The following is adapted from my freelance blogging course, Paid to Blog. If you are interested in making money online, I thoroughly recommend that you check it out. Thanks!
You may wonder why my focus is on freelance blogging specifically, as opposed to freelance writing in general. There are two main reasons:
It is where the bulk of my experience lies
It is an extremely accessible field that offers enormous potential
The reality is that freelance blogging offers potential for growth and expansion into a wide variety of related fields. Not only does it represent a viable long-term career choice, it also affords you a great number of options down the line.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of freelance blogging.
1. It’s Accessible
Just about anyone in the developed world can blog – all you need is a computer and an Internet connection. Furthermore, you can ‘prove’ yourself as a blogger without an expensive (and lengthy) education. The same cannot be said of many other writing professions.
There is little in the way of qualifications snobbery in the blogosphere. The decision as to whether you are fit for task is more often than not based entirely upon the quality of your writing. I have not once been asked to reveal any ‘qualifications’ I have that are relevant to writing (the answer: none).
2. You Don’t Need to be a Great Writer
Blog content is typically informal in nature. While writers should always strive for perfect spelling, punctuation and grammar, most readers won’t blink an eye at the sight of imperfect prose.
Blogging lends itself to a conversational writing style, and the last time I checked, people don’t speak without error (on the contrary; I write far more ably than I speak).
I believe that any competent writer can learn to become a good blogger (and earn a good rate) in a relatively short period of time. Even those who don’t speak English as a first language can become well-paid bloggers – just ask my friend Onibalusi:
It can be difficult convincing non-native English writers that they can make it online, but it is possible. I am a non-native English speaking freelance writer, and not only do I regularly make four figures monthly, I’ve had five figure months. I also know more than a dozen non-native English freelance writers making it online, so it’s definitely possible.
Having said that, no matter your ability, you should always aspire to improve as a writer. The better you are, the more valuable you are.
3. It Pays Well
One of the biggest complaints I hear about freelance writing is that the market is saturated. It is often argued that there is an oversupply of writers, which drives prices down to sub-minimum wage levels.
While this is absolutely true at the bottom end of the writing scale, it is most definitely not the case for the level you should be aiming for.
There are an enormous number of freelance writers out there, but there are most certainly not an enormous number of good freelance writers. If you ask a lot of blog editors, they will explain to you how tough it is to find a good writer.
So take it from me: good freelance bloggers are well compensated. If you can elevate yourself above the bargain basement level (both in terms of the work you actually do and the way in which you position yourself), a whole world of opportunities will open up.
4. You Don’t Need to Start with Specific Expertise
The first blog I was paid to write for focused on WordPress, the popular blogging platform. When I got the job, I had been blogging for just five months. Before that time, I hadn’t even heard of WordPress.
To be perfectly honest with you, I was shocked to be given the job. After all, I was no WordPress ‘expert’ – far from it. But soon enough, I realized that expertise is relative. I was able to write content that helped WordPress users at or below my level, which was all that I needed to do.
You may feel that you have no specific expertise, but you’re wrong. These days I write about everything from entrepreneurship, to social media, to strategic commissioning – all areas in which the majority of my learning has taken place over the last three years.
You don’t need specific expertise to thrive as a blogger. But if you do have specific expertise in a particular area, you will really be in for a treat. The ability to blog on complex and/or technical matters is highly sought after.
Whatever your passion, there are probably a whole load of active blogs focused on that topic, and probably several with tens (or hundreds) of thousands of subscribers, and a small platoon of paid writers. What’s to stop you from becoming one of them?
6. It Will Make You an Accomplished Blogger
There is a lot of money to be made from blogging; both as a paid writer and as a blog owner.
There are more examples of bloggers who have made a small (or big) fortune out of their blog than I could possibly list, but here are a few examples:
Fraser Cain owns Universe Today: a news blog dedicated to the space and astronomy niche that pulls in a six figure yearly income through advertising.
Keith Snow’s Harvest Eating gives away tons of free advice on local and seasonal foods, whilst operating an integrated membership site.
