This might work if you have a lot of clients who need one-off pieces, and you know reliable writers who don’t have the same channels to contact clients. However, for blogs specifically, this is probably pretty rare right now. I can see how brokering for freelance writing may be successful – especially if you decide to run a quality article bank. But freelance blogging probably isn’t yet lucrative enough. (Also, if content has to be timely, it’s unlikely to be evergreen – which means it probably won’t pay well enough to broker.) Don’t forget that if you are brokering, you are responsible for quality, so …
(6) Add value to your brokering. If you build your reputation to the point that you can broker work, and have reliable writers that won’t let you down, add something to the process that gives value to everyone. For example, if you are good at copyediting and/or organic SEO, you could broker work to junior bloggers who submit their writing to you. You then apply your magic to their work, and submit the finished work to the client. Everybody wins in this process: happy client, junior bloggers who get to improve their skills, and yourself, who gets to spend time more efficiently.
Of course, this scenario only succeeds if you know more about the broad topic in question than your junior bloggers. You could also let them work up their chops on your blog(s), before writing for clients, in case you don’t have a lot of time to edit. This could be the beginning of a team blogging effort, like Chris Garrett wrote about previously.
The list above should hopefully give you some tips towards becoming an efficient and successful biz-blogger on a long-term basis. Build your reputation as a reliable resource for anyone publishing website/ weblog content, and the work should follow, with a bit of diligent searching on your own. Finally: If you’re proud of your work, ask your clients for references for when you approach other clients.
Please feel free to add your tips, or even disagree with mine – provided you explain why 🙂
@Brett: You should use ‘blockquote’ for quoting 🙂
BBCodeXtra is a very helpful Firefox extension for that. I.e. it allows to paste as quote.
Re: Having draft articles sitting on your harddrive
I just thought to myself it might be a nice idea to have a ‘draft’ blog and more hints and useful text might come in through the comments. Especially useful when doing group writing (you know that ‘tribal’ thing
A good example for this kind of R&D posting is my article and the following thread about tag clouds: Intuitive Navigation with Tag Clouds
At the end of the thread I developed a different solution. So, today I would take the thread and write a totally different ‘complete’ article.
BTW, thanks to everybody who commented on that thread!
Markus I like the update you provided especially the first picture of your work area.
It gives a nice solid impression of ‘being in your office’ which is no small thing lending as one more positive suggestion of your professionalism and organization.
Raj, You wrote My suggestion, if you have the time, is to write the remaining quota of posts for your own related blog. That is, if you get a contract for 5 posts/ week, write 15 and post the excess on your own blog. Why not leverage the time you already spend on research for yourself? It might eventually lead to additional work with the same client, or for someone else”
I think this is an excellent point, if you are focussed on a topic fill complete your thought and get it in soft copy. Soft copy does no one any good sitting on your hard drive so publish it somewhere, preferably your own blog, but on occassion maybe drop one of those articles somewhere else to flag down readers that haven’t made it to your blog and maybe have not made it to your client blog either.
I guess this is kind of like cross pollination as you plant the seed around and maybe pick up a few more readers here and there and pick up some other search results through a different index trail.
Bretts profile is really worth to have a look at.
I took the chance to provide a major update for my profile (photos, favorites, bonus, etc. 🙂