A freelance blogger is hired to write blog posts, right?
The job title makes it sound that simple, but it’s rare that your client really just expects you to line up some words and stop there.
Formatting text and finding photos is almost always part of the workload. It’s pretty common for a blogger’s work to include some SEO and other tasks to make sure that the finished blog post is a polished product, ready for readers.
But some blog editors expect work after a post has been published. That post-publication work can include responding to comments and promoting your work on social media (including on your own posts).
Set reasonable expectations
I’ve run into freelance bloggers in the past who have categorically refused to do anything with their posts after that work has been published (aside from adding the pieces to their portfolios). But those bloggers are getting fewer and farther between.
The reality is that editors routinely expect more effort post-publication. Freelancers who can’t (or won’t) offer that help have a harder time landing long-term gigs.
Just because editors expect plenty of help with social media and comments, however, doesn’t mean that a freelance blogger should just hop on board without asking for more details. Getting a deeper understanding of a client’s expectations is vital — not only to ensure that the client in question is happy with your work, but so that you don’t feel like you’ve been asked to take on too much work for too little payment.
Just like every other part of a freelance contract, the payment for post-publication work is negotiable. So negotiate until you’re happy with your contract.
Comments trump other follow-up work
Shulman expects that bloggers be active in the comment threads related to their posts. She sees it as a higher priority than social media shares:
While I want contributors to share and don’t understand why they wouldn’t, it’s not a deal breaker. Not responding to comments is. I’m unlikely to work with a writer who doesn’t respond to comments on his/her own post.
Responding to comments doesn’t seem too unreasonable when you realize that readers may have questions that only the blogger who put together the post — or perhaps the sources interviewed for that post — can answer. It’s rare that an editor has the time to sort through comments and check with each individual writer for responses to those sorts of questions. Having freelance bloggers respond to comments on the posts they’ve written is the most sensible way to manage the comment process.
For a freelancer, the main sticking point for handling comments is often more a question of money than anything else. Most bloggers are willing enough to handle at least some comments, because most of us are interested in seeing how readers respond to what we’ve written. But a site with very active commenters (or enough traffic to attract comment spam) can require a serious time commitment to keep up with.
Before you agree to handle the comments on your post as part of your blogging duties, take a look at what’s happening below recent posts on the site:
- How in-depth are the comment threads? How many layers deep of replies do you see?
- Do the comment threads stay on topic? Do commenters need a moderator to stay relevant?
- Is there a lot of spam that isn’t automatically removed? (This last one can be harder to track, so you may need to ask about it.)
- What commenting system does the site use? Is it one that at least will notify you of new comments?
There’s no guarantee that your post won’t spark more comments than usual, of course. But if you get a sense that managing comments won’t be too difficult, you may be willing to just include it in the fee that the editor is already offering. Conversely, if the comment streams seem particularly busy, you might want to bump up the numbers to cover another hour or two of your time.
It’s worth noting that there are some subjects and industries where taking part in a comment thread is tougher than in others — especially if you’re different from the typical blogger in that niche. When I first started out writing on productivity and technology blogs, I routinely received comments attacking my work on the basis of my gender. That sort of thing can put a blogger off writing for any site where she doesn’t control the comments — if not put her off writing online entirely.
If you notice that sort of problem on a site you’re considering blogging for, it’s not unreasonable to ask for help. Most blogging platforms have the option of turning off comments on a post entirely; someone else can go through and eliminate problem comments before you start responding, or an editor can take other action.
Social media promotion gets stickier
Exactly what level of social media promotion makes sense to wrap up in your price for a blog post is a stickier question. Promoting a single post can be like going down a rabbit hole — there’s always more sites you can submit a link to or more bloggers who you can email about the post.
Setting limits is crucial for a freelance blogger who needs to get on to writing the next post. Start by asking the editors you want to work with about their specific expectations. Are they looking for a certain level of traffic or just an acknowledgement of the post on the social media accounts you already maintain?
Shulman doesn’t expect any particular level of followers or social media presence from the bloggers she works with. But she does expect that they’ll share their work:
“I say outright that once their work has been published, they should share on social media. This is particularly important with Cloudhead as we use social media to connect students with artists, photographers and writers internationally. Often our contributors are also volunteers, and social media allows them to keep in touch not only with our students and community but continues their support of our work.”
The level of writing a blogger turns in is definitely a priority for her, but once a post goes live, Shulman notifies writers that their posts are live and asks them to share the piece.
Some editors purposely seek out freelance bloggers who write regularly about specific topics and have a social media following interested in those topics.
If you’ve gone to the effort of building up that sort of presence — if you’ve made that sort of investment in your blogging career — an editor will see you as a more effective freelancer. But it’s worth remembering that since you’re bringing assets to the table, you deserve a higher price for your blog posts. If an editor hires you as much for your network as your writing ability, your price per post should reflect that reality.
It’s been my experience that editors who are more concerned with the traffic I can bring to their blogs than just the posts that I can produce will often ask me to write about topics that may not match up with the rest of my work. Whether it’s because they want posts that are optimized more for search engines than human readers, or they ask me to defend an opinion I don’t agree with, there have been times that I’m less than thrilled about heavily promoting a post I’ve been asked to write.
One of the reasons I’ve been able to build up followers on different social networks is because I try to share good articles and posts with them, so I want to avoid putting anything out there that I’m not proud to share. As a result, I’ll spend more time negotiating about topics and related details when an editor specifically wants me to provide heavy promotion of my posts. Never forget that when an editor asks you to do some additional work, you automatically have more room to negotiate.
Negotiate your terms clearly
As a freelancer, every part of your arrangement with clients and editors is negotiable — including what work you take on after your post has actually been published.
It may not be practical to negotiate the specifics of how much commenting or social media promotion you’ll do for each individual post you write, but you should at least be aware of what each editor expects and what is the maximum amount of work you’re willing to take on in addition to actually blogging.
Even just writing up what you’re willing to do, in addition to writing, for your standard per post rate can help you clarify what you’re willing to take on. It also lets you tell at a glance if you’re going to need to ask an editor for a higher payment once you see his expectations.
If you’ve been struggling with raising your rates, consider writing down everything you might be expected to do when producing a new blog post (and after). You may quickly realize that you could spend hours on a single post, in addition to the time you spend writing, if an editor requests help with things like social media promotion — this can be a much needed wake up call to raise your per post rates! Writing it all down will also help you see clearly what you’re willing to do for a client at your existing rates.
Personally, I make a point of noting exactly what I will include with my standard rates when I prepare a proposal:
- How much time I’ll spend in the comment threads
- How much promotion I’m willing to do on my own social media accounts
- What other promotion I’m able to do as a matter of course
I also include rates for doing more. If an editor needs me to invest a few hours in promoting a given blog post, that isn’t a problem — but I do need to be compensated for that time.
Some clients may balk at those additional rates. In such cases, you should decide how much landing that particular project is worth to you. If you have to absorb the cost of doing post-publication work, that blogging gig may be a bad deal.
You can make your case more effectively by having some numbers on hand that show the usefulness of your work: how much further you can push a post, based on the numbers of followers you have on a given network, for instance. If you can point to specific examples of how you’ve helped past clients, so much the better.
At the end of the day, post-publication tasks like promoting a post on social media and moderating comment threads are important to ensuring your clients get the full impact of the posts you write for them.
Such tasks are real work, however, and you deserve to be paid for the time you spend on them — even if you simply raise your rate per post to cover your time.
Now, Sophie and I would love to hear from you: how do you handle comments and social media sharing for your posts on your clients’ blogs?