Not only can you make a healthy income from freelance blogging, but it can also make you a far more experienced and capable blogger overall. You will be able to observe the machinations of far more developed blogs, learn how to create engaging content, better understand how to convert visitors into subscribers and much more. In time, you could choose to utilize your experience and create your own income-producing blog(s).
7. Less Prospecting, More Billable Hours
By definition, blogging is an ongoing process. New blog posts are needed on a regular basis. When you secure a blogging client, you are often securing a long-term income stream.
This, combined with my passive lead generation model (discussed in length later in the course), essentially means that you can eventually spend literally no time prospecting for work. In turn, this means that you have more hours in the day with which to earn money.
Don’t be fooled by what other freelancers say they are earning on an hourly basis. The only real comparable metric is equivalent hourly rate, which takes into account both billable and unbillable hours. With freelance blogging, you can keep those unbillable hours to a bare minimum.
8. It Can Lead to Greater Things
Freelance blogging is like a well-paid apprenticeship for a world of potential career paths, such as consultancy, coaching, editorial work, and much more.
In learning to become a good blogger, you become a jack of many trades: content creation, design, marketing, social media, networking, and so on. You will have an opportunity to learn how genuinely large blogs (i.e. your clients’) operate.
All of this experience (not to mention your ever-growing network) will open all sorts of doors that you may not have even considered before.
9. It’s Fun!
Let’s face it – writing corporate white papers isn’t particularly enjoyable (I say that from personal experience). I was once chatting with a very successful freelance writer (who works primarily with corporate clients) about her work, and whether or not she enjoyed it. This was her answer:
I don’t particularly enjoy the work, but I like the amount I’m paid for it.
The amount you are paid for work can in a sense make it enjoyable. And make no mistake – writing for corporate clients can make you a lot of money. I would imagine that the average rate for corporate writing work is way in excess of ‘normal’ blogging work.
However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making the enjoyment of your work a priority. And with that in mind, blogging can be a lot of fun! As mentioned previously, it is a very informal and conversational style of writing. You typically get to engage with your readers via comments. It’s very interactional.
I have one particular client that I love writing for, because I am given carte blanche to write about whatever I like, how I like (within reasonable bounds, of course). I am able to inject as much of my personality into my writing as I see fit, and am able to publish outspoken opinion pieces without fear of censorship. I’d like to know of any corporate clients who extend you that kind of freedom.
So What Next?
I hope that I have piqued your interest in freelance blogging. It’s what enabled me to quit my job and start living a far better life, and I would like it to benefit many others in the same way!
If you have any questions about freelance blogging or freelance writing in general, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below.
I know that a lot of you have your own ‘make money online’ (MMO) blogs. I use the term to refer to essentially any blog that journals strategy, tips or efforts to make money online through whatever means.
With that in mind, I want to reveal to you the reality of success for a lot of the bloggers that you look up to. It is something I have observed with interest since I started blogging around 16 months ago. And no, it’s not some clever technique or strategy. I am not going to be sharing some kind of ‘shortcut’ with you.
Instead, I want to share with you the practical reality of the world of MMO blogs and what it means for you. For those of you who are bloggers but don’t own an MMO blog, I think you can learn something from this too.
In Search of a Common Denominator
Let’s begin by considering why we read MMO blogs — because we want to make money online. Obvious, right? We’re far more likely to take interest in a blog if its author(s) have demonstrated their success in making money online.
More specifically, we want them to demonstrate their success in making money online in endeavors entirely separate to their blog. This is a key factor. Few people are impressed by MMO bloggers who have amassed a fortune by preaching principles that they do not practice.
Which leads me to my simple argument that in order to be a successful MMO blogger, you must be successful. Everything else you do — your content, design and marketing strategy — all pales in comparison to your entrepreneurial ability.
You only have to look at just about every single successful MMO blogger out there to understand my argument. Pat Flynn’s first ever income report in October 2008 boasted earnings of nearly $8,000. One of Spencer Haws’ first posts at Niche Pursuits was entitled How I Quit My Corporate Job and Became an Internet Entrepreneur. Despite Darren Rowse’s huge success with ProBlogger, his Digital Photography School blog is his crowning achievement. I could go on and on.
