Actually, that title should probably be Blogging for Fun
I have been blogging for 10 years now, which kind of blows my mind but appears to be true. Throughout that time I have been the model of inconsistency. I had a blog where I wrote 10-15 posts a month and then I had a kid and forgot the password to that blog after not using it for a year. Then I started this blog, where I’ve been blogging for five and a half years. Some months I publish a lot (anything close to 10 posts a month is a lot for me) and some months I post once or twice.
In the ten years I’ve been blogging I’ve made exactly $0.00 from my personal blog. I’ve never had sponsored content, never sold an ad, never been part of a blogging network. I don’t say these things to imply that I am virtuous and have never “sold out”. Heavens no. I would totally sell out. It is just that nobody has wanted to buy. The reason for that is terribly simple: I’m just not that popular.
My blog traffic has ranged from 350 views per month to close to 2,000 when I was posting a lot more. These days I average about 30-50 views a day on the days that I post and maybe 20 on the days when I don’t. I am super happy that anyone reads my blog and, in my world, 50 views is a lot. But in the world of making money from a blog, I am nowhere near the range of the big bloggers. I’m so far from the range that I don’t even know what the range is.
I’ve always been curious about the economics of the world of paid blogging and freelance work and in the past I used to look at people who were writing for sites or doing sponsored posts and wonder how it all worked. How did they get those gigs? What kind of money are they making? Can a little fish ever crack into that world?
Then, a few years ago, I saw a big name blogger tweet about a paid writing opportunity with some very specific criteria (be a mom who is a Democrat from Iowa with some blogging experience) that I happened to meet. I followed up on that post and ended up submitting a pitch with links to this blog as well as to some free blogging work I did at another website and ended up getting hired for a short-term campaign. That campaign ended but the editor I worked with liked the work I did and it rolled into another campaign and then another and then another. This month will mark my busiest month ever for paid writing work. I’ve got stuff going to three different editors for three different sites. If everything posts on schedule I should make an amount roughly equal to our mortgage payment. This is huge for me and I am grateful that I have found a niche with an editor who likes my stuff. I’m also aware that the me of three years ago would have all sorts of questions so maybe other people do to. So, here it is, everything I’ve learned about freelancing so far:
1. You have to be on Twitter. I would never have gotten my first, second or third paying gigs if I hadn’t seen tweets about them.
2. You need to have a blog or links to your writing online. While this blog has never generated money, I don’t think I would have gotten the gigs I’ve had without it. This is where potential clients can hear my voice and see what kind of content I produce.
3. The amount of money you can earn varies. Like a lot. A LOT. I’ve written for free, which I know is controversial but I don’t regret it. I was blogging about subjects I enjoyed and it sharpened my voice, I think. That being said, I don’t think I would write for free for anyone else again unless it was a project that I felt really passionately about. In terms of paid jobs, I’ve ranged from $25 for a piece that I loved that never ran because the website folded to $500 for a piece on an academic website. Alas, the $500 is rare and has happened only twice. By the end of this year I think I’ll have earned between $6000-$7000 all together. I’ve found it to be really challenging to find out what the going rates are for places and to determine if I can/should try to negotiate for higher rates. I’m lucky that there is another freelancer who lets me bug her with questions since we work on many of the same campaigns but mostly I’m blind to what others are making.
4. It can be feast or famine. By the end of this month I’ll have written 26 pieces. As of right now I have 4 scheduled for January. Given that I have a full-time job, I’m able to have the financial stability of that paycheck but I’d be lying it I said that I’m not a little bit anxious about how lean January looks.
5. Quality matters, sort of. I know for a fact that there are jobs I don’t get because I’m not a more well-known blogger and that I don’t have more followers on Twitter. I have a contact who loves my writing but is also direct with me that she can’t pitch me for certain things because of how small I am. That being said, good writing of a specific kind (snappy, conversational, funny) is obviously important to generating shares and comments, which is the currency of the realm.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that this whole thing only works if you actively like the act of writing and if you are able to keep yourself organized enough that the invoicing and sourcing photos and all the non-writing pieces don’t overwhelm you.
On a final note, I’ve talked about being a small blogger a lot in this post and I want you, dear reader, to know that I am very grateful to you for taking the time to read here. Even if all the freelance stuff dries up and I never become as great a blogger as, say, the incomparable Swistle (my favorite blogger) I’d still write here and I’d still be glad for your company in this corner of the internet.