Leaving Work Behind

Paid Blogging: Why it Should Be Your First Option

Written by Tom Ewer on November 26, 2012. 50 Comments

"Money" spelled out in Scrabble tiles

This blog attracts a pretty wide range of readers but you can separate them into two broad categories:

  1. Freelance writers (aspiring or established)
  2. Internet marketers

Or to perhaps be more specific, those who are are looking to make money via service provision and those who are looking to establish passive income streams.

Those two groups certainly overlap — I am an example of that as you can see from my income reports. But I know that many passive income advocates turn their nose up at the idea of paid blogging and consider it a last resort at best. And in fairness, I understand that attitude — I once felt similarly.

But no more. In this post, I want to explain why paid blogging should be your first option when it comes to making money online (tweet this), why it doesn’t have to represent the end of your passive income projects (quite the opposite!), and why it could completely change your life — as it did mine.

Why the “Passive Income Only” Mindset Can be Damaging

There are people in the blogosphere who have made a lot of money from the kind of passive income streams that we could all attempt to emulate with minimal financial investment. Let’s consider a couple of the best known: Pat Flynn and Spencer Haws. I know that these guys are role models to many of you (as they are to me) and there is no doubting their success.

Pat Flynn and Spencer Haws

However, their success was borne out of a lot of hard work for little or no reward, over a period of many months. Pat’s Green Exam Academy was nearly two years in the making before it finally made money, and Spencer toiled away on niche sites for months before hitting on a winning formula. Their patience and persistence were huge assets.

What I want to get across is that the passive income dream doesn’t become a reality for many. Often it’s not because they lack the capability — it’s because they run out of steam. You’re working a full time job and spending a considerable amount of your spare time on passive income projects. There will be a point at which you seriously debate the value of what you are doing.

You can easily go many or months or even years without making serious progress, and it wouldn’t be because you are incapable or a failure. The fact is, establishing passive income streams is extremely tough.

But what does that have to do with paid blogging?

Why Paid Blogging Can be Your Savior

Let’s rewind to September 2011.

A screenshot of my first ever passive income project

My first ever passive income project.

At the time, my goal was to quit my job and establish a viable online business. How I did it was less important than the act of actually doing it. I’d tried various approaches, mainly revolving around niche/authority websites. Nothing had worked. I was at my wits’ end, and seriously frustrated by my lack of progress.

If you’re a regular LWB reader you’ll know the story well — in total frustration I submitted a few pitches to people via the ProBlogger Job Board and subsequently landed a job with WPMU. From there I got another client a month or so later, quit my job, and the rest is history.

My key point is this — I may have started off dreaming about passive income but it was paid blogging that enabled me to quit my job. Not only that but it gave me the time with which to work on my passive income projects without it taking up all of my spare time, and without me being under the pressure that it had to work.

If you’re just having a bit of fun with your passive income projects, fair enough. But if you have a burning desire to quit your job and build a viable and diverse long term business, you owe it to yourself to consider paid blogging very seriously.

How Paid Blogging Can Benefit Your Passive Income Projects

Every passive income project I work on is directly benefitted by my blogging ability.

Whether it was my first ever niche site back in the day, my freelance writing guide, my One Hour Authority Site project or Leaving Work Behind itself — each project has revolved around my ability to write good content. My writing ability is my business’ most valuable asset in everything that I do.

And my ability to write good content has increased exponentially since I started being paid to blog. I believe that it gives me the cutting edge not only in terms of my freelancing business but also with my passive income projects.

But that’s not all. Working with some big clients (and with blogs attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors per month) has taught me a huge deal about blogging. I have gained a huge number of invaluable contacts — my network has swollen.

A spreadsheet of my contacts

Just one screen’s worth of my contacts spreadsheet.

In a nutshell, paid blogging has exposed me to the online world in a way that simply would not have been possible otherwise. Furthermore, it has afforded me both the time and necessary skills that enable me to concentrate on passive income projects.

