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More on Hiring People To Write For You

Improve-BlogToday Collis Ta’eed from FreelanceSwitch has answered my question about how he improved his blog in 2007 by continuing to explore the topic of how to add new bloggers to a blog (similar to Andy’s previous post on the topic).

There are as many types of bloggers as there are people. Every blogger has strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to know what kind you are, so that you can play to your strengths and counter your weaknesses. My big weakness is that I’m terribly inconsistent. I am incredibly easy to distract and my main hobby is starting new things.

Knowing this means I know I don’t make a very good blogger in the traditional sense because I can’t keep one going all by myself. That’s why the best thing that I did in 2007 was to hire other people to write on my blogs.

In the last year I’ve had the opportunity to hire quite a few writers for both FreelanceSwitch and PSDTUTS – the two blogs I deal with. Here’s what I’ve learnt:

Multi-Author-Blog

(1) How much should you pay?

It’s taken a while to figure out how to price posts and at times we’ve paid as little as $20 a post. These days our minimum is $50 and goes up to $200 for some longer, specific pieces and commissioned tutorials. We choose how much to pay based on the writers experience, knowledge, writing style, and of course the complexity of the posts they are planning to write. People tell me that the industry standard for bloggers is $20 a post and I know that on the FreelanceSwitch Job Board I’ve seen people attempt to post jobs for $1 a post (I say attempt because we reject them :-)

Personally I tend to think that you get what you pay for, and since personally, I wouldn’t really want to write for less than $50 a post, it’s hard for me to ask someone else to. Of course the more you pay people the more a blog needs to make. Currently on FreelanceSwitch we spend $500-$1000 p/week depending on who is writing that week. That means that for most of its life the site has been a loss maker. Since we approached the blog as a business this was acceptable and we knew it would take a while to break even. I like to think our pricing is about right, but every month or so we revisit some aspects to make sure that it all makes sense in relation to how well the site is doing, and to ensure we’re being fair to the people who make the sites as good as they are.

If you are not sure what to pay someone, just ask them what they charge. But remember the less you pay, the less you should expect. Conversely if you’re paying a good amount, you should expect a thorough spell check, the occasional revision if necessary and a well thought-out post.

(2) Streamline the process

Even if all your content is written for you, there is still a *lot* of work to do. This work comes up in terms of helping writers choose topics, guiding them if they are unsure, liasing with them, putting the posts up, organising images, chasing them when they are late, organising invoices and paying them. For a long time we drowned under some of this admin, but with time we found ways to streamline things out. Here are some of the things we do to streamline the process:

  • We ask writers to send a PayPal Request Money order instead of an invoice. This means that all I need to do is periodically log into paypal and click Pay a few times, saving a bit of valuable time
  • We ask writers to place their posts straight into WordPress. We’ve only been doing this recently but it saves a lot of time and keeps everything in one neat place
  • Create a single email account to manage everything and make it something you can pass to a different editor if need be so that email addresses, writers details and so on don’t get lost in transit
  • Put the onus on writers to write/ask for payment. Initially we used to do a lot of chasing for things, but life is a lot easier if you move the responsibility to the writers themselves. We did this by ditching a rigid posting schedule and allowing writers to invoice whenever they chose (as opposed to specific days of the month – which we tried unsuccessfully to do)

There are no doubt lots of other things we can (and will) do to streamline managing a team of writers. The main thing is to find ways to cut out anything unnecessary. With about 10-15 casual and part time writers, even small admin tasks can escalate.

(3) Hire via the site

A great place to find people is through your site. Hiring via your site means that you know the people are interested and passionate. We keep a contribute form on the contact page for people to express their interest. We ask for an ‘audition article’ which we pay for if we use and that way its a very seamless, easy process. Some of our best writers contacted us this way.

(4) Hire well known writers

It’s also great to find well known writers. Some of the writers we have on FreelanceSwitch include Leo Babauta of ZenHabits, Skellie of Skelliewag and Chris Garrett of ChrisG. These guys are great because they all have their own followings. Additionally bloggers have a tendency of linking back from their own blogs periodically driving extra traffic and readers back your way. Lastly the great thing about these types of people is that although they tend to be more expensive, they know how to write posts that people want to read.

