People ask me how to make a living writing blog posts all the time. There are several ways to go about it, so I’ll tell you how I got started as a freelance writer and what I’ve seen others do. But first, let me tell you about what life as a freelance writer is like.
Fair warning, I love my job and it’s almost all good. But there are a few drawbacks and lots to learn.
Pro: Full-time income for part-time work. My monthly income averages about $4k, which is pretty close to $50k per year. My average commission is $250 to $400 per post, depending on length and topic. If a post is really long, I charge more, if it’s short and easy, I may charge less.
Con: Freelance income is inconsistent. In 2020, my income dropped to less than half because retail clients lost business and cut back on marketing. Some years, I’ve made upwards of $75k. Many writers have a hard time making enough money.
Pro: I have almost no expenses other than buying a new laptop every few years. My current laptop is 3 years old, and I’m considering trading up to a faster, more powerful model. Writers need a lot of active memory because we always have 37 windows and 4 programs open.
I need no wardrobe, no office supplies, and have no commute.
Con: You do need a good computer and a really good office chair. I alternate between an expensive ergonomic manager’s chair (well-padded) and a recliner. I like to move around since I sit for a long time. I use a lightweight rolling desk with a height adjustment. The biggest drawback is that I have little to write off on my taxes.
Pro: Lots of writers write on a schedule. They get out of bed, exercise, shower, and sit down to write from 9 to 2, like a real job. I don’t. I write when I feel like writing and don’t when I don’t. On average I write 4 – 5 hours per day and take 2 or 3 days off per week.
Con: Sometimes I’m super busy, and sometimes my clients send me a ton of work at once and I wind up writing like a madwoman for a couple of weeks and doing nothing for half the month. Freelancing is not for wussies. Deadlines can be insane.
Pro: I take my work everywhere. I’ll be in a beach hotel next week, and I’ll write from there because I do some of my best work when I’m relaxed and well-rested. I can work from wherever I am, so I travel wherever I want to.
Con: There’s always work, and I always want to do it. So I never really take a holiday. I just take my work poolside and sip Rum Runners while I write. It’s hard to call that a con, though. I call that living the dream.
Pro: One of the things I like most is being able to turn down work that doesn’t suit me. If a potential customer tries to convince me that they can get premium content done cheaper or that my writing isn’t worth what I ask for, I say no. And I will never again consider working with that company. People who do not value your worth will be problem customers. I’ll negotiate, just not with people who do not respect my work. My best income advice is this: learn to say no.
Cons: It can be tempting to accept any job when times are lean. It’s not always easy to stick to your guns.
Most professional bloggers aren’t just writing random topics. They identify trending topics and keywords, optimize for SEO, and shoot for eye-catching headlines. I use these tools every day:
Tricky question; the answer is yes and no. The only thing that really matters is whether you write well. In this business, talent trumps both experience and education. That said, if you have a good education, you have the basic skills, and as you gain experience, your writing gets better.
Talented web writers understand how to craft the right voice for their target audience. Even business blogging is about developing a personality that helps you connect with the audience. Most businesses and blogs are written in a flowing conversational style that occasionally bends the rules of grammar or includes a colloquialism to emphasize a point. Little nuggets of personable style go a long way.
The truth is that talent can’t be taught. You can learn good grammar, you can learn to identify and mimic the client’s voice, and you can learn to write in the language your audience is comfortable reading. But you cannot learn creativity and no one can teach you to be a good writer who can come up with good ideas.
No matter what kind of blogging you choose, you are bound only by your own imagination…as long as you start with good writing skills. A lot of people think they want to be a blogger because it seems like easy money, and they ask for help in poor English. Nope. Can’t help you if you can’t put together a coherent sentence.
There are all kinds of bloggers, and they make money in a lot of different ways. Let’s go through the different ways you can make money blogging.