What if Paid Blogging isn’t For You?

In short, it probably is.

If you have ever written content for a niche or authority site, you could be a paid blogger. If you have ever created your own blog, you could be a paid blogger. If you nearly failed English at school (like I did), you could still be a paid blogger.

Up to about 14 months ago, I never thought I would be a freelance writer. Actually, that’s not technically true — in reality, I’d never even considered it. In a sense it is all too easy to look down on it. Exchanging time for money? How antiquated.

But with the greatest of respect, you are a fool to look at it that way (as I was). And in reality, the absurdity of that thinking can be exposed pretty quickly if you consider how much time you have spent on failed passive income projects without earning a penny.

I was that guy — the passive income failure with a chip on my shoulder about service businesses — but boy have I changed my colors. My freelance writing business now earns me about as much as I ever did from my job in less than half the time. That’s an extra four hours every day that I have to work on passive income projects that I am far better equipped to succeed with because of the experience gained from paid blogging.

Net income over the past four months

My net income over the past four months.

Ultimately, if you want to look down at paid blogging and carry on regardless with your passive income projects, that is your prerogative. But in doing so you may well be turning down the opportunity of a lifetime. Paid blogging completely changed my life for the better, and I would love to help it do exactly the same for you.

So What Now?

Your decision comes now.

I have heard more than one person say, “Paid blogging is fine if you want to make a bit of money on the side, but I’m going to keep working on my blog/niche sites/[insert generic passive income strategy here].” Those people are invariably the ones who fail to ever make any real money. Which person are you going to be?

Leaving Work Behind is packed with plenty of free advice if you are interested in finding out how to become a successful freelance blogger — start here. And if you’re really committed to launching your own freelance writing business, check out my guide: Successful Freelance Writing Online.

Whatever your decision I’d love to know how you feel about paid blogging, so please leave your comments below!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Philip Taylor PT

This Isn't Just Another "Make Money Online" Blog.

I'm sure you've had enough of hollow promises and get-rich-quick schemes.

I don't buy into that stuff; it's never worked for me. Instead, I create profitable online businesses through nothing other than hard work and persistence.

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50 Responses to “Paid Blogging: Why it Should Be Your First Option”

  1. Holly W
    November 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Great article! I feel very optimistic about paid blogging, and I feel that is the right option for me. I, like you, have a BURNING desire to not work for “the man” anymore. I want to work with the freedom of my own time and schedule. I want the ability to expand my family and be able to stay home. I NEED to leave my job. The only problem is that I have applied to many positions through problogger, with no real bites. Feeling a bit discouraged and hope I am able to get started on this journey in my life soon!

    • Tom Ewer
      November 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      Hey Holly,

      If you’ve applied to lots of positions with no joy, then there’s probably something wrong with (a) your pitch, (b) your samples, or (c) both. Regardless of what the problem is, it can be addressed! Perhaps you should spend some time figuring it out?



  2. Vickram
    November 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Sounds pretty logical. I have purchased your “Freelance Writing” guide and sincerely going through it. I can see the logic behind the post.

    Paid blogging really leaves the rest of the day to pursue our other interests. Since I have been trying to setup passive income streams right from Jan-2012 with no real results to show for, I can see where you are getting to with this article.

    I know its the start, that is most difficult and important as well. So, I am committing in the comment section of your blog that I will start guest posting or paid blogging within the next three weeks [at least one post in some other blogger’s blog] exactly before 17-Dec-2012.

    This way, I might feel compelled to complete your 150 page guide and start implement the ideas shared and get started.

    Real good tips in the guide but with few typos here and there.

    Nice post, Tom.


  3. Lisa Landtroop
    November 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Hey Tom – great article and very timely for me. I recently quit a six-figure job to spend more time with family (pay was great – but I traveled ALL the time and it got old being away so much)! I’ve been increasing my writing experience and getting more exposure, learning the ‘tricks of the trade’ so to speak, and I recently purchased your guide. I’m looking forward to improving my writing skills and making a little money at the same time….looking ahead towards 2013 being a wonderful year of enjoying what I do and enjoying time with my family again!