Yes — that does say 510,000+ subscribers.
Let me tell you something — if you do not make money online and are starting an MMO blog in the hope that it will generate an income in the short or medium term, you are going to be very disappointed. Leaving Work Behind has been going for 16 months and I have been experiencing relative success with my freelancing work over the past few months, and yet the most I have made from this blog in a month is $330. If I add up total income and expenditure during the blog’s lifetime, I am at around break even point — before I account for any of my time.
At this stage, if one were to consider LWB a money-making project (which thankfully I do not), it would be fair to label it a spectacular failure.
Does This Mean That You Should Give Up?
I believe that many new MMO bloggers start in the hope that the blog itself will be a significant source of income. And it may be — but they’ll have to prove themselves in other areas in order for that to be the case.
If you have that attitude you may want to stop now. If on the other hand you want to create a blog to journal your progress and act as an accountability aid (as I did with LWB), I would heartily recommend that you go ahead. Although Leaving Work Behind has been a commercial flop so far, I would do it all over again. It has helped me a great deal in terms of accountability, it has referred many prospective freelance clients to me, I have met a bunch of awesome people, and I have little doubt that it will become a good source of income for me in the future.
My point is this — if you are an MMO blogger, you need to understand the principles behind the potential for your success, and do it for all the right reasons. Otherwise, you are likely to burn out.
The Good News
There is a silver lining to this cloud. If you are successful at making money online — even moderately so — it is possible to carve out a niche for yourself in what is an extremely saturated market.
This is especially the case when it comes to passive income. Plenty of people are interested in the likes of freelancing, but that pales in comparison to the number of people who are interested in establishing passive income streams. If you can demonstrate having made money via passive income streams and are willing to reveal your strategies, you’ll probably be onto a winner.
People are always in search of new passive income bloggers. The fact is that there aren’t that many out there (who are making a great deal of money). I believe the reasons for this are twofold:
Making money online via passive income streams is tough
The really successful guys are too busy building their income to blog
The ease with which a big player can establish themselves in the MMO niche is perfectly demonstrated by Billy Murphy of Forever Jobless. He burst onto the blogosphere a couple of months ago, riding on the coattails of serious success in eCommerce and membership sites. He amassed 520 comments across three posts. The fact that he then promptly disappeared again is moot — due to his enormous success, he was able to generate a great of interest in mere days.
Consider the Non-Financial Benefits
I don’t intend for this article to be seen as ‘anti-blogging’. Quite the opposite — I fully endorse blogging as a fantastic way of establishing relationships and opening doors. Nor do I intend to belittle the efforts of successful MMO bloggers — although their success has contributed an enormous amount to the popularity of their blogs, they still have to produce great content and market effectively.
I would not be where I am now if it weren’t for this blog — even though it is yet to offer a net return on my financial investment. What it has brought to me in terms of relationships and experience is immeasurable. And I would like to think that the hardest yards are now behind me.
But my point is this — don’t go into MMO blogging for the wrong reasons. Don’t be yet another blogger who thinks that the secret to making money online is to blog about making money online (whether or not you actually do). You’ll be in for a long road that probably ends in failure.
For those of you who don’t know, back in May 2011 I decided that I wanted to quit my job. In June of the same year I set a target to do exactly that by May 23rd 2012.
My plan was to establish one or more semi-passive income streams, most likely in the form of niche and/or authority sites. I spent five months working extremely hard and getting exactly nowhere (the failures of two projects being indicative of my efforts). I was losing money.
But in October, everything changed. I decided to approach my objective from a completely different angle. And three months later, in December 2011, I quit my job — five months ahead of schedule.
I didn’t pull off a miracle — far from it. I just took some very practical and realistic steps in an attempt to achieve my goal. I strongly believe that there is no reason why you can’t do the same, and in this post, I intend to explain how.
For the purposes of this post, I am going to imagine that your approach to making money online is very similar to what mine was, going back thirteen months or so. I am making this assumption because it appears to be a very common approach (and one with an extremely high failure rate).
