Posts Tagged ‘paid blogging’

How Will Freelance Writers Earn Well From Longer Blog Posts?

Posted in Blog on March 25th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 48 Comments

photodune-3393975-money-bag-with-question-marks-xsHave you noticed that blog posts are getting longer? Many top blogs are standing out with detailed posts of 1,000 to 2,000 words.

New survey data shows why — longer posts get more and better quality traffic.

I’m definitely a fan of detailed posts that offer examples and case studies on this blog, as you’ve probably noticed. I believe offering more value has made a big difference in growing my blog.

But growing interest in longer posts poses a problem for writers who do paid blogging, as well as for writers looking to promote their own blogs through guest posts.

Popular blogs that could drive traffic to your own blog are looking for longer posts from their guest posters, which is a big commitment when it’s an unpaid marketing activity. Which brings me to this important rule:

Think before you guest post

Suddenly, its not dashing off 500 words off the top of your head for a guest post. Which calls into question whether devoting hours to writing a free guest post is still worth it.

It may be worthwhile if you’re writing for huge blogs that have the potential to be a game-changer for your visibility as a writer…for less powerful blogs, possibly not. I’ll say I find myself checking Alexa or PageRank more often now before deciding whether I’ll write a guest post for a site for free.

My advice here: Weigh the pros and cons carefully, especially in light of the recent raging controversy over whether all guest posting is a spammy SEO gambit that will be penalized by Google. Writing a truly fresh, informative, 2,000-word guest post could take the better part of an entire work day. Only you can decide if that’s a good investment of your time, or if there might be a better way to draw your audience.

One possible solution to the problem of free longform guest posts is to refuse to do them. There is another way to approach guest posting that may work better as longer posts become the norm.

Look for paying guest posts

One way I worked my way out of the free guest-post trap was to focus on blogs that pay writers for guest posts, sometimes on an ongoing basis.

Personally, I was guest posting for free on Copyblogger when I got an opportunity to guest post for a modest fee for Freelance Switch (now Microlancer). Even $50 or $75 a guest post, if you’re doing it regularly, will start to add up. When I was writing for them regularly, I often billed Freelance Switch for $300 a month or more — a nice chunk of change for guest posts I might have written free for another site!

I was lucky that FSw paid more for longer posts, too. That’s another thing to look out for in future, as longer posts become more desirable — sites that have a higher rate for longer wordcounts.

Another plus to guesting for pay: I believe guesting on paying sites is also a better lure for attracting clients.

The fact is, if prospective business blogging clients are impressed that you’re on Huffington Post, they’re going to be more impressed when you’re on a site with a reputation for paying its writers. If you find paid guest-post opportunities, you’re crazy not to take them.

Problem: longer posts, same low rates

At the same time that longer posts are increasingly desired by top blogs, businesses are quickly picking up on the long-post trend, and wanting to hire freelance writers to write longer posts for their blogs.

Problem is, they don’t necessarily want to pay any more than the going rates for shorter posts.

For instance, we got a request on our Freelance Writers Den job board not long ago from an employer who wanted to post a job listing for 1,500-word posts that paid only $100.

Since that’s our floor for posts of 500 words, we passed. But it points up a big problem.

Having struggled mightily to educate businesses about why a blog post should pay $50 or $100 instead of $5 or $25, now paid bloggers face a new challenge: How can we get paid appropriately for long blog posts that are really a lot more like magazine articles than the dashed-off, 300-word posts of old?

As Den member Bree recently put it:

” I’ve been reading more and more that longer blog posts are what Google’s going to consider legitimate and helpful for readers. If this is the case, should we still be suggesting to clients that they pay us for 500-word posts? Or is that a good starting point that we can later jump off to convince them to up their word count (and rate)?”

Yes — it is a puzzle.

I used to do just that — discourage clients who wanted long posts, and sell them on the idea that short ones at $100-$125 a pop would get the job done.

But now there is a compelling case to be made that longer posts will be more effective for your clients.

Which means we need to help clients understand why writers should be paid more for longform blog posts.