(5) Give examples of what you want, but let the author do the talking

Deciding how much guidance to give is always hard. Too much guidance and you rob your author of what they do best. With new authors I remind them what sorts of posts the site is famous for and what people respond well to. I also often give them some example headlines or links to example posts. Beyond that it’s good to leave your author to come up with posts that they want to write. When you ask someone to write about something they aren’t interested in, it’s a lot harder to get something great.

So there are my tips. The best thing about having other people writing is really that your audience wins because they get a variety of opinions and insights. And of course while other people are writing I get to dream up ideas for new blogs!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I’ve always wondered what free lance blog writes get paid per post. It’s something I’d like to do with my own blog much further down the line, but as of right now I’d be spending my entire month’s site income on just one hired poster. =)

  2. Yes! Yes, yes! This is perfect advice and very well laid out for everyone to understand. It’s also a very honest post, and I appreciate that.

    Hm, it also makes me want to post for you in 2008 – clients who know what they’re doing always create the best working environments for writers.

  3. Very interesting topic for a successful blog. I have a follow up question: to keep the blog posts consistent, do you also hire an editor?

    It almost looks like you are running a magazine.

  4. jsanderz says:

    Darren you sound just like a scanner,
    That is what I am like, always looking out for new things to do, easily distracted, head over to Barbara Shers forum to see what I mean, (http://www.barbarasher.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=30&sid=e8cc7a744398681fd7376c155b02863b)
    she is brilliant.
    Great advice, food for thought.
    Regards.

  5. Awesome advice! It’s great to know things like this should our blogs ever grow to the extent we’d need to bring other bloggers in.

    Thanks for the tips!

  6. George says:

    Nice advice , I’ll bear it in mind when i start employing ;)

  7. Andrew G.R. says:

    Nice post. However, I really don’t think a minimum of $50 is necessary to get good content. Since most popular blogs are written on an eighth-grade level, and there are sooooo many bloggers hungry to make a few extra bucks, I think the going rate is much lower.

    If not, I’m getting robbed blind! ;-)

  8. This is a very interesting topic to me personally, as I used to run a moblog.

    Another thing you can do is to have friendly authors cross-post their content from their blogs to yours. All of your readers don’t necessarily follow the other blogs as religiously as they follow your blog, so it’s an easy way to get extra, free content. Your cross-posting friends get an extra link for their site. As to the duplication of content, so long as the blog doesn’t only have cross-posted material, you’ll be fine.

  9. Lucy Dee says:

    I really appreciate this post. It’s eye-opening, seeing how much a freelance blogger SHOULD get paid, and what is offered in the marketplace. I’ve seen blogging gigs at much lower pay rates. So those you’ve listed are surprising (and redeeming), to say the least.

  10. Jim Hession says:

    I am a member of a forum run by a for profit company. They recently asked for bloggers who would blog once a week on a related topic. When I indicated some interest, they let me and all others know that this would not be a paid position. I thought that was pretty unreasonable for the commitment they were seeking.

  11. Another good method when you’re not breaking even is to use a click tracker and pay contributors a certain percentage of all ad income earned from their posts.

    This is good because many multi-author blogs can’t afford to pay flat fees from the start and even better – it gives your contributors a performance incentive. The more posts they can write and visitors/pageviews they can drive to their posts, the better off they are.

  12. Good post with some very practical tips.

  13. Caitlin says:

    Thank you so much for this post!
    I had recently been wondering how to go about hiring freelance blog writers!

    Are most Freelance blog posts one-off things, or do the bloggers you hire expect to be hired for more than one post?

    Also, is Freelancing different from Guest Posting? I would guess that Freelancing is paid while Guest Posting is not paid (because Skellie suggested volunteering to do so), but I’m not sure as I’ve never done either.

  14. Thanks Darren…

    I’ve been struggling with this lately. It’s one of my goals for 2008: to increase posts by other authors. I do have quite a few no, but there haven’t been many lately and it’s my fault: I need to find better ways to compensate people.