    Keep up the great work and let me know if I can help with anything!


  4. Kay
    November 26, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Hey Tom,

    Great post! I quit my 6 figure job several months ago to start my own business. While I hope it will take off and lead to other opportunities, I am very interested in passive income and writing as fillers. After a ton of research I had almost written off blogging as a viable source of income, but your freelance guide made a compelling argument in favor of it.

    It is not hard to understand why there is such a negative connotation associated to paid blogging. While launching one’s own product or succeeding with niche sites may appear to be more glamorous, someone’s gotta pay the bills in the meantime!

    I haven’t taken the leap into paid blogging yet, because I will be travelling out of the country for a few weeks. In fact I hope that it will serve as an inspiration for jump starting my own blog.

    Keep up the excellent work! It is always a pleasure reading your articles.


  5. Sophie Lizard
    November 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I absolutely agree – passive income brings me maybe $100 a month, but my freelance blogging supports my whole family!

    The problem with passive income is that at the beginning, all your hours are unbillable and you’re reliant on traffic generation to make money. With freelance blogging, you can start earning an income from your very first client, even if their site has little traffic at the time. It’s the logical choice. 🙂

  6. Darren
    November 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm


    Thanks, its funny that most people start trying to make passive income. Then usually give up or find a different avenue to pursue. There is no doubt that its hard work… but people usually find what fits with their strengths if they stay with it long enough.


    • Tom Ewer
      November 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

      Most people start with passive income because they dream of minimum effort for maximum gain. Furthermore, the idea of money coming in whilst you lay back is very attractive. Can’t blame them really!

  7. Quinn
    November 27, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Hi Tom,

    Great subject, but I honestly think it comes down to individual priorities and I have to respectfully disagree.

    Interestingly, I used you as an excellent example in a recent post where I agree that freelancing writing or consulting can be a terrific way to go for some people but not others.

    I also like the Pat Flynns example for different reasons. I think that was his first attempt at an online business and he built it up part-time into a very significant passive income stream.

    Keep up the great work (active), including your (passive) authority website! 🙂


    • Tom Ewer
      November 27, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Hey Quinn,

      I presume you mean you disagree that paid blogging should be your first option when it comes to making money online? Obviously the headline is a little general, so perhaps I should qualify it by saying, paid blogging should be the first option for anyone who is a capable writer. I would definitely stand by that statement.

      I’d be curious to know *why* you disagree, as you don’t really explain that in your comment.



      • Quinn
        November 29, 2012 at 1:43 pm

        Hi Tom,

        Thanks for the follow up! Yes, I disagree that paid blogging should be someones first option when it comes to making money online.

        To help explain myself, first lets assume it is just as easy to make money online building websites as it is freelancing. (Clearly this is different for everyone and this is a factor for each individual. For me making money from websites is much easier than writing.)

        I think that for some people it is be better to work on building passive income from websites right from the start. For example, for someone who has a full time job but yearns for a lifestyle that requires passive income, building an authority website may be a far better way to go.

        On the other hand as you have demonstrated so well freelancing can be the perfect way to escape the 9-5 quickly.

        I just think it all comes down to personal circumstances and goals.

        Here is my post which explains it in more detail – http://www.cubiclefree.com/2012/11/01/passive-v-active-income-what-should-you-choose/

        Keep up the great work.


        • Tom Ewer
          November 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm

          I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. Just to play devil’s advocate, having read a few of your blog posts and observed your writing style, I think you could be making more money as a freelance writer than you do from your passive income projects, and it wouldn’t take 10 years 😉

  8. Lori
    November 27, 2012 at 2:48 am


    Thank you so much for this post! I was bound & determined to get myself into a passive income situation but trying to figure out how I was going to make that happen along with my “day job” and very active family. Freelancing was not really an option I had considered, but you make a compelling argument. You may have just opened I door I need to walk through!