9 Tips for higher blog post pay

If clients want longer posts, what should you do? Here are my tips:

  1. Define the project. Writers need to ask careful questions about what the client imagines will be in this long post. Interviews? Survey data? Infographics you’re supposed to create? I’ve heard too many sob stories of writers who didn’t find out — and ended up with an appallingly low hourly rate for writing longer posts.
  2. Think hourly rate. Remember that ultimately, wordcount isn’t as important as what you make per hour. If these are posts you could dash off in two hours because you know all about antique tractors or bathroom remodels or whatever it is, maybe $100-$150 a post would make sense to you. But usually, I think long posts take loads more time than that. So be realistic.
  3. Learn about rates. Going rates for these are still emerging, but I’m going to say $300 should be a floor. That’s still below the bottom rate I’d expect for a 2,000 word magazine feature (even at $.30 a word, a low-end print article rate, that would be $600). So it’s in line with the tradition that blog posts cost less than magazine articles, but is still a major hike from $75-$100.
  4. Charge more. If that rate discussion above doesn’t compute with what you’re earning now, do this: Whatever you charge for short posts now, charge 3-5 times more for longer ones. Or your earnings are going to take a hit.
  5. Work with their budget. Some clients will say they can’t afford to pay fair rates for longer blog posts. But they may be able to if you consider their overall blogging budget instead of their per-post rate. For instance, if a client says they can’t pay more than $50 for a blog post, but they want three long posts a week, sell them on the idea that they could get good traffic with four two long posts a month at $300 each — that’s the exact same budget. Or maybe a mix of short and long posts with less frequency could get it done affordably. Be creative to come up with an answer, but make sure you don’t end up writing 2,000-word posts for $50.
  6. Educate your client. If clients want long blog posts and balk at paying $300 or more for them, they need education about how much more valuable these are than shortie posts at grabbing attention and building their authority. Don’t compare a 2,000-word post to a 300-word one — compare it to having a feature article placed in a magazine, or placing a paid print or radio or Yellow Pages ad. These are the marketing alternatives in many companies’ budgets — and compared to them, blogging is still a terrific bargain, even at $300 a long post.
  7. Find better clients. Yes, the type of clients with the budget for longform blogging will tend to be bigger clients with bigger marketing budgets. If you’re targeting small businesses and startups now, think about moving up if you want to write longform posts for good pay.
  8. Sell repurposing. A long, fully fleshed-out guest post can be combined with a few other long posts and turned into a special report, a short e-book, sent out as part of a newsletter, and more. Explain to clients how much mileage they might get from creating longer posts — and why they will get their money’s worth if they pay $300-$500 or more for them.
  9. Flash your article writing skills. As I’ve mentioned, long blog posts often closely resemble magazine articles. If you have article-writing experience, be sure to play that up to clients — they’re getting journalistic reporting and quality storytelling delivered right on their blog. If you don’t have magazine clips, consider learning more about article writing to get some published credits and strengthen your cred for writing long blog posts. My experience is business clients are heavily impressed by magazine credits.

The rise of longform blogging could be a financial boon for writers — or a sinkhole for writers who don’t stand up for themselves and get paid more for longer posts.

My forecast is that article writing is the killer skill of 2014, and the rise of longform blogging is one of the big reasons.

The era of hastily slapping together a few paragraphs and calling it a blog post is over. So it’s time for writers to up their skills to ride this trend to better pay.

Have you written long blog posts? Leave a comment and give us your take on the rise of longform.

 

 

Can You Spot These 3 Different Freelance Writing Scams?

Posted in Blog on February 2nd, 2014 by Carol Tice – 106 Comments

Freelance writer scoping out online writing scamsWhen I got started in freelance writing, it was tough to get published. Nothing saw the light of day without an editor’s approval.

Today, the situation is reversed. It’s easy to get published. Set up your own blog and press “Publish.” Presto! Your work is out there, before the entire world.

Another way: Sign up on one of the untold hundreds of websites that promise you awesome exposure on their platform.

With all the “opportunities” out there, what’s harder today is avoiding scams and making sure you find situations that pay you a living wage.

Exposure, waste of time, or worse?

