That helpless feeling… it’s horrible, isn’t it?
You know you were born to be a freelance blogger. It’s the perfect fit for you. But so far, you’re kinda going nowhere with it.
You haven’t won the high-paying jobs you hoped would be yours, and you haven’t been invited to join that inner circle of pro bloggers who all seem to know each other.
You check a handful of online job boards regularly, but there aren’t many ads that sound right for you. And when you do apply for gigs, you often don’t hear back from them at all.
How are you supposed to make money at this when there’s no work available?
Oh, it’s available all right.
While you’re waiting for a miracle job to materialise, some other blogger is getting rich on projects that could have been yours. Why? Because you haven’t taken charge of your own career yet.
It really is that simple.
If you want to climb the freelance blogging career ladder, you need to step up and make it happen. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think! Start with these 7 simple ways to take your business into your own hands and win the rewards you deserve.
1: Go where the good jobs are
Blogging job ads are easy to find. They’re on classified ad sites, freelance broker sites, professional social networks, and niche websites like ProBlogger.
There are lots of reasons why those job ads might not be your best bet: they don’t always give enough detail, and the pay is often lower than you’d like. But you know what the biggest problem is with all those ads? They’re scattered. You can waste the whole day looking them all up.
Here’s the secret: just stop doing it. Find a couple of places that only list ads for good freelance blogging jobs that pay a fair rate, and stop chasing the rest.
Where are these havens of high-paying work opportunities?
There’s one right here: The Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs is free, and gives you the details of blogs that pay $50 or more per post.
The great thing about the Ultimate List is that these aren’t job ads with an application deadline; they’re open-ended opportunities for paid blogging work, so you can submit a piece to them as often as you like.
Another resource I recommend to any freelance blogger is the Freelance Writers Den [affiliate link], a members-only website with a “junk-free job board” that lists high-quality freelance writing job leads every week. The Den also gives you lots of training, friendly discussion forums, and expert advice. It’s worth much more than the $25 fee!
Finding a good job opportunity curator isn’t the only way forward, though…
2: Be where the good jobs aren’t (yet)
Every ad you see online has been seen by hundreds or even thousands of other people, too. There are better ways to find freelance blogging work than by scouring job boards and sending out 10 applications a day. This is one of my favourites:
Search the internet for big businesses that are relevant to the topics you want to blog about. Find companies that are making money, that sell a product or service you understand to a market you can empathise with. Then check out their blog.
- If they don’t have a blog, you could drop them a short email and ask if they’ve ever considered it. The only problem with this approach is that 9 times out of 10 they HAVE already considered it — maybe even used to have a blog in the past — and they decided not to blog, for reasons they know and you don’t know. In that case, it might be harder than you expected to convince them to try again.
- If their blog looks neglected or their content is low quality, you could get in touch to let them know you can deliver blog posts that get their readers interested. (As long as they’re willing and able to promote the posts you write for them, they’ll see an improvement in their website traffic and engagement pretty fast.)
- If they have a blog that already rocks, rejoice — this is the best scenario. Don’t assume that because their blog is brilliant, that means they don’t need any other writers! Send a quick email to introduce yourself as a freelance blogger in their field. Hit the right note in this email and the next time they’re hiring, they’ll think of you before they advertise the job to your competitors.
So, about hitting the right note. This is so important, it deserves to be listed as a separate item:
3: Make your application count
Every time you make first contact with a potential client, your approach matters enormously.
Don’t just barge into their inbox with a message like, “I can do this job.”
In the nicest possible way, stalk them first. Look at their website, sign up for their free download or their email updates. When you make contact, let them know what you liked about their stuff so far, and why you’re interested in them rather than some other project.
If your initial message shows that you’ve taken the time to get to know the client blog, it’s much more likely to win their approval. Of course, next you need to show that you’re as good at blogging as you are at email!
4: Supercharge your portfolio
Let’s be clear about this: you need a portfolio. But it doesn’t have to be fancy.
A page on your website giving links to your best freelance blogging work will do. If you can set it up with nice clear titles, descriptions, and screenshots of the live posts, that’s even better.
If you don’t have a website yet, you can easily create a portfolio for free on Contently, or add your blogging clips to your LinkedIn profile (yep, that’s free too).
If you don’t have any published work yet, make some. Write some posts similar to the type of work you’d like to do, and get them posted online. It’s never as difficult as you think – here are just a few ideas:
- Use the Ultimate List to get paid while you build your portfolio.
- Ask relevant blogs you read if they’d accept a guest contribution from you.
- Ask a local business if they’d like a free blog post written by you in exchange for a byline.
- Create your own website or blog to publish your work.
The important thing is that your portfolio must have an objective.
What that objective is will change over time, but a portfolio without an objective is about as useful as a sniper rifle with the sights broken off.
So, what are you aiming at with your portfolio? Who are you aiming at, and what do you want them to do?
My portfolio’s objective is to demonstrate that I’m a longstanding freelance blogger who’s been published on respected sites and gets asked back for repeat posts. It also, semi-incidentally, shows the range of topics I enjoy and my usual writing style.
OK, your turn. Write one sentence that describes your portfolio’s current objective. No semi-colons! 😉 Make it one clean sentence. Post it in the comments box, if you like, and I’ll check it out.
Now all you have to do is put work samples that align with your current objective into your portfolio, and leave out any that aren’t such a good fit.