  9. Tung Tran
    November 27, 2012 at 3:34 am

    Totally agree, Tom.. This article comes at the right time, I’m planning to start my freelance writing business now because i have had enough of dealing with boring subjects at university.. I have started my first blog 3 years ago, made a handsome amount of money via affiliate marketing :D, built another blog about passive income (the domain name even includes the keyword) and sold it for 4 figures in March.. Seem interesting, right? 😀 But my problem is : after six months preparing for the entrance exam, I have not been updated with the new trend of the IM world and my first coming-back project failed.. the second project failed too… the third project are being built… but I am running out of my savings (actually I have only few hundred of bucks left), so I decided to start again from scratch by doing paid blogging. and I agree with the point that writing is the most important asset of any online entrepreneur 😀
    Just wanted to share my story 🙂 Thank you for this awesome article Tom.

  10. Justin
    November 27, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Hey Tom!

    You’ve made some great points in this post but I, like Quinn, respectfully disagree with a bit of what you’ve said.

    You’ve argued that freelance blogging is an extremely large tent, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Some don’t have the skills or passion for writing that others might. (And don’t really want to improve in that area) They might be better off focusing on freelance programming, consulting, etc. as it’s a stronger skillset for them to build on…and one which they’d like to improve.

    I’m also not convinced passive income is a goal most people should be shooting for. It seems to me that “leveraged income” is a better path towards success…actively finding positive revenue streams and figuring out ways to automate or scale that process and removing yourself. It seems to me that freelance blogging would be hard to scale and is highly dependent on you. (Not entirely true I guess…you can start adding staff writers and turn into a content house, of course)

    • Justin
      November 27, 2012 at 7:42 am

      Oh…one other thing I forgot to mention…

      You mention “freelance blogging”, but it’s worth expanding that to “freelance publishing”. There are many ways people choose to consume content (blogs, video, podcasts, webinars, etc.) and you can ultimately roll with the publishing platform that is the best fit for you and your audience.

      Tim Conley from the Foolish Adventure recently put out a podcast episode where he discusses “Pay Now Podcasting”…definitely worth checking out!

      • Tom Ewer
        November 27, 2012 at 10:33 am

        Hey Justin,

        I was hoping you’d come along and share your thoughts, as I knew you’d disagree 🙂

        As I said to Quinn, I think I need to qualify the somewhat absolute statement contained within the headline. First of all, I think the message only applies to capable writers. Not *great* writers, just anyone who can write capably (I strongly believe that most people can learn to blog well). Furthermore, my post assumes that you are currently in a working situation that you are unhappy in, and that takes up the majority of your available time. Finally, this argument *could* apply to any form of freelancing in reality — I just happen to be focusing on freelance blogging because it’s what I do. So I totally agree with your point on that front.

        With those three things in mind, the logic for me is simple. I have demonstrated that in a relatively short space of time you can establish a freelance blogging business in which you can expect to increase your equivalent hourly rate by multiple factors, which gives you more time to pursue passive income projects (or “leveraged income”). It’s a win/win — why *wouldn’t* you do it?

        Clearly this post doesn’t apply to you, as an already highly successful businessman. I don’t even know what you’re doing here quite frankly 😉

        Thanks so much for your input!



        • Justin
          November 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm

          Geez…”highly successful businessman” eh? Well that’s definitely relative! 🙂

          You know me…I always have to get my dose of LWB and rattle the cage a bit here and there! hehe

  11. Joe Cassandra
    November 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Great article Tom! I’ll probably start with Paid Blogging just to start making a bit of money…Will you try and translate your skills at Paid Blogging into a Passive Income Stream? i.e. Is this your path to PI (as Pat Flynn had his path)? or do you like what you’re doing now?

    You’re doing great, and love reading/learning!