    I was paying a revenue share, but it was artificially high – I really could not justify what I was paying. I’m thinking of going to one time payments such as you suggest, plus a vanity bio page that their post will link to where they can put links back to themselves, promote themselves a bit, maybe even run ad code if they want to.. I’m still fleshing out ideas, but this certainly adds to my pile.

  15. @ Caitlin – We freelance writers take one-shot deals and long-term contracts. We’re always happy to blog, whether long term or short.

    Guest posting is when we blog for free and is usually done to increase awareness, drive traffic, build credibility and basically make a good, solid name for ourselves.

  16. Caitlin says:

    Thank you for your reply, James! I appreciate it!

    I hope no one minds if I ask another question:

    Is it ok to hire a freelancer to ghost write a post? I would guess so, since it’s still respectable paid work, I just want to be sure so I don’t offend any freelancers.

  17. Peter Cooper says:

    Good post, but the advice on pricing and so forth presented here seems quite specific to blogs (and I use that term loosely) that consider posts to be “articles.”

    Traditionally, blog posts have been far shorter than the average posts seen on the two referenced sites, and on many blogs it’s still common for posts to be mere digests and links to other places. You know.. in the 150-400 word range, a picture perhaps, a paragraph of witty insight. In many cases, such a post might not pay as well as a 1500 word “article” post, but someone writing 150 words and getting $10 is doing better than someone writing and researching an entire article / tutorial and getting $100 for 1500 words when you compare the time demands.

  18. @ Caitlin – Ghostwriting means that the author gets no credit. He or she writes and transfers the copyrights of the work to you. You may claim it as your own work, as such. Most web content writers work on a ghostwriting basis and it’s completely fine to ask that of a writer – in fact, most web content writers assume no credit will be provided. Magazine writers are a different story ;)

    @ Peter – There are distinct differences between a blog post and an article: Style, format, tone, presentation and personality. A blog post is not really an article under another name. While the same information may be covered, the tone is generally snappier, faster to read, more succinct and has an expert “tang” to it. It’s broken up for fast screen reading, has its headers formatted to stand out, and uses snappy headlines and fast-paced writing. Articles are far more bland and less geared to those who read blogs but rather oriented towards those who want a good dose of information on related subjects under a topic umbrella. Paragraphs are a little longer and there isn’t much personality involved.

    At least, that’s my experience :)

  19. Collis says:

    @all: Thanks for the comments and feedback! and Happy New Year :-)

    @Patrick: About whether we have an editor, we do sort of. We have one person in charge of each site who acts as editor/manager/writer.

    @Andrew: You’re probably right about a $50 minimum being quite high, the thing to bear in mind is that our posts are generally a bit longer and more substantial than say a site that just comments or reports news. Additionally we’ve raised it because I believe we *should* be paying writers more, even this is probably a bit low still, but the economy of it all doesn’t work much higher (for us anyway)

    @Peter: Yeah that’s very true about post sizes, the articles on FSw are reasonably long, some more than others. And certainly the tutorials on PSDTUTS are quite involved and take (me) up to 5-6 hours to write and produce. Our article pricing was *very* loosely based on $.10 – $.20 a word, but writers are left to themselves on post length, so it’s loose as i say.

  20. Jim Smoot says:

    Great post. I’m not to the point of hiring others (yet), but it was good to get an idea of what is to come. It was also good to get a better feel for what to expect to earn as a blogger-for-hire. Thanks.

  21. Nice post. I wanted to start a blog network paying $5 a post. But for someone like me it is difficult to pay someone $20-$50 per post. Are there writers who can help those who cannot afford the higher prices?

  22. Visited the job board, but the latest job there is 17 days old. Not sure if I still should apply.

    2 Cedrick Reese: try other resources, like your local college’s English majors. Maybe you could find some luck there.

  23. dcrmom says:

    This is a great article. I’m starting a multi-author blog, and I will have to pay a percentage rather than a flat rate until we see how well it will do.

    I’m wondering if you have any advice about how to determine the percentage that is appropriate. For instance, my “partner” will be posting once a week. I will be posting twice, and at this point, I have fronted all the startup costs. She suggested a 75-25 split, which is fine by me.

    But if we hire other writers, how do we divy up the percentages then? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!