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How I Write Quality Blog Posts, Fast: 5 Tips

Blog Post FactoryEarlier this month, I shared how I make $5,000 a month as a paid blogger. One of the questions I got in comments was on how I can execute 50-60 blog entries in a month, meet all those deadlines, and still keep the writing top-quality.

So here are five techniques I use to crank out lots of compelling blog posts — fast. Some of these will work for generating more blog entries for your own blog, too.

  1. Get organized and find ideas. For my own blog, I use WP Editorial Calendar to plan and easily move around my post ideas — really helps me think ahead and save ideas. To generate the story ideas I need for my clients’ blog posts, I get Google Alerts and SmartBrief emails that expose me to a lot of possible topics on my clients’ subject niches. My most important online sources I even go that one better, and build a desktop of RSS feeds for that client’s topic, so I can look at dozens of ideas at a glance. Getting into a last-minute scramble to find more blog ideas is a real time-waster.
  2. Pitch efficiently. I try to take one meeting monthly with clients who need to approve my post ideas before I write. I come to those meetings prepared with lots of possible ideas. Bang, and we’re done, and I’m off to create blogs.
  3. Keep posts brief. I’ve learned that for most business blogs, the ideal post length is about 6-8 paragraphs. That’s it. If prospective clients ask me to write 1,000-word blog posts, I explain to them that for most blogs (Copyblogger being a notable exception), short posts do best. That’s what most people want to read on the Internet. Brevity is really a virtue. They’ll seem smart if they can be concise. Of course, it also greatly improves my hourly rate on that fee if each post is less work because they’re 350 words, so it’s win-win. This one is basically why paid blogging pencils out for me.
  4. Eliminate the editor. If you are a meticulous proofer and fabulous grammarian and speller, you can impress your clients that they don’t need to edit your blog posts. They likely hired you in part because they’re very time-pressed, so if they see you write clean they will often give you admin privileges and say, “Sure, just put it up.” Obviously, this saves a lot of back-and-forth editing time. If  you write sharp and have been delivering for a client for a while, ask for the privilege of posting blogs directly onto their site. They’ll probably be thrilled to realize they can completely outsource their blog to you.
  5. Write in batches. I may have clients that need a post or two a week, but I don’t write them one a week. I grab a big block of time — a half-day or more — and then write them all at once, in a single block. That way I get into that client’s voice and stay there, making the blogs flow out much easier. It takes energy to get into a groove writing posts for a blog other than your own. (Actually, it takes time for your own blog, too.) This approach saves me tons of time.

If you blog a lot, how do you make it an efficient process? Leave a comment and tell us about your approach.

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Photo via Flickr user ichaz

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GUEST POST: Five New Realities for the Beginning Freelance Writer

A Freelance Writing Business is Not Created by Crossing Your FingersBy John White

The freelance writing life, as my colleague Jim Schott points out, is “a hard way to make an easy living.”

I often quote him because freelance writing does seem like a hard way to make a living (easy or not), especially if you’ve never spent time around people who are in business for themselves. But every day, people cross their fingers and decide to make a go of freelance writing.

If you’re a beginning freelance writer, the way you work is changing. Here are five New Realities for you to consider:

1. You are now in business for yourself, so stop handing out résumés. Your new tools are business cards, an elevator speech (figure out what you write and how to explain it to people in 15 seconds) and a portfolio, whether online or printed.

I get nicked around the ears a lot for proclaiming this New Reality — especially in writing communities where the résumé still has some currency. But in the quest to reinforce the perceptions of colleagues and prospects in your network, nothing says, “I’m in business for myself” quite like a business card, and nothing says, “I’m looking for a job” quite like a résumé. Besides, when somebody at the PTA meeting next month says, “So, how can I find you when I need a writer?” what are you going to pull out of your pocket or purse: A business card or a résumé?

2. Speaking of your network, that’s where the jobs are. The sooner you figure out a way to engage the people in your network consistently and successfully — phone, direct mail, meeting for coffee, e-mail, or on social media — the sooner you and work will find each other.

Keep in mind that you must feed the people in your network two things: Content that helps them, and information about what you’re doing. Nobody cares that you’re available for work right away, but they will care about ways you can help them solve their problems. And sending an occasional note to people in your network is a good way to remind them you’re still in business for yourself. Ask them what they’re looking for so you can keep an eye out for it.