Professional blogger Lucinda Honeycutt’s website
I am a business blogger, which is essentially content marketing or inbound marketing. Businesses pay me to write quality content for their sites based on keyword research. There is a steep learning curve for beginner bloggers to make the kind of money a professional blogger pulls in. Over the years, I’ve developed a wide skill set that includes AP style, graphics, impeccable grammar, original ideas, an understanding of keywords and semantic search, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Most professional bloggers have a website set up with a price list for writing services, like Lucinda’s. I do not. I have only my LinkedIn profile, which I update now and then with byline posts. Byline is when you’re identified as the author. Most of my writing is anonymous. I stay busy most of the time, so I never felt the need to set up a website.
Industry secret: some of the big niche bloggers I talk about later hire people like me to write for them. Plenty of thought leaders posting on magazines like Forbes and Inc use ghostwriters, too.
Note: I have an ongoing discussion with a friend about whether it’s better to write a lot of easy, cheap content like she does or big, complicated thought pieces that pay a lot more. It’s possible to make the same money either way and easier to find cheap, easy jobs. If you type really fast, it might be the right route for you. There’s a never-ending need for things like product descriptions or simple blog posts for local businesses.
Most writers cruise the job boards to find gigs. Sites like Problogger, Copyblogger, Clearvoice, Upwork, and LinkedIn are good places to start.
However, it’s less work to develop your skills and post on public sites so people will find you. Until you break into a big publisher, try writing articles on LinkedIn or Medium. If you can make a name for yourself, business will come to you.
Most of my clients are either marketing/SEO companies or business owners. I usually have 3 – 4 clients at a time, and often write for them for many years.
A niche blog is a personal blog about a specific topic, usually written with a first-person point of view. Popular blogs encompass all kinds of interests. Write about what you love. Your blogging journey might start with a mom blog or parenting magazine, a travel blog, a fitness or health blog, or a blog about shopping, fashion, tech, gaming, or anything you can think up.
There are hundreds of thousands of wildly successful blogs online. In the travel space, some of the most popular blogs are very specific: The Points Guy started as a blog about airline points that was started by a blogger just like you and me. In less than 10 years, it grew into a big business.
TheTinyLife.com is an impressive niche blogging site about living in a tiny house
When you start a blog, you have to approach it like starting a business. You’re going to pour in money and time and not make money in the beginning unless you have a built-in audience begging for your content (which is rare). Be prepared to crank out tons of quality articles and get very few readers.
Once they gain a significant target audience, smart niche bloggers make money with multiple income streams. Here are a few common revenue streams:
Ask for and listen to feedback. Your blog audience will let you know what they like and what they want more of. Most successful bloggers put in a lot of research to deliver long, detailed blog content.
While I would not depend on random article submissions for a steady living, lots of places pay writers to submit content and bylines are damn good exposure. You can often link to your blog in your bio.
Here are 12 publishers that pay very well:
The Sun Magazine -$100 to $2,500 per piece, depending on type of content.
AARP Magazine – $1/word with an average submission of 1,500 words.
Discover Magazine – $1/word for print, average pay rate of $300 for web stories.
Popular Mechanics – They no longer have submission rates published on their site, but writers report that they pay $300 – $1,000 per piece.
Make a Living Writing – $75 – $100 per piece, depending on length (also an amazing resource for writers. While you’re there, check it out!)
Copyhackers – $300 – $1,000 per piece, depending on length. (more great writer resources)
Smithsonian Magazine – $1 – $3/word depending on length.
Eating Well – up to $1/word depending on subject.
United Hemispheres – In-flight magazine. Pays $750 – $1,000 as reported by writers.
Los Angeles Times – $75 – $750 depending on the type of story, length, and where it is published.
National Geographic Kids – $1/word as reported by writers.
International Living – $225 for 900 words and $350 for 1,600 words.
The list of publishers that pay for submissions is long, but it’s not always easy to find information.
Good luck! Blogging is a great career, but it’s not for everybody, and it’s not nearly as easy as it may seem. It takes dedication and work. For bloggers who stick it out, it can be a lucrative and satisfying career.
For Bloggersby Sherry Gray July 18, 2021