Problogging Tips: Get Smart, Leverage Your Research

Do you blog for pay? Do you feel that you’re getting enough per post (or even per word), or that blogging pay generally doesn’t match the effort? Why not leverage your research time, as well as your writing? Read on.

The Dilemma: Low-Paying Blogging Gigs

A few days ago, someone posted a blogger job at the Performancing Jobs board, without a URL for me to assess it. But details on post length, frequency (sort of) and payment were given. An anonymous commenter showed a bit of math to show the effective per word rate, then added an angry few words: “what a rip off”. I responded with a “tsk, tsk”, then they responded back, along the lines of how publishers who offer low rates and the writers who accept them are reducing writing to a commodity.

The Hope: Bonuses and Revenue Share

In a sense, that’s true for the blogosphere. But there are some details that the anonymous commenter seemed to have missed. The job poster asked for at least one article daily (200-300 words) for $200/mth, plus performance bonuses and profit share “to the right applicant”. [If “daily” means 20 days/mth, that’s $10/post – a fairly standard rate for all but the most experienced bloggers.]
Giving the job poster the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that they’ll honor the bonuses and rev share. I know of at least two bloggers who started at $100/mth for a minimum 3 (very short) posts per day and 50% profit share and are now each earning $3-5K/mth or more. They put in the time to promote, and it paid off. They have a full-time job that they enjoy.

Par For the Course: Industry Rates

On the flipside, there are popular and successful tech sites out there that are paying $100/post, but when you work out the per word rate, it’s not that impressive. Every publisher cannot be Playboy, who pay $1 per word to established, already well-known writers. The blogosphere is still a fairly young entity.

There are blog publishers who reputedly pay $25, $30, or even $50 per post, for 400-800 words (or thereabouts), for very experienced bloggers. But even I, who am a published author and writer and have 20 years writing experience (mostly technical writing, interleaved with coding and code documentation work), have a hard time finding those fabled rates – especially in a niche that I want to write in.

How Long Do You Take To Blog?

If you can find those $25+/post rates and actually deserve them, good luck to you. If you can’t, that does not mean you cannot make a living from $10 posts. The trick is learning to leverage your research. Here’s an example.

  1. You get a blogging gig that pays $10/post (400+ words), with a schedule of 2 posts/day, for a maximum 20 days/month. Total earnings: $10 x 2 x 20 = $400/mth.
  2. It takes you 30 minutes to write, edit and publish one 400+ word post.
  3. But it takes you two hours each day to browse your RSS feed reader (or check Techmeme, Megite, Popurls or some other niche monitor, or a social media site such as Reddit, Digg, Stumbleupon, Sphinn, Mixx.) That’s only $20 for 2+(2×1/2) = 3 hours work, or less than $7/hr. Not very promising.

Leveraging Your Efforts

What’s the problem? Here’s are some ways that you can tighten up your timetable. Use what suits you.

  1. Maybe 30 minutes is more than you need to write 400 words on a topic you know well. Even a slow typist at 50 wpm can produce 1000 words in 20 minutes, though if you want to spend time editing, you can probably get an effective rate of 500 words in 20 minutes. So that means you can produce at least 3 posts/hour, leaving more time for other work.
  2. If you are not writing newsy articles and can write a day or two ahead, you have even more leverage. Write as much of a week’s posts as you can on the same day, so that you’re minimizing weekly research time. This frees up that time to accept other work.
  3. Follow only the top blogs in your niche. That is, scale down the number of blogs you browse each day. Have bookmark folders such as “DAILY”, “WEEKLY”, “INFREQUENT” and “TO READ”. Or whatever works for  you.
  4. Use Google Alerts or something like this service.
  5. Leverage your writing. Can you get more work on similar blogs? At one time, I used to write for three VoIP/ communications blogs daily, producing 7 posts per day, at between $4-9 each, depending on the blog. Still not a lot per post, on average, but knowing that industry meant I could also occasionally accept bigger articles on VoIP for $150-300 each, as well as post occasionally on my own tech blog. The amount of research I had to do did not increase significantly. I had a similar deal for RFID posts, so my total earnings were enough for me to start working full-time from home.
  6. Don’t obsess. I admit it. I’m obsessive about my writing, but if you want to be an effective blogger and earn a healthy income without spending 12 hours a day, learn when enough editing is enough.