3. You are now responsible for sales, marketing, operations and accounting. That does not mean that you have to do all of them yourself, just be conversant in all of them. Eventually, you can delegate some or all of the details to a partner, spouse or virtual assistant — if you’re a maniac like me, you’ll try to hang on to all of them — but don’t forget that it’s your business, not theirs.

“Fie!” you exclaim, “I just want to get paid for writing all day. I don’t want to waste time with all of that other nonsense.” Sorry, Shakespeare, but somebody in your one-person company needs to send invoices, chase money, back up the hard drive, pay bills, find prospects, close business, read contracts, upgrade your computer…in addition to writing all day.

4. Your workday will feel strange. For several months — or maybe a couple of years — especially if you’ve departed a corporate setting. Your ideas about how you spend hours in the workday may change completely.

If you’re outrageously successful, perhaps you’ll find that all of your time is booked and billable and your workday is like Mark Zuckerberg’s. More likely, you may discover downtime that makes your workday more like a Boston terrier’s. Once you’ve started meeting your income needs, you’ll find that the downtime is less unsettling. “Money will come when you are doing the right thing,” wrote Michael Phillips in The Seven Laws of Money — be prepared to wade through some strangeness on the way to that right thing.

5. You will almost certainly have good and bad months. Or good and bad quarters, or good and bad years. This is the way of all living things — We humans fancy ourselves the exception, but the freelancers among us know better. Happiness and security rarely occur together in nature.

Steady paychecks are in your rearview mirror now, so you had better concentrate on cash flow. Aim for six months of buffer in non-retirement savings. Everybody’s mileage varies, but this freelance writer has had to dig uncomfortably deep into his 3- to 6-month buffer only twice in the past 13 years. Sure, it’s a drag not always being able to predict income two or three or six months out, but if you’re flirting with freelance, you’ve probably already worked out that there’s not much more security inside a company than outside of it, right?

So cross your fingers, mull these New Realities over, and decide whether you have the stomach for the freelance writer’s lifestyle. If you try it for a while and still can’t earn enough to keep body and soul together, at least you can say you tried. But I think most veterans will agree in the comments below that the universe yields to the determined psyche.

And that’s the most compelling New Reality of all.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to Make a Living Writing. A special discount offer is coming next week, and I don’t want you to miss it!

photo credit: Meisje van de Sliterij

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10 Writing and Blogging Gurus Who Actually Know Their Stuff

The Writing GurusNobody gets very far as a freelance writer without learning from others. I’ll always be indebted to a handful of great editors I had early on in my career who were willing to take the time to show me how to interview better, write sharper, and develop great story ideas. I’d be nowhere without them.

In this new-media world, there are so many people putting themselves forward as “experts,” it’s boggling. A lot of them are absolutely full of it, too. To sum up a lot, anybody who promises if you buy their book/e-course/video series/what-all that you will make thousands on autopilot…run.

I was watching a Webinar from one very hot blog-monetizing guru the other day, and discovered he advocated doing things that are against American law. You really have to watch out who you annoint as your oracle.

This made me think it’s time to salute the handful of writing and blogging experts who have helped me to earn more each year since I started freelancing again in 2005. I couldn’t possibly elect one as more amazing than another, so they’re listed alphabetically.

These wonderful people all helped me understand and succeed in the world of online content. Full disclosures about the ways they may have personally helped my career are included below…but they each made the list because I believe they are the genuine article. They share generously of their knowledge, much of it given out free. Thanks to all. Know that you’ve made a difference.

