How’s this year looking for you so far?
Do you know what you’re doing and how you’ll grow your freelance blogging business in 2015?
It’s OK if you don’t.
It’s awesome if you do know, but it’s totally OK if you don’t.
I just agreed to get married this year, so I don’t know exactly what I’m doing in 2015 except that it now includes a wedding and a honeymoon. None of that was in my “goals for 2015” list at the end of 2014!
You don’t need to know exactly where you’re headed right now to make this year a success. And in a moment, I’m going to offer you a fat prize that will make 2015 your take-off year.
First, let’s recap where we are and what’s been going on. This is our starting point for a shiny future.
A brief history of paid blogging
1994-ish to 2000-ish: Diarists went digital
Nobody was getting paid in the dawn of blogging. You had a few internet explorers posting their online diaries, and by the end of the millennium blogging software made it easy for anyone to start a blog using platforms like LiveJournal or Blogger. But blogging was a personal thing rather than a marketing tactic, and everybody’s budget was pretty much zero.
2001-ish to 2006-ish: Hello, bloggers
Blogs and bloggers started to get noticed for citizen journalism, political commentary and collections of helpful advice on topics like parenting, money saving or DIY. Some personal bloggers attracted ever-growing audiences simply by being 100% honest (and often slightly nuts). Advertisers and PR people soon viewed blogs as a rising opportunity for brands to get their messages in front of those audiences.
Traditional journalists split into two camps: blogging was either a new medium for serious journalism, or an abomination allowing biased reporting and self-obsessed drivel from any scoundrel with an internet connection. Newspapers added blogs or syndicated blog feeds to their ever-expanding websites, and WordPress made blogging easier with user-friendly content management, design themes and plugins.
2007 to 2009: Online audience attraction
Smart bloggers successfully monetised their blogs. Many other bloggers tried to earn an income from blogging and failed miserably, bringing in a few dollars a year through affiliate advertising agreements with Google or Amazon.
A few writers were hired specifically to blog by businesses that were ahead of the curve, but most of my work was for clients who called it website content or online article writing. They often wanted 10 or 20 articles to keep in a resource library, undated and organised by category. It was early content marketing, and I made roughly 10 cents a word in my first couple of jobs.
2010: Businesses got blogging
Business leaders thought Seth Godin was Internet God. Suddenly every business had a blog, or wanted one.
Everyone published frequent short articles with dates on, most recent first on the index page. They often called it their News section, and the articles ranged from salesy puffery to how-to tips and updates about what the company was doing. A lot of them were written by staff members with no blogging skills or training. Some corporate blogs were brilliant; others were terrible. I earned $50-$150 per post writing for them.
2011: Content was cheap (or not)
Then people got worried that a dated blog post might look, well, dated if someone came to it a year after publication. So they hid the dates on posts, but continued organising them by date on the index page.
300 words didn’t seem like enough to fit in all those keywords the SEOs wanted, so the “ideal” post length went up to 500 words. Lots of people got hired through crappy places like Textbroker to provide 500 words of keyword stuffing for $5 a shot. Google got annoyed with all the low-quality filler content, and launched the first Panda algorithm update. Meanwhile, blogs that understood the point of content marketing were making money and hiring bloggers at $100+ per post.
2012: Penguins and pandas ruled
Google smacked the SEO situation repeatedly and the value of blogging went through the floor — or through the roof, depending who you ask. 😉
Those who failed, failed hard. Those who’d always published informative, relevant, decently written posts barely noticed the changes, except that some low-budget companies dropped out and were replaced by higher-budget newcomers. Black hat SEOs hid in a corner, rocking and twitching, mumbling animal names.
2013: Be a Freelance Blogger was born
When I started this blog, “freelance blogger” was a relatively unknown job description, but I’d been making a good living at it for a few years. Blogging paid $3 to $300+ per 500 word post, according to the data from my 2013 reader survey.
Some writers saw a difference between “blog post” and “article” format, but businesses hiring online content writers often used the terms interchangeably. Most paid blog posts were based on use cases, tutorials or tips.
Posts could be as short as 300 words, or as long as 2,000+ words to please the SEOs’ new guidelines. But a blog post could be a video or an infographic instead. And a piece of 2,000+ words might be published as an e-book, white paper, or whatever. In short, we entered Tower-of-Babel territory when it came to categorizing content formats.
2014: Guest blogging was dead (or not)
At last, business websites caught up with their mobile-loving audiences and switched to responsive website design. Ghost blogging was on the rise as more and more business leaders saw a need to be thought leaders online. Guest blogging for SEO was over; guest blogging for fun and traffic was still cool. Google Authorship died for realz.
Readers and Google both liked long, in-depth written articles on websites, so many companies allocated more budget to getting them written. I saw bloggers earning anything from $30 to $1500 for a blog post of 1500 to 3000 words, with higher rates for posts that include original quotes, screenshots, data visualisations or video.
2015: The future of freelance blogging
Your client doesn’t have to be a big corporation to have a big blogging budget. Small businesses set aside surprisingly large amounts of money for top quality blog posts (which they may or may not call “articles”, “content” or even “copy”). Content marketing is the norm, so the priority is to thrill and inform website visitors.
Online audience attraction, again
Now that blogging is something everybody does, it’s stopped being cool. And when mom’s a blogger, teenagers look for something else to do — the next generation of humans will use the next generation of communication platforms.
But as long as the internet exists and there are words on it, people will blog. People will read blogs. They may be micro-blogs on Twitter, they may be one-view-only blogs on Snapchat, they may be long tutorials or single quotes. They may be called article libraries, online magazines, news feeds or whatever. Doesn’t matter.
Where there’s an audience, there’s an opportunity. Businesses will be interested. But attracting and growing an audience takes honesty, empathy and effort. And some companies will need help with that, at a wide range of budgets, so there’ll still be clients for freelance bloggers at a wide range of rates.
Win exclusive freelance blogger training
I want you to succeed as a freelance blogger.
I want this to happen for you so much, I might come back in a while and post a video here of me jumping up and down giving you the double thumbs-up. Yep, that much.
To give you every chance of success, I’ve already created two training programs that walk you through getting started and finding high-paying clients. But those training courses are closed right now, because I’ve been updating them both for 2015.
Before I re-open the training programs to new students, I’m going to celebrate Be a Freelance Blogger’s 2nd birthday on January 15th.
And I’ll celebrate it by giving away what we’ve been calling a “Be a Freelance Blogger scholarship” — one BAFB reader will win a free place in both the training programs, with personalised feedback and support.
For your chance to win this BAFB scholarship, write a short post or personal essay (250-300 words) on your reasons for becoming a freelance blogger, how your career’s going so far, and what advice you can share to help other freelance bloggers succeed.
The deadline for submissions is the end of January 11th.
We’ll announce the scholarship winner on January 15th and publish their winning post as part of Be a Freelance Blogger’s birthday celebrations.
YOU MUST CLICK HERE to submit your entry. If you post your entry as a comment on this blog post, it won’t go to the right place and it won’t count.
Feel free to drop a comment below and let us know if you’ve entered or plan to enter the contest. We’re won’t read all the entries until after the deadline, so it’ll be nice to get a few clues about who’s up for the challenge!