At this point, I’m hoping writers know they should get paid. And that free exposure online isn’t all that valuable, unless you’re posting on a high-traffic site with a great reputation.

If you don’t keep that in mind, you could waste a lot of time writing for websites that offer little in the way of either pay or exposure. Often, you don’t even get good clips out of it. You’re just spinning your wheels as a freelance writer, going nowhere.

Some of the scams out there could even damage your reputation if you get involved.

One day this week, I got three offers to sign up with writer website platforms in a single day.

I usually just hit “delete” right away, but I decided to check them out. I discovered there are many flavors of ripoffs and scams going on out there right now.

Let’s take a look.

Case #1

Write about your advertisers? That’s sort of an odd offer.

Also, don’t you find it interesting that instead of sending me to a main signup page or the home page, he sends me to this weird subpage? Smells to me like this guy is affiliate selling this platform and maybe making a cut if I sign up with them.

Or try to — I tried that page and got a 404.

Main signup page has the details — here’s the key stuff to know:

Sites like these connect you with advertisers who want exposure on your blog. They might pay you a small fee for posting a paid review on your blog, or for seeding a link to something onto your home page.

They’ll even write that “unbiased” review for you! (ROTFL.)

And charge you for it. Hard to see there’s going to be a profit in it for you after that.

Funny that in another part of the site, it says “Publishers — there are no hidden fees. We just want your voice.” (Sounds creepy, like Ursula taking Ariel’s voice away in The Little Mermaid or something.) Sounds more like what they really want is to rent my audience, without full disclosure.

I’m hoping you’re scam detector is going off here. It’s not worth risking the trust you’ve built with your blog audience to run paid reviews where you don’t disclose that you got paid.

And if you do disclose it, your trust is blown straight away.

There’s also some language on that LinkVehicle site about writing “whether for exposure or pay.” So maybe they’ll pay me, maybe not?

There are ways to do sponsored posts right, but I get an oogy “gray hat” feeling out of this site.

Sponsored posts done right

It is possible to do sponsored posts in a way that’s ethical and doesn’t blow your credibility with readers. For instance, Nick Evans over on the Macheesmo food blog (I’m hooked!) sometimes has a food company sponsor a blog post.

Then he offers a recipe that includes an ingredient from that company, all while clearly explaining that the company challenged him to create a type of recipe with their food, and that they are the sponsor of the post.

All aboveboard and to the readers’ benefit, as they get a nice recipe idea out of the deal. It’s not an endorsement by the blogger, but a challenge he was given to create that recipe.

I think food blogs are well-suited to this sort of thing, and sites that do product reviews regularly. Many other types of blogs are not. If you’re considering accepting sponsored posts, think carefully about whether it’s worth it. Ditto with slapping up ads that might just annoy readers.

The big thing to know about offers to place guest posts on your blog that come from link-seeking companies is that Google hates it and may penalize your blog’s search rankings, as Matt Cutts recently pointed out. Just another reason these sort of guest posts probably aren’t worth the small sum they’d give you for the right to post them on your blog.

Case #2

Took a look at the home page first, rather than that subpage link he sent me, and got this:

Aside from a stock graphic, the home page was empty. I consider that a pretty big red flag.

On the subpage, I did actually find some text. Writers are invited to collaborate on stories in a wiki format where anyone can change your work. Bet writers are just stampeding to have their work rewritten by strangers.

We’re invited to “post your work for free or even sell it in our marketplace.” Which would certainly be a better earning scenario than posting it on Amazon…NOT.

If you’re looking for a place to give away your work, this might be an opportunity, since Amazon doesn’t let you offer e-books free except for short periods. Otherwise, it’s hard to see the appeal.

You can publish on your own blog free, too, and keep total control of your work.

Is it really a scam? They’re aboveboard about not paying you, so maybe it’s just not a good opportunity.

Case #3

Finally, I received this comment on my blog:

Yes, the ungrammatical URL is a red flag.

But this one intrigued me because I’m always looking to add to my list of Websites that pay $50 or more per post, so I went to the website mentioned. Prominently featured was this handy sidebar on the site’s top earners:

Wow, sign me up!