  1. Leo Babauta. I love that Leo ends up first in this list, because he was the first thought leader I discovered when I started blogging. I got his free eBook on how he got his first 100,000 subscribers for his Zen Habits blog. I think it’s still the best guidebook to blog-monetizing success out there, at any price. I’m thrilled to be learning even more in Leo’s A-List Blogger Club right now. Leo was a civil servant on Guam when he started blogging — which to me says, if he could turn it into a full-time living, so could you.
  2. Peter Bowerman. I have to thank my writer-friend Sharon Baker for asking me if I was getting Peter’s Well-Fed Writer email newsletter. I wasn’t. But once I started, he lit a fire under me that adding some copywriting to my writing mix would raise my income, bring me fun new challenges, and improve my life. I started putting feelers out, and got a $1 billion corporate client for which I wrote hundreds of pages of Web content. My entire family thanks you, Peter, since I took them on an Alaska cruise with the money I made from that unexpected windfall. Now, copywriting is a regular part of my mix, and it’s made a real difference in my income.
  3. Brian Clark. I know people are going to think I put Brian in here just because I’m guesting on Copyblogger now. But I don’t know that he had anything to do with that, really — that was Jon Morrow (see below) and Sonia Simone. I’m including Brian because his post 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer is still my favorite all-time post in the history of blogging. A masterpiece of brevity that inspires me daily.
  4. Nathan Hangen. Successful multitaskers impress me, and Nathan has to be the ultimate example. He started his social-media marketing consultancy while he was deployed in Afghanistan. I still find myself frequently giving out one of the key pieces of blogging advice he gives in my eBook: Don’t give up before it pays off.
  5. Mary Jaksch. Leo’s right-hand woman at Write to Done and A-List Blogger Club partner is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever encountered. She lives in New Zealand and is a Zen Master — one who writes arresting copy like “Prepare to make a shi#)!load of cash.” She’s frank, funny, and utterly unique. Her free training video about how her blog Goodlife Zen sucked when she first started it, and how she fixed it and became a financially independent blogger, is amazing. I started changing my site immediately after viewing.
  6. Chris Marlow. A free teleclass I took from Chris about earning from blogging and social media a year or two back truly changed my life. I had never considered going after this sort of business…until Chris told me her study data showed $300 an hour was the typical rate! I would never have ended up earning up to $5,000 a month from blogging and social-media work without her insight.
  7. Jon Morrow. If it hasn’t been said by someone already, let me be the first to call Jon Morrow the Stephen Hawking of blogging. Truly brilliant writer operating in a supremely uncooperative body. I do not include him here because he found and read me on Twitter and asked me to write my first Copyblogger post. He’s here because if you want to understand exactly how $1 million bloggers got where they are and how you can do it too, there’s no more concise way to find out than through his stylish videos on GuestBlogging.com. I’ve been using his tips like mad the past few months, and I’m here to tell you, they work.
  8. Darren Rowse. I’d heard about Darren for ages, and read ProBlogger, but he’s really on here for the guest trainings he’s done for A-List Blogger Club. Yes, he retweeted me Friday and sent so many people over it made my site crash…but he’s here because I appreciate the detailed advice he’s sharing about how blogging and social media really work.
  9. Michael Stelzner. This is the man who taught me about white papers and what a great earning opportunity — and fun format to write — they are. Sure glad I read up, as I ended up with an opportunity to write a $5,000 white paper for a Fortune 500 company not long afterwards, and recently stumbled onto a $3,000 white-paper opportunity. These days, I often find myself on his new Social Media Examiner site, taking in terrific free information on how to hack your way through the social-media jungle.
  10. The Wealthy Freelancer team – Ed Gandia, Pete Savage & Steve Slaunwhite. Most newsletters I get, sometimes I read them and sometimes I don’t. The Wealthy Freelancer newsletter is the one I read every time, and usually forward to the writers I’m mentoring as well, to make sure they’re getting it. This trio never fails to shed some new insight into how to earn more. I also loved the training course Pete Savage once did on how he found $64,000 of new business off one direct-mail campaign.

Who’s your guru? I’d love to hear about other new-media thinkers who have inspired readers of this blog. Leave a comment and tell us about who you’ve been learning from below.

Photo via Flickr user wonderlane

Disclosure: I proudly recommend all the books and products mentioned above. If you click on their links, in some cases I will get a commission.

How I Make $5,000 a Month as a Paid Blogger

How I make $5,000 a Month as a Paid BloggerOver the past couple of years, I’ve seen the amount of income I make from blogging grow steadily. Some months now, it’s half my income. That can mean $5,000 a month or more from blogging.

How did I build a lucrative business as a paid blogger? Here’s how it worked for me.

  1. Start my own blog, which became Make a Living Writing.
  2. Promote my blog on Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep building my audience and learning about what makes a great blog post.
  3. Ask existing clients if they need a blogger, using my own blog as a sample.  Entrepreneur magazine says yes.
  4. I become their anchor blogger, posting three times a week. This was summer 2009.
  5. Many small businesses approach me after seeing my Entrepreneur posts and ask me to blog for them as well.

I thought it would be enlightening to give those interested in earning from blog-writing fees a look at what it takes to earn a decent living as a paid blogger. The short answer is: Be able to write a lot of very powerful, well-linked, properly formatted, well-researched, short blogs. Never run out of story ideas.

Learn as much about the technical end of blogging as you can, so  you can show clients you know the ropes. At this point, I’ve used WordPress, Blogger, Movable Type, you name it.