    • Tom Ewer
      November 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      Hi Joe,

      I love the freedom that freelance blogging gives me and I have no plans to stop doing it any time soon. I also love the concept of passive income and as you know I am actively pursuing PI projects. I haven’t really given my future beyond that much thought! I’m operating under such a dynamic set of circumstances that to look too far ahead essentially requires a guessing game.



  12. Alex B. (@DreamJobGuy)
    November 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm


    I can honestly say that I have never even given consideration to paid blogging — not for any particular reason, just simply because I was unaware of the potential.

    Thanks to your awesome blog post, I now have a sparked interest in paid blogging, and I look forward to checking into in great detail!

    All the best,

  13. Charley
    November 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Paid blogging is a profitable concept, but it is not for everyone, as one (or some) of the comments here has pointed out. That said, I agree with you. Anyone with a basic understanding of english can learn how to blog decently or even proficiently with continual practice and implementation. A thought occupied my mind shortly after reading this post and it left me pondering about this: Isn’t it more rewarding to build my own site, blog for myself, and earn a comparatively bigger sum of money on a regular basis?

    Of course, that would require a focus on passive income, which this post isn’t about. I guess it all boils down to preferences, but I prefer the latter, regardless of how difficult and demanding it might be. What is your opinion?

    • Tom Ewer
      November 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      Hey Charley,

      To answer your question, yes. But it’s also a damn sight more difficult and takes a lot longer, with no guarantee of success. With paid blogging, on the other hand, you can literally started earning money today.

      The central message of this post is that you can have the best of both worlds. Paid blogging can free you up to pursue passive income projects, as it has done for me.



  14. Charley
    November 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I get your point now 🙂

  15. Iain Robson
    November 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Hello Tom,

    I enjoyed your post very much. I even removed my head phones in order to focus solely on the post.

    Your post really resonates with me because I am considering moving to a small community where there are fewer opportunities. By trying paid blogging I may be able to make that transition. An

    what would you suggest for someone who is not sure if they have found their ‘voice’ and want to get into paid blogging?

    • Tom Ewer
      November 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      Hi Iain,

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

      If you’re not sure whether it’s for you, the quickest way to find out is to try it! You’re already blogging, so the question is, would you like to do more of it and be paid for it?



      • Iain Robson
        November 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        That’s a perfect point. I am strangely reminded of Julien Smith and a talk I saw of his about the Impact Equation.

        His main point was, try different things and find out what works.

        Thank you for the words of encouragement.

        I shall take further action this week.

        Thanks again.

  16. John Black
    November 30, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I think, with a one stop shop setup for your writing samples, then you can begin to advertise yourself as a blogger as well as a freelance writer.

    You can then send your portfolio page or site along with any guest posts you submit.

    Thanks again.

  17. Ruan Oosthuizen
    December 1, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Hi Tom,

    Absolutely loved the post and I am not quite sure exactly how I missed it in the last 4-5 days it’s been live (I did subscribe to the list couple of days ago already) but I’ll accept that now was probably just the right time for me to get to it.

    Happy to report captain, I am on board and Freelance.Blogging.Life.com is launched! 😉

    It’s 7:30am Sunday morning 1 Dec 2012 and I haven’t slept a single minute in the last 22 hours but my site is launched and I trust, I really do trust I don’t see too many little mistakes when I go over it later today, just to put the perfectionist inside me at ease.

    (Yeah I sometimes wish I wasn’t one, as gosh it can drain some serious energy!)

    From a tired but satisfied soon-to-be fellow freelance blogger – thanks for the inspiration that you gave me almost two weeks ago on a guest post and interview on YoungPrePro!

    P.S. I’d like to get a bit of help with regards to pitching/applying for gigs on Job Boards (following your advice starting off with Problogger) as I have absolutely no idea in what tone, format, what to include, what to exclude etc. Any advice on that, Tom?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Tom Ewer
      December 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Hi Ruan,

      Congratulations on the blog launch! I see you’ve taken some slight inspiration (to say the least) from the LWB logo 😉

      I’ve got a whole section in my freelance blogging guide dedicated to pitches, but in a nutshell I would recommend that you keep it short and sweet. Introduce yourself, explain how you can benefit the prospective client, include your pitches, and that’s about it.