In a nutshell, the reason why you are failing to make a considerable amount of money online is because you are chasing the passive income dream. You’re looking for the big win — a comfortable living with minimal work input. The Four Hour Workweek, or at least something similar.
This dream has been popularized by a number of successful online entrepreneurs such as Pat Flynn and Spencer Hawes. These guys are inspirational, and fill us all with a “we can do it too” attitude. Which is great — but that attitude will only take you so far.
Pat and Spencer — both extremely successful (and great guys). But it wasn’t easy…
The fact is that building a considerable passive income stream is extremely tough. It requires a lot of patience and persistence. One has to fail great deal on the journey to hitting the winning formula. And it takes time. All of these factors combine to toss most passive income dreamers by the wayside.
I am not saying that passive income is a pipe dream, because it isn’t. After all, I am working on establishing semi-passive income streams with my freelance blogging guide, my authority site project, and this blog. But it takes a lot of time and persistence to get right, and working on passive income projects can be really tough when you have a full time job. It can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and it can be really difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel (if it actually there).
So what’s the answer?
Sleeping with the Enemy
I was able to quit my job by choosing to trade my time for money — the mortal enemy of passive income advocates.
More specifically, I started freelance blogging. I quickly discovered that it was a potentially lucrative area in which to work, and made the decision to quit my job pretty soon after starting.
As you can see from my income reports summary, I was able to develop a relatively substantial income within a few months, and I have made more than $4,000 from freelance writing in each of the last three months. After tax, that’s about the same as I was paid in my previous job.
And here’s the kicker — I have reached that milestone by working less than half the amount of hours that I did when I was in my job. I spend around 3-4 hours per day working for my freelance clients. That leaves me free and clear to dedicate however many hours I please to my passive income projects.
But It’s Still a Job…Right?
Some people will tell you that freelancing is still like having a job — you’re still working for a “wage”. Well, it’s like no job I’ve ever had. For instance, here are four attributes of freelancing that you can’t typically get from a job:
Pick and choose your work
Pick and choose your working location
You’re in control of your earnings
I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes — freelancing isn’t passive income. Quite the opposite. But it is, in my humble opinion, a far superior alternative to a full time job — not only is your earning potential increased dramatically, but you can afford yourself more time to concentrate on your passive income projects. I don’t know where I would be right now if it weren’t for me finding freelance writing, but I’m extremely happy that I did.
You may feel like you don’t have the necessary attributes with which to start freelancing, but let me tell you something — either your boss has got you all wrong, or you can make it work.
Let’s consider an assessment of your worth. Ultimately, you are employed because your employer profits from you. He assesses your skills and worth, and is happy that the income generated will exceed the cost of employing you. That cost is your wage, taxes, overheads, training, and so on. Why can’t you cut out the middle man and extract that income direct from source?
Let’s look at a simple example. Your basic wage is $25,000 per annum. The employer has to pay additional taxes of $2,500 to the government every year. It will cost $5,000 in total to train you up, which amortized over 5 years employment (which is the company’s average employment period) equals $1,000 p.a. It costs an additional $5,000 p.a. in overheads to simply sit you in your chair. And on top of that, they are in business, so they want to make a profit from your services! So let’s add a 15% profit margin onto the total.
I’ve kept this real simple – I haven’t even mentioned health insurance or any other potential perks. Notwithstanding that, your employer hopes to generate an income of $38,525 p.a. with your skills whilst they pay you just $25,000 p.a.
You can draw one of two conclusions from this:
Your employer is an idiot, and you are not worth the cost
Your employer is making money out of you that you could ultimately be making for yourself
Everyone has expertise. You probably massively undervalue your own abilities — I know I did. Right up until the point I was making a healthy full time income from freelance writing, I didn’t really believe that I could do so. It just seemed too good to be true.
The key is to find people who are in search of your assets. It can be anything — writing, graphic design, bookkeeping, administration, photography, web design — the list goes on and on. These people will pay you much more than your boss did, because they don’t have to worry about any of the overheads mentioned above (nor a permanent commitment to employ you).
