Mailbag: How Much Can Freelance Writers Charge for Blogging?

Today, I’m answering a reader question about how to earn more as a paid blogger. But first, I want to apologize — I’ve been neglecting the Make a Living Writing mailbag, which is now bulging! Promise to make mailbag a more regular feature again, starting now.

So — today’s question is on negotiating an ongoing blogging contract. It comes from freelance writer Don Sadler:

“I have an opportunity to become a regular monthly blogger for one of my magazine clients and am trying to figure out a good pay rate for this. The audience is corporate meeting and event planners.

“The client wants to pay by the word, just like they do for regular magazine and  e-newsletter articles. This will be for 2-3 blogs per month, I’m guessing 300 words or so, plus one more in-depth e-newsletter article like I’ve been writing. I’m looking probably at about .40/word, so $250-350 for the blog portion.

“Does this sound decent to you for 2-3 blogs a month? This is my lowest paying client — I don’t make less than $.50 a word anywhere else — but it’s steady, monthly work. Thanks for your input.”

My general rule as a paid blogger is that I try not to take less than $100 a blog, no matter what. I’ve made as much as $300 per, depending on what they require. So on the face of it, your rate sounds fine — about $120 per post.

But I see a lot of potential problems lurking here. In the months since you originally sent me this query, Don, I’ve had many small-business and publication blogging clients. And I’ve learned a few things about what makes paid-blogging projects successful, and what makes them fail. My suggestions:

1. Define your project. You sound like you’re bidding in a bit of a vacuum. You’re guessing how long the posts will be and what they will require. I’ve found that when you guess about blogging gigs, you always lose. Find out and get a commitment on your expected post lengths.

Do the posts require interviews? If so, the rate is definitely too low. Will they hand you the topics, or will you have to run Google Alerts daily and scan them to develop post ideas? This latter makes a real difference in the time you’ll spend on this project.

Do they really want them 1,000 words long? Many outlets don’t really understand blogging or the advantages of having short posts — you may have to sell them on that. If the length is longer than 300 — and in my experience, it often is more like 400-500 words — your per-word rate is too low.

To sum up, don’t imagine you know what your publication thinks of as a blog post. Find out, and then bid accordingly.

Final word of warning on this — I’ve discovered that some publications and companies like to call assignments “blogging” so they can pay less, but what they really want is fully reported stories. Be sure you know which one you’re signing up for before you price this gig.

When you assume about pricing writing jobs…you often make an ass…out of your bank account.

2. Sell them on more frequency. There’s a real dark side to this offer, Don. It’s that blogging twice a month simply won’t accomplish anything. In my experience, anything below once a week just won’t get any traction. It’s not enough frequency to build an audience, get subscribers to the blog, or ultimately, paying customers. It’s a proposal that is doomed to fail.

I’ve often had small businesses approach me with this premise — that I should post for them once or twice a month. I always turn it down. The most important thing as a paid blogger is to be associated with successful projects. You want projects where you’re able to drive traffic, get retweets, and the client will give you a testimonial about how great you are. So I consider these twice-a-month type proposals to be loser projects from which I run swiftly away.

From hard experience, I’ve developed a minimum blogging contract. It’s for one post a week, or four posts a month, for $500 — for a minimum of two months. My feeling is you have no chance of getting results in less time or with fewer posts, so that’s where I’ve set my bar. Just my personal philosophy on it.

Bonus: Often, clients will buy your logic and commit to more frequent posts — and that means more money for you, and a greater chance of an ongoing, successful gig.

3. Sell them social-media consulting. Here’s the final problem with this proposal: There is no social-media component.

This is where many blogging projects fall apart. Either the client is imagining you will promote the posts without additional payment, or (more often) they simply don’t understand how blogging works. They think once the posts are up, the Internet will magically bring them new customers.

A quick cautionary tale about this: I recently signed a small-business client to a twice-a-week blogging contract. Unfortunately, they were a startup with a small team, and no one had time to focus on the blog. In the six weeks I worked the contract, they only bothered to put up about half the posts I created. They changed the focus of what the blog should be about twice, and changed its location on their website once as well. No one focused on promoting the posts.

What did I hear next? No surprise — the client wanted out of their two-month contract because “The blog isn’t building traffic like we expected.”

I like to describe paid blogging as creating a tool for clients. The next step: Someone has to use the tool. They — or you — have to get out there on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter et al and let the world know the posts exist.

At this point, unless the client tells me they have a social-media-savvy marketing team ready to go out and socialize the posts, I insist on at least one hour per month of social-media consulting work in the package. I bill it at $100 an hour, which is my general hourly rate. Then I have a chance to offer some training to their team on promoting the posts. Now, the project has a hope of succeeding.

So to sum up — ongoing contracts are desirable, so that’s definitely worth some modest discount on your usual rate, Don. But find out what this blogging gig really entails before you bid.

Do you have questions about how to earn more from your writing? Learn more in my community Freelance Writers Den — take ecourses, attend live events, ask writing pros your questions in our forums, and use our exclusive Junk-Free Job Board.

Blog ecosystem graphic via Flickr user Ivan Walsh

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