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Inside the Life of the Other Kind of ProBlogger

This guest post is by Paul Cunningham, blogger, internet marketer, and author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger,

I bet that you could easily name at least a dozen blogs that dispense blogging tips to other bloggers. The so-called “blogging blogs” vary in many different ways, but they all tend to give out the same basic advice: start a blog, build your audience, monetize, and maybe one day you’ll reach that six-figure income that defines you as a “problogger”.

But what about the other kind of problogger, the one who gets paid simply to write blog posts? You might think of them as freelance bloggers, or staff writers, or maybe you’ve never actually thought about them at all.

Consider this: while you work hard to build up your own blog, writing post after post and trying to find the traffic and monetization strategies that will work for you, those freelance bloggers are out there getting paid for every blog post they write.

So, is it really that easy for freelance bloggers to make money while most other bloggers make nothing? Let’s take a look inside the life of these other probloggers.

Skills and experience

A freelance blogger isn’t all that different from someone who publishes their own blog. The freelancer is a regular person who knows how to use WordPress to write and edit blog posts, just like any of you reading this that have used WordPress before.

They certainly don’t need to be a WordPress expert, because someone else is responsible for all of the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes of the blogs they write for. Installing plugins, dealing with comment spam, and performing upgrades are things that don’t eat up the freelancer’s time and energy. They’re free to concentrate on the writing.

The freelancer also either has strong experience in the topic they’re writing about, or uses simple research techniques to write with authority on almost any topic they wish.

This is more common than most people realize. After all, the biggest audience for most blogs is the beginner level, so freelance bloggers only need to be at intermediate level—or be able to fill in their knowledge gaps with research—to be able to write about the topic.

Discipline and time management

Make no mistake: that image you have in your head of a freelance blogger sitting in their pyjamas at home or relaxing at the local coffee shop while they work is true in a lot of cases. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t professionals too.

Freelancer blogging is a business, and has to be treated as one. The clients that you write for depend on quality blog posts being submitted on time. A freelancer can’t just spontaneously take the day off when they’ve got a deadline to meet. If they did, their reputation would take a hit, and reputation is one of the biggest assets a freelance blogger has.

Because most freelancers work from home, there are numerous distractions throughout the day that can easily harm their productivity. Successful freelance bloggers develop excellent time management skills and create routines that have them writing at their most productive times of day.

Money, money, money!

By now you might be wondering just how much money a freelance blogger makes, compared to the typical problogger. Naturally, this depends on a few different factors.

The ability to find and win good paying work is the first challenge. Freelance blogging opportunities are in plentiful supply at the moment (just take a look at the action on the ProBlogger job board as one example), and the trend seems to be towards more work rather than less.

Now that blogging has become mainstream, it plays a big part in the web strategies of a huge variety of media companies. The top blogs in the world tend to be high-volume, multi-author sites using a mix of staff writers and freelance bloggers to turn out the amount of content they need to compete in their niche.

All of this means that freelancers who are able to present a good portfolio of work, and have the discipline and professionalism to do the job, can virtually pick and choose exactly how much work they want to do each week. This puts the earning potential of a freelance blogger almost entirely within their own control.

It’s no surprise, then, to find that freelance bloggers can be anything from hobbyists who do it one or two nights a week for a bit of side income, all the way to full-time freelancers running their own six-figure business writing for multiple clients.

My experience in freelance blogging

I’ve spent the last two years freelance blogging. For me it was a side income — some extra money that I could reinvest into my own blogs as I was building them. It meant that I didn’t need to dip into our family savings to pay for the WordPress themes, plugins, ebooks, and other products that have helped me along the way.

While I was blogging, I met numerous bloggers who spend most of their time doing paid freelance work. A lot of them also run their own blogs for fun, and some make good money from those blogs too, but for most of them the attraction of freelance blogging is that it gives them a steadier income and almost instant return for their effort.

What about you? As you work to build your own profitable blogs, would a freelance blogging income help you get there faster?

Paul Cunningham is a blogger, internet marketer, and the author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger, the ebook that teaches you how to turn your knowledge and passion into a real income stream. Follow Paul on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this glimpse into the “other side”! I’ve recently been thinking that I should look into freelance blogging. I have a lot of ideas for blog posts that don’t quite fit into my blog, but I would love to write them. Since I would also love to get paid to blog, this combination might be perfect for me!

  2. An intriguing idea. Being a solopreneur right now, I would put my own personal energies into my own businesses online; I think if I spent the time writing blogs posts I’d want to claim them as my own.

    Then again, my business model depends upon how I present my 13+ years of knowledge and expertise. I can definitely see how it would be a great idea for bloggers with different priorities, however.

  3. MKR says:

    Freelancing never even occurred to me. Might be a good way to get some income until my blog starts to get enough people looking at it.

    Thanks for the tip. :)

  4. I’ve been a freelance blogger for over three years now, and earn a full-time living from it. I’d definitely say it’s easier to make a full-time income from freelance blogging than it is from your own blog.