Increase Your Effective Rate

The basic principle is to increase your effective hourly rate. If you follow some of the tips above, you could push that $7/hour rate to $20-30/hr – which has been acceptable rate for freelance writers in the past, for all but very niche topics. You might also have some of the following “advantages”, which will reduce your monthly expenses and thus your income requirements. Though you might have to budget for a while.

  1. No car. So no car payments, gas costs, insurance, maintenance. Having at one time shelled out $1200/mth in car-related costs for several years, I know that this alone can force you to take work you don’t want.
  2. Working from home. I do have a car now, but those monthly costs total about $460, including gas, since I work from home.
  3. No spouse or kids.
  4. No serious debts.

For me, $1800-3300/mth in total blogging earnings (freelance and ad revenue from my blogs) was fine for the past two calendar years, though now that I have a car again and want to move back to Toronto, I have to work a bit harder. What income you’ll be satisfied with will vary with your needs, but if you learn to leverage your research and writing, it might be sufficient for you to build your experience and reputation so that you can offer content development to web publishers.

7 thoughts on “Problogging Tips: Get Smart, Leverage Your Research

  1. Sven: Thanks for the link. You are right. Skellie also has quite a bit more success than I do. She’s well known, with lots of fans. I’ve never put in a concentrated effort on a single site, simply because I’ve enjoyed the variety. You do have to decide what kind of freelancing you want to do. I like being able to sometimes not write for three or four days and just watch movies.

  2. Raj,

    Thanks for all the info. And BTW, Skellie’s article is here.

    I think you are talking about slightly different types blog freelancing.

  3. Forest: Writing in bulk makes up for lower rates, but it can be tedious to write something similar on different sites a few times a day, every day. So it’s not suitable for everyone.

  4. Sven: I didn’t read Skellie’s article but I disagree. That advice applies to experienced bloggers, not people who just think they deserve that amount. Also, how many web publishers do you know that are paying $50 per article and are actually looking for someone? I freelance for a living, so I take the good with the boring.

    As I said above, I have extensive writing experience (including designing and co-authoring a book, magazine and newspaper articles, technical writing, print training, etc.), and I can ask for a certain rate but I rarely get it, without all kinds of conditions. I am much happier working without conditions with easygoing publishers who might offer a profit share. But anyway, I haven’t even found $50/post gigs. One site pays about $100, but the number of words required means it’s probably not worth it – to me. (But on the flip side, I do occasionally guest for free, which can be good for you.) What’s more, I often work with online friends, and I know what they’re capable of paying. I accept that.

    I have been paid $800-1500 for print articles (national newspaper, international magazines), and I do get web work ranging from $200-1200. But if I miss a deadline or the article doesn’t do well in social media, then I lose a lot of money. So I’d often rather do 20 articles at $10 each in much less time than 1 article for $200. That was the point of my post, that you CAN make the best of $10 and $20 articles if you’re organized and leverage your work efforts. Or that you can do a mix of work at different rates – which is a smart thing to do if you want to be a successful freelancer. As a freelancer and contract consultant for most of the last 20 years, I say this from experience.

  5. I have recently taken a plunge to go full time with this internet stuff.

    On the look out for begginers paid writing I was unsure what to look for so thanks for the help.

    Also I have been inspired by your idea of writing multiple posts in bulk and will definitely try and give it a try. I have just scheduled daily posts so I talk about animals one day, a recipe on another, etc etc. guess I should try and do them all on Mondays and free up my week for finding work and other projects.

  6. There was a similar article by Skellie recently (on Problogger, I believe). Her advice was: never accept less than $50 per article when submitting to someone else’s blog.

    Why the worlds apart?

  7. > Follow only the top blogs in your niche.

    Another thing I do different for specified subjects/keywords. I use my feed reader and define ‘smart feeds’ which will check search engines. The feeds are then filtered/combined through another smart feed for a subject and this way I have new articles for a niche popping up when they arrive.

    And I can directly blog from the feed reader and/or directly from the browser.

    > Learn when enough editing is enough

    That’s definitely the thing to learn. It took me a long time a) to find out about it and b) to practice effective writing without the need to edit the article ove and over again.

    For my own pages I love to follow the ‘one article per subject’ philosophy. Take a subject, write an article and add/refresh content when necessary. All my repeating date driven articles can be updated in minutes and keep their link and Google love. Priceless.

    PS: Hey, thanks for the ‘content development’ link in the last sentence.

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