Sarcasm aside, this site clearly isn’t offering any real pay to writers. Just another “pennies-for-clicks” kind of place. I consider these scams because of how they lure you with the promise of pay, but there rarely is any.

Research the exposure

To see what sort of exposure opportunities these sites might be — since there’s little or no pay involved — I ran the Ever-Changing Story site and Me Seek Articles through Alexa.

Got the following results: Me Seek Articles is ranked over 400,000th globally, and Ever-Changing Story is too small to have any ranking data at all.

In other words, these sites don’t have traffic. You’re not getting any valuable exposure from posting work on these places.

Scam-avoidance tips:

To sum up, when someone emails you or posts on your Facebook page offering you an opportunity to sign up to write somewhere, be cautious.

Be wary of any platform that’s out soliciting loads of writers. Good clients usually just need one or two.

Remember that it’s a dead business model to aggregate masses of low-grade content to put ads against in hopes of affiliate revenue for clicks, thanks to Google’s algorithm changes. Startups continue to try this model despite this — don’t get sucked in. It will never pay well.

Look for things like:

  • A street address and phone number
  • A contact person’s email and name
  • A recognizable company or brand
  • An About page where you can learn more (Me Seek Articles lacked one)
  • Firm, guaranteed pay rates rather than speculative, possible future pay based on traffic or clicks
  • For sponsored-post or blog ad offers, nothing is kept secret from your blog readers

It’s easy to waste time writing for places that won’t help your career, or to hurt your credibility by getting involved in shady offers. Steer clear of these and keep looking for real, paying markets.

What do you think of these offers? Leave a comment and give us your reaction.

Your 10 Favorite Posts of the Year About Freelance Writing & Blogging

Posted in Blog on January 7th, 2014 by Carol Tice – 8 Comments

Top 10As I start a new year with this blog, I always have one question on my mind — what do readers of  Make a Living Writing need to know most?

One way I’m finding out is with my subscriber survey (I emailed you secret intel on the results yesterday, subscribers).

The other way is to take a look at my traffic data from the past year and determine the most-read new posts that went up in 2013. I always get interesting insights from looking at my best-of list.

I like to share that list here on the blog, because new subscribers may not have seen all those posts on the first go-round.

Here’s the list of the most popular posts of 2013:

  1. 100+ Websites That Pay Writers – OK, no shocker here — writers would like to know about paying markets! If you haven’t checked this list in a bit, you might want to check it out again, as there have been a few additions and updates.
  2. Can You Really Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer? — Apparently this question is uppermost in many minds. Check out our lively discussion of whether anyone is really earning a living freelancing or if it’s all bunk.
  3. 5 Reasons Why Demand Studios Only Pays Writers Peanuts — and Won’t Change — Providing analysis of what content mills are doing and how that space is changing is both popular around here, and in my view, a public service. My background as a business reporter has allowed me to delve into what’s going on behind the scenes, now that Demand’s parent company is publicly traded and has to disclose the gory details about how they’re failing.
  4. The Truth About How Much Freelance Writers Make — This post features links to several resources with data on actual professional rates for a wide variety of writing gigs, as well as a checklist of questions to help determine what you should charge.
  5. 3 Simple Ways to Find Better-Paying Freelance Writing Jobs — I’m definitely sensing a theme here. This one’s got tips on some basic changes to make to your marketing that will set you on course to find better clients.
  6. The New Freelance Writer’s Quick-and-Simple Guide to Getting Started — About half of readers here are brand-new to either writing or freelancing, so I thought it’d be useful to put together a basic nuts-and-bolts post of how you start building a portfolio and getting paying clients. Apparently, you agree. Stay tuned for more focused new-writer help coming in 2014.
  7. The Essential Item You Need for Freelance Success That No One Dares Name — I burst a few bubbles with this post and possibly angered some wannabe writers, but it needed to happen. Give it a read and see if you’ve got what it takes.
  8. 7 Simple Fixes for the Writing Mistakes That Brand You an Amateur — When I first started this blog, I think I didn’t devote enough time to discussing the craft of writing. But many readers are looking for tips to hone their writing abilities. Expect more in this department this year.
  9. The Reality of Writing for Content Mills — 14 Writers’ True Stories — This one gives you a slice of content mill life from writers who’ve done it. The ever-changing rules, the random banishments, the inscrutable editors, the embarrassingly skimpy paychecks…it’s all here, straight from the horses’ mouths.
  10. Why Would Anyone Pay $100 for a Blog Post? — Enlightenment on why some websites pay a lot more to pro bloggers. Useful stuff for writers who have only seen offers for paid blogging pay $1-$20 a post.