If you are paralyzed by the idea of actually making this happen, start off simple with a freelance broker site like Elance or oDesk (if appropriate). You probably won’t find great paying jobs with your limited experience, but if nothing else it can demonstrate to you that your services are actually worth something.
And as soon as you can, establish a quality online brand (i.e. a blog and social media profiles). In my opinion, this is by far the best way to market yourself.
The Time is Now
In a nutshell, just get yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to start from the bottom and work your way up! For 90% of the passive income dreamers reading this, you can probably be earning more from freelancing within a couple of weeks than you are right now from your passive income projects.
So if you’re in a job that you hate, what is holding you back from dedicating say two (or more) hours per day to building a side income from freelancing work? Because as I have demonstrated, that’s all you need in order to make a genuine attempt to open up a completely new opportunity in life.
From nowhere to quitting your job in 90 days — I have proven that it is possible. I am sure that some of you can easily exceed my achievements too. All it takes is a change of approach and a concerted and practical effort. Why wouldn’t you try this?
The following is part of an ongoing series, The One Hour Authority Site Project. If you’d like to read more about it then click here!
It has now been fifty-two days since I launched my new authority site.
In that time I have written 41 articles, each in excess of 500 words. Every single one of those articles has been carefully crafted to target a specific long tail keyword, in the hope that each will eventually rank on the first page of Google.
In this post I want to go into my keyword research and competition analysis strategy in detail. I will show you the exact process that I have followed to pick keywords to base articles around. If you are currently building your own authority site, you may be able to take some of my ideas and adapt them for your own strategy.
In the last post in this series I had nothing of great note to report. It was encouraging to see that the number of keywords the site was ranked for had increased from 8 to 11, and I also had a ranking on the first page. So what’s changed since?
Just like a whole host of other sites across the web, my site was hit by the recent Google algorithm updates. My site now only ranks for three keywords, and what little progress I had made in terms of rankings has been all but wiped out.
My theory is that Google was previously ranking the site in part because of the partial keyword match domain, but they have now reduced that as a ranking factor. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest — it’s an algorithm change, not a penalty.
As for traffic, there hasn’t been a single visitor to the site since September. Google is certainly aware that the site exists, but doesn’t yet deem it worthy of the first page. And as you no doubt know, if you’re not on the first page, you’re unlikely to get any traffic.
Am I worried about any of this? Not in the slightest. Whilst I feel that ranking the site without building and curating links is going to be all but impossible, I have plenty of ideas up my sleeve for when that time comes.
Finally, I am starting to run out of SEO-optimized article ideas for the site. Whilst I have lots of blog post style ideas, most of the long tail keywords that I haven’t yet written posts for are:
Too close in terms of subject matter to existing content, and/or
So from a picky point of view, I am running out of ideas. But there are still plenty of things to write about — it might just take longer to rank them, or they may not attract as much traffic as other articles.
So that’s the latest — now let’s get onto the meat of the post!
What Can Long Tail Traffic Do For You?
I love long tail keywords — they are a wonderful source of traffic. I think that any well-established blog can generate a considerable amount of traffic by targeting long tail keywords. I know that Leaving Work Behind certainly could be receiving a lot more search traffic if I produced more posts that target specific keywords.
Take one post in particular as an example: Entry Level Writing Jobs — 5 Top Resources. When I wrote the post, I wanted it to rank for the keyword ‘entry level writing jobs’, which according to Google, attracts 390 exact match searches per month.
The post currently ranks 3rd in Google for the keyword, and received 60 referrals in September from search engines via that keyword. However, there were an additional 85 alternative searches that referred people to that post during September. Well over half the total referrals were not via the targeted keyword, but contextually relevant alternative long tail keywords.
Whilst ranking one post for a keyword with a low search volume may not seem like a worthwhile endeavor, you should consider two things:
You have the potential to rank for multiple long tail keywords with each post
Creating multiple articles can result in a considerable amount of traffic
Alright — so you’re either sold on the concept or you’re not. If you are, the theory is simple — find long tail keywords that you can rank for and write high-quality articles based around them. I split that process into two steps — keyword research and competition analysis.