    The downside is that with freelancing, your income is time-based. You (or at least, I) generally get paid based on the number of articles you submit, not on actual revenue. And because you can only write so many high-quality articles in a day or week, you’re more limited in what you can earn.

    I think it’s also getting tougher to break into the more popular, higher-paying blogs as a freelancer, because so many people are going the freelance route. When I got started 3 years ago, I just sent some links from my own blog and wrote a sample article and Mashable hired me as a regular contributor. Now they mostly want people with professional journalistic experience.

    But I still think it’s easier to make decent money freelancing than it is on your own blog.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I’ve been freelance blogging for awhile now. It’s not a full time income, but I hope it will become one. I think the key is to always deliver your content on time. And obviously, provide excellent content to begin with. But I’ve found a lot of my clients are weary of bloggers because they do have that vision of a lazy person sitting in their pjs. And I also don’t think many people who don’t blog understand how time consuming it is to think of a topic, research it, and write it. Perhaps I should put on my business card that a good blog posts takes a really long time to write. It could be my tag line :)

  6. Chris says:

    Great Blog. Full of useful information that I was not aware of before. This will prove to be invaluable in my blogging career. I am now clearer on the whole blogging thing and I thank you again.

  7. I’m a freelance blogger.

    And for me, it was the starting point of my very own blog. As I gathered experience while blogging for money, I fell in love with gadgets and blogging, so I started my own.

    A big word of advice: it is very helpful to test things out first, by working for someone else. It helps you learn the keywords, the SEO and you meet people that later may help you. A big stepping stone for a future 6 figure blogger.

  8. Erika says:

    I’m in the process of building a freelance blog writing business. I’m in marketing and PR and have been writing for businesses for years, but writing successfully for blogs is a different animal, so I am building my skills.

    I am not assuming that someone else will do the technical or promotional work. My target is small- to medium-sized businesses, so I am teaching myself how to build a blog as well as promote it. I see myself being much more marketable if I can actually help businesses build Web traffic via their blogs.

    Handing over Web copy to a business that can’t or doesn’t have time to promote their blog won’t earn me any repeat business because they won’t see any results.

  9. Freelance blogging has been a huge chunk of my income over the past few years. It’s not necessarily something I want to do for the rest of my life, but the fact that I can earn a living doing nothing more than writing a couple of blog posts every day is amazing.

  10. Sharninder says:

    I’ve been freelance blogging for over two years now and while I’m still not a problogger, the income is a nice supplement to the income from my day job. And the best part is that this is something that I love and would have done for free anyway.

    I absolutely agree with the point about time management and discipline. Even if freelancing is not your main job, the blog is most likely a business for someone else, so treat his/her time with respect and fully devote yourself to your job.

  11. Thank you for calling our attention to the freelance blogger side of things! I hadn’t even heard or thought of this before. Great info! I imagine there will be a lot more competition for the jobs on the board now. :) I’ll look into it!

  12. Yes, I think it is a lot less effort and some decent money. It sure is far easier than blogging, where you need to put really dedicated hard work, commitment with constant motivation to build up a serious business. And, for some their blog starts making money soon while for some it takes quite a long time. Freelance, as the name says, is free working, where you have flexible schedules, no commitment, you can either choose to write 1 article per week or 20!

    Thanks Paul, you have convinced me to try some freelance soup. By the way, I think it works really good for people from USA or UK, since most of the offers encourages people from those countries.

  13. Ali Luke says:

    Great piece, Paul. Like you and Thursday, I get a good chunk of my income from freelance blogging. It’s not just a straightforward, fast way to make money blogging (assuming you’re a reasonably good writer) — it’s also a great way to get name exposure and experience on much bigger blogs than your own.

    One thing to add — I’d recommend approaching editors directly (perhaps by sending them an initial free guest post to build up a relationship). Job board ads tend to result in a huge number of applications, and it’s easy to get lost in the crush. Plus, a lot of advertised jobs don’t actually pay very well.

  14. Dony B. says:

    I had fun reading your article as well as the comments. I am a brand new blogger and don’t think I can be categorized as a freelance blogger as I run my own blog. Honestly this is where I have just learned that there is a difference between a problogger and freelance blogger. I thought these are just two similar description of a person blogging. Great information..I feel i am sort of in a middle for now a simple “blogger” NOT YET (crossing my fingers) a problogger but neither a freelance blogger…

  15. Thought about going the “other” problogger way but then it hit me. I want to control my content, I want to own my content, and I want to take responsibility for my content.

  16. Paul,

    I knew about freelancing but I did not know you could make problogger living from it. Sounds pretty neat! For some, they do not need to worry about marketing and promoting their blog, that can weight off many bloggers as marketing takes time.

  17. Diana says:

    I do both. I blog, and run a topical blog that’s getting more intensive by the day. I also write for content mills and other blogs as I can. For me, it’s because I suffer from “displaced journalist” syndrome and I need to adapt my career to the new reality for writers. I suspect that those 6-figure blogging salaries belong to a lucky few; right now I’m struggling to break four figures.