You might notice that this list differs a lot from my popular posts sidebar you see on the right. Why is that? The sidebar is a list of the most popular posts of all time, since this blog started in 2008.

One interesting thing I notice is with the exception of the content mill post that is like a 14-writer guest post collaboration, there are no guest posts on this year’s top-10 list. That’s a change from the 2012 list, where three of the top ten were guests. Guess I’ll have to be pickier than ever on the guest posts I approve.

What was your favorite recent post about freelance writing? Feel free to put ONE link in your comment — more than that will send you to my spam.

Watch Me Write a Headline That Goes Viral

Posted in Blog on October 18th, 2013 by Carol Tice – 63 Comments

Watch your blog traffic explode when you write a strong headlineSometimes I’ll see a top blogger comment on social media and boast, “I just wrote a blog post that’s going to go viral!”

When I was a newbie blogger, I would think: “How do they know that?”

Now that I’ve been blogging longer, and blogging for paying clients, I know what they mean.

Once you get a sense of what the hot button concepts are for a particular audience and what words set them off, you can build that into a headline that’s guaranteed to get a lot of attention.

I’m still not the champ at this, but I’m getting better.

The making of a great headline

The ability to write eyeball-grabbing headlines can really improve your income, so I thought I’d give you an inside look at how I create headlines that get a lot of traffic.

The place I write for right now that I can get the most visitors on is my Forbes blog about franchising and entrepreneurship.

I’ve learned that concepts my Forbes readers love include:

  • technology
  • social media
  • making tons of money
  • business ownership
  • restaurants

Any opportunity to combine two or more of these ideas tends to do well.

Forbes readers also love slideshows, so a topic that could be the basis of a related slideshow is also highly desirable and can give rise to a lot of pageviews as readers flip through the slides.

So I got excited when I saw a new survey from the foodservice trade publication QSR Magazine on the top-earning fast-food chains. What caught my attention wasn’t their rankings of the Top 50 largest chains, but that the survey also published per-unit revenue.

This store-level figure is of high interest to anyone looking to buy a franchise, and also of passing interest to diners in general — and it’s always a plus to have a topic that appeals to more than one reader segment.

Now that I had a concept — the fast-food chains where individual stores ring up the most cash — I had to find the perfect headline for it for maximum exposure. I’d build a related slideshow of the dozen top-earning brands.

Here’s where I began, and some of the iterations the headline went through before I got the final one.

First try: Million Dollar Stores: The Fast-Food Restaurants That Gross The Most

I rejected this headline first off because it’s too long. Forbes prefers headlines of 10 words or less. Visually, ones that don’t wrap around more than two lines I believe also work better because it’s less work to read through the headline.

The other problem with this headline: it’s too vague. Using “stores” at the beginning could mean any type of retail store, so that didn’t fly.

Finally, “gross” is a word with two meanings — gross profit is familiar to business owners, but regular diners might just be, um, grossed out. And think the story was about something totally different than the real topic.

Time to try again.

Second try: Top-Grossing Fast-Food Restaurants

This solved the vagueness of ‘stores,’ but failed to get rid of the “gross-out” problem.

And I think it’s too short and lacks detail. Back to the drawing board.

Third try: The Most Lucrative Fast-Food Restaurants To Own

I’m getting better! This is short enough, but I think too specific. This construction limits the audience to people who want to buy a restaurant and eliminates regular diners. Want to keep it broader.

Also, it’s just a bit too plain-vanilla. Where’s the zing? It needs something really ‘grabby’ and it’s not there yet.