What I love about my process is that you can follow it at absolutely no cost. Whilst I am going to recommend that you use two particular apps to make your life easier, you absolutely do not need to purchase them to make use of my strategy. Their involvement is more for convenience and efficiency, as opposed to functionality that could not otherwise be utilized.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that my process is in no way proven. So if you do decide to incorporate this strategy into your own, you do so at your own risk. I hope that in time I will be able to refer back to this as a pivotal element of a successful project, but until then, I can offer no assurances.
Before we begin, you may want to read my free guide to keyword research and competition analysis. If you are relatively new to the world of SEO (or even if not) you may find it useful, and it is obviously highly relevant to the topic at hand. Just enter your email address here and click “Sign Me Up!”:
Step 1: Keyword Research
As you will know if you read the first post in this series, the content strategy for my authority site is based upon Google autocomplete search phrases. You may want to read that post (and the other posts in this series) if you haven’t already.
When I started the site I was searching for article ideas manually by literally typing in, “[keyword] a”, “[keyword] b”, “keyword [c]”, and so on. Each search would display different potential post ideas:
This wasn’t particularly efficient, but I didn’t know of a better way. Then Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income made a suggestion in the form of an app called Keyword Researcher (thanks Pat!). It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.
In a nutshell, it makes generating an enormous list of potential long tail keywords relating to your niche a piece of cake. It actually has a whole bunch of useful applications outside of creating authority sites, but it was perfect for my needs too.
With Keyword Researcher I was able to compile a list of long tail keywords in just a few minutes. I’ve demonstrated how in the video below.
There is a free trial available, but at the time of writing, the full version of Keyword Researcher will set you back $45.97. It is absolutely not a necessity, but it won’t half make your life easier (as the above video demonstrates).
Step 2: Competition Analysis
Alright, by this stage I had a whole bunch of long tail keywords — the issue then was determining which were worth writing articles for.
I started by picking keywords indiscriminately, but soon realized that I could easily write 50 articles for competitive keywords without even realizing. Although long tail keywords are generally less competitive than those with a higher search volume, there are still those that are extremely difficult to rank for.
So I would consider competition analysis, even on long tail keywords, to be extremely important. Spending a few minutes up front picking viable keywords should help achieve far more beneficial results down the line.
Although competition analysis can typically get quite tricky, I actually stuck to a pretty simple process for my authority site, which I have shared in the video below. As always, I use Market Samurai for competition analysis. Given that this particular process is relatively straightforward, you could get away without it, but I would always recommend it as an awesome SEO tool anyway.
Once you have your list of keywords and know which ones are worth targeting, the next step is of course content production. And that is exactly what I am going to cover in the next post in this series — all of the methods I use to optimize my posts.
Whilst you might not go too far wrong by simply writing and publishing your posts without much thought for optimization, I do believe that you give yourself a better chance if you take the time to prepare each post accordingly.
Until then, I’d love to get your thoughts on my keyword research and competition analysis process. Do you agree with my methods, or would you recommend an alternative approach? Let us know in the comment section!
When I sent my first few pitches out to potential clients around a year ago, I did not take the exercise seriously. I didn’t expect that anyone would actually want to hire me — someone who had absolutely no professional writing experience.
But I was wrong, and the fact is, you can start as a freelance writer with nothing more than an ability to write well. With that in mind, today I want to expose how many opportunities there are available to aspiring writers. All you need to do is look, and that is exactly what I hope I have proven in the video below.
For those of you who don’t know, I found my first two writing clients via the ProBlogger Job Board. I still work with them both today, and one of those ‘jobs’ in particular has led to an awesome position as the editor of the ManageWP blog.
I heartily recommend the ProBlogger Job Board as a source of work. So what I’ve done in the video below is take a close look at 10 recent listings, with my thoughts (both positive and negative) on each one. If you are new to freelance writing (or even if you’re not), you may find this really helpful.
I’d love to know what you think about the video, and whether or not you agree with my opinions. Furthermore, if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section.
Finally, if you found my video useful, you may want to get on the pre-launch list for my upcoming freelance writing guide. You’ll get early access to the guide as well as an exclusive discount!