Your portfolio is one of your biggest weapons in the fight for freelance blogging success, so keep it well-maintained and you’ll always have a supercharged, perfectly targeted job-winning machine to prove your skills to potential clients.
Let’s talk about how you can get them to check you out.
5: Get noticed before you’re needed
It’s one of those little secrets that not everyone likes to admit: all blog editors and clients are biased. Including me.
A few months ago, a client asked me to hire 5 new freelance bloggers, so I posted a recruitment ad and when the applications streamed in, I read through every single one. I was open to hiring anybody with the right skill set and interests, but…
In the end, only 2 of the 5 bloggers I hired were strangers to me. The other 3 were people I knew from previous jobs, social media, or my own circle of friends. See what I’m saying? Totally biased.
So what does this mean for you? Well, the more people know and like you, the more jobs you win. It’s human nature to want to work with people we feel we can trust, and a familiar face stands out from the crowd of unknowns when you’re competing for freelance blogging gigs.
To use this bias to your advantage, start laying the groundwork now.
Use email, blog comments, guest posts or social media to start a conversation with blog editors, marketing managers, and top bloggers in your niche. Make friends, ask no favours, and be your best, most helpful self. You never know who might tip you off about a dream job, or suggest your services to your next client!
6: Buy your way to better blogging contracts
This may shock you, but it’s true: some of the most successful freelance bloggers in the world got their big breaks with cold, hard cash. And you can do the same, even if you’re on a tight budget right now.
Here’s the thing: all bloggers are at least a little bit vain. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be so convinced that our words are worth sharing!
Because we’re vain, we read our blog comments from our audience. We love to get a thoughtful email from a reader. But there’s one thing that gets our attention even faster than a blog comment or an email, and that’s cash being spent on something we created.
[Damn, that makes us sound like capitalist bastards, doesn’t it? Bear with me while I explain how the love of sales springs from our love of you, dear reader…]
See, a lot of pro bloggers create products and services to please you, just like we do our blog posts. We want to help you and earn your appreciation.
So when you choose to pay for something we put out into the world, that shows us that we’re doing good for you. It makes us happy, and it makes us curious to know more about you.
What I’m about to suggest is slightly unorthodox, but it can light a rocket under your freelance blogging career.
Look around at some of the blogs you enjoy and the people you follow. How many of them have created a product or service that you might be interested in, and what kind of value do they offer?
If you can see one or two that stand out to you as particularly useful, set aside some money to buy them! It doesn’t have to be expensive; a $49 online course is a good start, or a $7.99 ebook if you’re on a really tight budget.
Once you’ve got the goods, put in some time to really make full use of them. Then contact the creator to thank them for their creation. Let them know how it worked for you, and add an insightful comment or question.
Now you’ve got their attention. You’ve proved to them that you value their work, and you’ve shown an interest in understanding what they’re all about. What do you think happens next?
Yep, you have a fantastic opportunity to [gently!] tap them for their expert advice, sure. But that’s not all.
If you keep the conversation going and they like what you’re doing, they might choose to share something you’ve written with their friends. Now instead of just one useful contact, you’ve got a dozen influential people who are aware of your existence. And the next time one of them has a blogging project to prepare for, they might just think of you as the freelance blogger to hire.
If that all sounds to “one day it might happen” for you, no problem! There’s an even more direct way to buy your way into better blogging gigs.
Some popular writers and bloggers run their own clubs, training courses, or coaching programs that include exclusive job boards. The Freelance Writers Den [affiliate link] that I mentioned earlier is like that, with their members-only jobs board. Another possibility is Jon Morrow’s “Content Marketing Certification” [affiliate link] which hooks you up with clients ready to hire at $200+ per post after you complete your certification.
Joining something like this involves a bigger investment on your end — but after you get access to those high quality gigs and start earning better rates, you’ll get back more than you paid in.
7: If all else fails…
…then you only have two options: either raise your standards, or lower your expectations. I’d choose to raise my standards.
I’ve watched a few good freelance bloggers fall victim to their own low expectations: you take one crappy job because you need the money. Then another job comes along that pays a little more, so you take that on as well.
Soon you’ve got a handful of clients, but working on these low-paying jobs literally sucks: it sucks your time, it sucks your energy, and it sucks so hard that you struggle to escape from its pull. You’re so busy working these suck-like-hell jobs that you don’t have anything left to invest in finding better blogging gigs.
Then you’re stuck in the Matrix of factory-floor blog content production. Take charge. Take the red pill and break free.
Don’t be afraid to turn down gigs that won’t pay the rent. Whatever rate they’re offering, ask yourself this:
Would I be prepared to work in a filing cabinet for this pay? Would I be prepared to clean bathrooms for this amount?
If you wouldn’t work a crappy job for that rate, then you shouldn’t be blogging for such low pay either.
Raise. Your. Standards.
No matter how awesome you already are, you can raise your standards. Oh, you’re a blogging superhero? I’m sure you’ll find at least one “Superhero to UltraMegaSuperhero” training academy. There’s always more to learn.
You can raise your writing standards. You can raise your pay standards. You can push forward to new levels of marketing skill. Improve your subject knowledge. Learn how to manage your clients better. Become more productive. There’s always a step up, if you want to take it.
It’s up to you.
Do you want it?
Then step on up — it’s your turn to be in charge!