And the winner is: Million-Dollar Burger: The Most Lucrative Fast-Food Restaurants

Bringing back the word “millions” from my first headline draft was a big plus — Forbes readers love posts about people making millions or even billions of dollars.

Then the contrast of millions with a burger raises curiosity. We all know burgers cost only a buck or three! So what could this mean?

By chopping “to own” off the end, the interest becomes broader to include all diners again. Who wouldn’t be curious to know which of their favorite fast-food stops is raking in the dough? Ding-ding-ding, we have a winner.

Here’s what happened when the post went live at the end of August:

Viral Forbes post - traffic report

Was it worth investing that extra hour in tinkering with the headline? You bet. Since I get paid a bonus for visitor numbers on Forbes, creating a super-strong headline that gets more eyeballs is like money in the bank.

Even if you’re not in a situation to get a cash traffic bonus, stronger headlines are worth it. They tend to create post longevity — they keep bringing traffic for your blog or your client’s blog for months and even years to come. Showing you can write these is a great way to impress clients.

Speaking of longevity…a few weeks later, Forbes decided to submit that Million Dollar Burger story to MSN, which syndicates some of Forbes’ blog content. Because all the internal links back to my own Forbes posts came along with the reprint, the new exposure on another big site resulted in this all-time record traffic spike for me back on Forbes:

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 8.55.41 AM

Yes, you read that right — this time the post went way more viral, getting over 600,000 views in a single day thanks to the MSN exposure. My husband about blew milk out his nose when I showed him that chart! (At first, I was sure it was a mistake.)

Even on a small blog, headline strength can help make a post draw ongoing traffic, as it’s more likely to be referenced and linked to in other peoples’ blog posts, and each of those links creates a new ongoing source of traffic for the post. May not happen on this scale, but I see this all the time here on this blog, where new links help a post stay busy.

One other ingredient to note that made this particular viral post possible is that I picked a topic that wasn’t too time-critical. The information should be fairly evergreen — I often use survey data that will be good until that survey is done again next year, as I did here. That gives the post 12 months of relevance.

Obviously, if this had been breaking news of the day, MSN wouldn’t have wanted to pick it up a couple weeks later. Evergreen content allows your post to keep bouncing around social media until it’s discovered by a site that could be another big traffic driver.

Let’s do it again

If you’re wondering what made that second spike on the first chart up top, it was another post. It’s about a new YouTube channel I discovered a consulting firm had started. They’re posting interviews with Walmart managers about how to get your product into their stores.

Getting into Walmart is a topic of high interest to many inventors and startup entrepreneurs, so I wanted to write it for Forbes. It offered the opportunity to mention two company names that are always of high interest to Forbes readers, Walmart and YouTube.

But sculpting the headline to be both enticing and clear was a challenge. Here are the iterations it went through:

The YouTube Channel That Helps You Get Your Product Into Walmart (too long)

How One YouTube Channel Can Help You Get In Walmart (ungrammatical and unclear — it’s not you but your product)

YouTube Tips To Help Get Your Product Into Walmart (sounds like maybe YouTube the company is giving tips, instead of this one channel)

The YouTube Videos That Help You Get Your Product On Walmart’s Shelves (too long again)

How To Get Your Product in Walmart — With A Little Help From YouTube (the corporate-vs-channel problem again)

How To Get Your Product In Walmart — How YouTube Can Help (too many ‘how’s — and still too long!)

And the winner is…

How To Get Your Product In Walmart (Hint: Check YouTube)

This parenthetical version of the headline adds interest — it’s like saying “Psst — here’s a secret!” The first part is very direct and has that strong “how to” focus that makes so many blog posts a hit.

And it also conveys clearly that the answer to how to get your product into Walmart is on a YouTube channel, rather than something YouTube itself is teaching people. The headline has 11 words, but many are short words, so it still fit on two lines.

You might think I’m crazy to spend this much time and effort picking over the exact wording and length of my headlines — until you look at the results. Investing time in perfecting your headlines is always worth it.

What headline got you the most traffic? Leave it here in the comments and tell us about your headline-writing process.