Then, pitch high-traffic sites and try to get on as a regular, paid blogger. From there, if you’re writing well, other clients who need help from a professional blogger will begin to find you. If you can understand what they need to say and the audience they are trying to reach, you can grow your stable of blogging clients.

Here’s a breakdown of my blogging activity for a typical recent month. Without breaking any confidences by telling you what any specific client pays, here is the amount of blogging I do for paid clients in a month:

  • 12 posts a month for Entrepreneur under my byline
  • 22 or so posts a month for BNET under my byline
  • 4 posts a month for a small-business-finance client, half-ghosted, half my byline
  • 4 existing blog posts rewritten for the same client, to conform to good blogging style, add images, links, etc.
  • 4 posts a month for another small-business-finance client – ghosted for business owner
  • 12 posts a month for a collaboration-software startup, mostly ghosted for their team.

Total blog posts: 58

Total pay: $5,100

Gawd, I’m tired just looking at that blog total! No idea how I do it. This figure, of course, doesn’t count the posts about writing I create for this blog…so you can add another 8-10 posts a month there. To sum up, I’m a blogging fool these days!

My point in showing you this is that even at decent rates, blogging is a grind. You have to create a lot of blogs to earn well. A background filing on daily deadlines is definitely a plus.

My other point is to say, don’t blog for $10 a post. There are living-wage blogging jobs out there. Anywhere a company or publication needs to talk to a specialized audience, there’s an opportunity. Blogging really can pay the bills.

Yes, this isn’t that moonshot way of earning that so many are dreaming of, where you monetize your own blog and make six figures on autopilot. This is an everyday, working-class sort of way to earn from blogging. Simply helping publications and companies communicate powerfully with their readers and customers.

While I really love writing long features, I’ve also kind of fallen in love with blog format. It’s short, sassy, fun, and connected. Guess that’s why I’ve ended up doing so much blog work lately.

How to be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger



Photo via Flickr user Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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How to Get the Most Lucrative Writing Clients, Part II: 5 Ways to Connect

Get Linked to The Best Freelance Writing ClientsLast week, I discussed how to identify really great-paying clients. Now that we know the shape of the elephant, let’s discuss how to locate and bag that big game.

Here are some of the techniques I’ve used in the past year to connect with clients that pay $1-$2 a word, $100 an hour, and more:

1. SEO your Web site. If you are not yet aware, let me spell it out: Google is the phone book of the 21st Century. Are you easily findable in it? I got both a Fortune 500 company and a well-funded startup as clients recently through the clients’ Google searches for a writer, simply because I’ve worked hard on my SEO for “Seattle freelance writer” and “Seattle freelance copywriter.” You can find out more about how I got to the top of page-one results for those searches here. I believe SEO for your writer site is only going to get more important from here.

2. Work your LinkedIn profile. If Google is the phone book, LinkedIn is the specialty business-only phone book. Really pay attention to what you’ve got in your profile on LI. Make sure it’s complete and has a nice photo of you.

Is it up to date? Does it link to your writer site? Your blog? Your hottest recent article? Do you belong to relevant groups? Update your status frequently with news of projects you’re working on and sources you need, so it creates a thread of relevant information. Be sure to add new client companies and publications to your status.

Most importantly, look at how you describe yourself, and add every relevant word a prospect might search on to locate you. Play around with your “professional headline” so it includes your keywords. I just updated mine (I just noticed it tends to pick up your most recent freelance gig and make it the headline) to say “freelance writer, blogger, copywriter, and writing mentor.” Those might not be the exact words you want — but think about it and experiment with your descriptors.

I got my second new Fortune 500 client this year from my LinkedIn profile. The editor of their company newsletters went poking around on there, looking for a local pro writer. They needed a couple of executive profiles done in a huge rush. I made a quick $1,200 doing utterly enjoyable articles, and found out they’re looking for a writer to put on contract for 2011. Now I’m in a great position to go after a long-term contract with them. Worth a few minutes of buffing up that LI profile, I think.

3. Network in a better place. When I first started networking, I went to events in my small town. I met many small-business owners there. I got some nibbles and did a little work that way, but found smaller businesses were just as much of a pain as large ones, but paid less.

So I switched to networking at events in downtown Seattle. Presto! Totally different type and size of business trolling over there. I met editors that pay well, from companies both in the Fortune 500 and smaller ones, too. Know the type of client you want, and if you’re not finding them where you’re hanging out now, try some other in-person networking events until you find the pool you want to swim in.