      • Tom Ewer
        December 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm

        On second thoughts, having looked a little closer, replace “logo” with “logo, blog and content strategy”!

        • Ruan
          December 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm

          You are correct! I even wrote it in one of the posts, Tom. All my inspiration came from you; from an idea when reading your interview and the guest post you did on YoungPrePro to the complete site design and content I wrote.

          I sincerely hope you don’t feel offended by so much resemblance between my site and yours. The idea was not to copy you in any way. For me it was acting on inspiration I got from someone that inspired me to become successful in something we both have a huge passion for, which is making a decent living doing what we love.

          I simply took what you teach and implemented it. However, learning more from you, possibly helping you in future and keeping peace between us are much more important to me so if you feel what I have done is hurting you or your business in any way, please let me know! 🙂

          Thanks for the advice on pitching; that makes perfect sense and I will implement that (if that’s okay with you) right away! I certainly plan on getting my copy of your book as well after I listened to your interview with Sophie Lizard.and you mentioned that you wanted this to be the ultimate guide on freelance blogging. A guide a beginner can take and implement right away with no sequel planned as you’ve mentioned.

          Loved it!

          • Tom Ewer
            December 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm

            Hi Ruan,

            I don’t feel like you’re hurting my business but I have to say that your site really does seem like a mini-LWB. It’d be great if you could perhaps put something of your own identity in it in terms of the design and your approach.



            • Ruan
              December 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

              “if you could perhaps put something of your own identity in it”

              That stung a bit Tom but I am going to email you instead to try and resolve this as less painful as possible for the both of us.

              I understand why you feel the way that you do; please let me explain in the email and hear me out.


  18. Pinar Tarhan
    December 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    It’s funny how many people look at the concept “passive income” and ignore how much work goes into it before that income stream can actually become passive. They also ignore that most successful passive income-making people are actually bloggers who write great content on their blogs, guest post on others and sell their services and products (surprise,surprise) through great copy.

    The very least internet marketers can do is to work on their writing skills. Even if they don’t get paid blogging, they will sure as hell get the benefits of their acquired web writing skills.

    P.S. I’ve wanted to be a writer all my life, and the fact that I could write (and get paid for) non-fiction only occurred to me a few years ago. Apparently even those who want to be writers can have serious writing epiphanies 🙂

    • Tom Ewer
      December 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      Yep — I didn’t give writing a second thought when I first decided to quit my job, but absolutely everything I do is focused on my writing — whether it is my actual freelance writing, this blog, my guide, or even my authority site. It’s all about the writing!

  19. Karl (business blogger) Craig-West
    December 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Great item Tom,

    you’re certainly helping me to get my head around getting paid for writing. I’d considered doing it a year ago but couldn’t quite work out a way it make it pay. But since reading your blog my view has changed considerably.

    Many thanks,

  20. Philip Mboya
    December 18, 2012 at 6:20 am

    Great post Tom!

    I actually was that guy who is looking for passive income streams, however, what’s true is the fact that it does take time and effort. I have struggled over the past years working trying to build up a passive income stream but have failed miserably.

    I kind of have been dilly dallying between writing and internet marketing without any solid strategy. I am however getting over that now and focusing on building my writing career to the point where it is firm enough to stand on its own two feet before moving onto another project.

    Thanks for the post, i really picked up a lot of useful information.



  21. Sally
    August 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Tom

    I have found this interesting. I have been playing around with how to present my blogs, and have turned a lot of them into podcasts. Yet this did not really help.

    I am now returning to blogging, and just exploring the opportunities for paid blogging.

    I found it interesting to read about your experience, and I am certainly enthused to look further into this field.



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