4. Follow the trail. It pays to know who owns a site. Sometimes, a seemingly rinky-dink place can turn out to be the new URL for a major corporation or Web portal that offers really great pay. I just got two $1-a-word article assignments from an insurance Web site that turned out to be owned by one of the biggest finance sites on the Internet. Now, I have several good-paying Web sites that might assign me, all from making this first connection.

5. Read online job ads carefully. It’s weird, but every once in a while, one of these major publications or corporations just puts out a Craislist ad. Which I hate because it means I have to keep scanning job ads now and then…but there you have it.

In the past month, I started with a $1 a word client I connected with by responding to their online ad. They didn’t mention rates in the ad, but it was a fully fleshed-out ad with links to their Web site, and it was in a specialized niche. I have to admit I think of this one as sort of a moonshot…but it does happen.

How do you connect with your most lucrative clients? Feel free to add more strategies in the comments below.

Want to learn more about how to market your writing? Subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s big announcement about an exciting opportunity to really ramp up your marketing — fast.

Photo via Flickr user John-Morgan

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20 Different Post Types to Spice Up Your Blog

Add Some Spice to Your BlogIf your blog isn’t getting the results you want, it may be because your blog writing has fallen into a rut. As a reader of many blogs, I find they can get dull when the writer sticks to one type of blog rather than providing some variety.
If you need ideas on how to vary your blog posts, here’s a handy list of 20 different types of blogs:
  1. How-to. One of the most popular blog types around. Teach people how to do something, and they will love you for it.
  2. News tie-in. Does something in the news tie into your blog theme? If an item such as Russian bears digging up corpses, the winner of Project Runway, or the election results could in some way reflect on what you blog about, use it as an intro. You’ll give readers an easily accessible entry point for your blog.
  3. Pop-culture tie-in. Is something going on in your industry in some way like, oh, say, Lady Gaga? Bring her into it, and you’ve got an easy, fun image idea that’ll draw readers’ eyes. For instance, see this post I did recently for Entrepreneur magazine’s Daily Dose blog on What You Can Learn About Entrepreneurship from SpongeBob Squarepants.
  4. Roundup. Have you noticed several interrelated developments in your niche? Wrap them together into a roundup and tell readers what it all means.
  5. Humorous post. I am a sucker for blog posts that make me laugh. If you can write funny, don’t hide it under a bushel.
  6. List of tips. The longer your list, the better. This is sort of a variant on how-to, but delivered in a more SEO-friendly package.
  7. Have a contest. Ideally, with a nice prize attached.
  8. Take a poll. Readers love to weigh in when they know you actually care about their opinion.
  9. Q&A interviews. If there’s a thought leader you’d like to learn from, invite them for a quick interview on your blog. You won’t know if they’d be willing unless you ask.
  10. Review a product, service or book. I know bloggers who are making great money writing reviews of products they use and love and then offering an affiliate link. Something I’m just starting to explore myself. Never hurts to include some blog posts of this type, especially if something new or much-talked-about has just come out.
  11. Create a controversy. Do you have an opinion that’s at odds with the view voiced by a popular blogger in your niche? Invite them to debate it on your blog, or just riff about it and link to their opposing opinion.
  12. Ask a question. Don’t know what to write about this week? Perplexed by something going on in your niche? Ask readers what they think about it.
  13. Future forecast. Go out on a limb and make a prediction about what you think will happen next in your niche. Everybody wants to know what’s coming.
  14. Past in review. Have you hit an interesting industry milestone? Maybe it’s time to look back on the first decade of something, or the pioneers and where they are now.
  15. Conference writeup. Any time you attend an event that was worthwhile, share some learnings.
  16. Multi-part series. If you have an idea that would do better as a longer piece, break it up and create a series. Keeps readers coming back for more.
  17. Resource list. If you know the 10 or 20 best places for people in your industry to find or do something — or maybe the 10 best ways to use a particular resource — please share.
  18. Mailbag. Blog readers love it when you answer their questions.
  19. Best-of collections. What were the 10 most popular posts you had on your blog in the past year? Or the best posts you saw online this week? Please provide, as we’re all lazy and appreciate the convenience of your compiling things for us.
  20. Rant. Are you mad about something? Then don’t be shy. This type doesn’t work for every blog or every writer, but some do quite well by blowing a fuse about what really pisses them off.

Have I forgotten any great types of blog posts? If so, please add them to the comments below.

Coming up later this week on the blog: Part II of How to Get the Most Lucrative Writing Clients. If you subscribe, you won’t miss it.

Photo via Flickr user koadmonkee

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