  18. Hi everyone, just woke up to find all your comments. Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post.

    @Matthew – You’re right that could be a good combo. Some of the freelance jobs I’ve worked were for topics that just didn’t fit on my own blog.

    @Rebecca – That is a perception I bet a lot of freelancers encounter. I like your site by the way, very nice design.

    @Thursday – I remember listening to your BlogcastFM interview not that long ago. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment on my guest post here.

    @Sharninder – You’ve got it spot on about the discipline. Did you find it got easier for you over time?

    @Jeff – Ha! If I thought my one post could be so influencial… hmmm, that would be a good power to have ;-)

    @Jane – You might be surprised, there is a lot of demand outside the USA from what I can see, but not all of it is advertised on the job boards. Also some blogs love having people in different time zones who can write breaking news while the USA is asleep for example.

    @retroscifigeek – you make a good point. The posts aren’t yours since you get paid to write them, but then again, you *get paid* to write them! How many bloggers can’t say the same about all the posts they write for their own blog?

    @Mike – the income potential is there, but you need to find the better paying jobs that are out there. That can take a little while, but its possible.

    @Diana – the “content mills” have their place but I wouldn’t personally look at them as a way to a 6 figure salary.

    Thanks again everyone for your comments so far.

  19. Sorry for the stupid question, but how do you find people to blog for, if you don’t first build your profile via your own blog?

    Being a freelancer, your implicitly in the shadow of the blog editor, right?

    Do you use some kind of market place for freelancers, or do you have otther ways to get known?

  20. Being a freelance blogger has its own benefits and there are benefits associated with maintaining your own blog. You always have the choice to stuck with what suites you best. I prefer to own my content and maintain my blog. But when it matters I can also be a freelancer.

  21. @Sleepless – not a stupid question at all. I describe it in more detail in my ebook but to summarise:

    - if you have no blog you can quickly run up a portfolio blog on WordPress.com or on your own domain name, and fill it with a handful of writing samples that cover the main types of blog posts you would be writing as a freelancer (eg short news, longer tutorials, interviews, reviews). You don’t have to have one of everything, just enough to show that you can write well. Guest posts are another way to establish a portfolio.

    - you’ll usually be writing under your own name (the only ghost writing I’ve done is some reviews and tutorials) and submitting to an editor who checks them quickly before publishing. It isn’t unusual for the editor to never actually write their own posts on the blog, they deal with other admin tasks instead.

    - there are numerous places like the Problogger Job Board to start looking for work. Once you get rolling you can start to seek out some of the unadvertised jobs that also tend to be the better paying ones. Its all a process of starting at a certain level and working your way up, just like any other job.

    Hope that helps!

  22. @Thomas – I agree with you, in fact thats how I did it. I have two blogs of my own but for quite a while there the freelance work was earning me more money than my own blogs were.

    Most freelancers I encountered also had their own blogs. There were a few who didn’t, they were usually writers working on books and using freelance blogging to pay the bills in between book releases.

  23. Hi Paul,

    The only thing I will add is patience.
    Like in every other business you would need time to build your reputation and customer base.

  24. @Place – definitely agree. There will be some talented folks who can skip the process but for the most bloggers they’ll need to be patient.

  25. Manjusha says:

    Excellent article. I run a couple of blogs and an old fashioned website that now makes close to $800 a month from Adsense. But when I started out I wasn’t making any money. I had quit my job at a newspaper and was struggling to make both ends meet. But I hang on and my patience paid in time. Now I make hundreds of dollars a month from freelancing. My own blogs and sites have also become profitable. So it is all about patience and perseverance.

  26. Karen Marley says:

    I found this post quite interesting. I started a hobby blog as a way to gain some fresh, front-line experience in blogging and marketing a business other than my day job of freelance business writer. I specialize in long-copy content and as a result have picked up a few clients who pay me a lot more than a few dollars to write a post. I guess that puts me in the problogger category? These blogs are run as piece of a company’s larger content strategy. Each post is meant to deliver quality and be relevant to the reader all while supporting the company’s brand. I have found that the skill set required for writing posts to meet a company’s marketing needs is different than writing blog posts for your own venture. That said it really depends on the objectives and personality of the company and blog.

  27. I have been doing a lot of research on this topic…this article came right on time! Thanks sharing your knowlegde about this topic :)

  28. Wow, a bunch of comments have just been approved. Sorry if some of these replies seem a bit disjointed, I’ll try to catch everyone.

    @Barbara Ling – I felt the same way at times, wanting to keep the best stuff for myself or put all my energy into my own projects. But the harsh reality for me was that I needed money and freelancing was the quickest way to earn some while I kept working on my own projects as well.

    @MKR – thats precisely why I started doing it.

    @Cameron – I agree, it is trading time for dollars and is unlikely to create any residual or passive income. But hey at least it is indoor work and you don’t get dirty doing it ;-)

    @MyDaily-Gadget – thats a good story. Sounds similar to how BoyGeniusReport.com started, spinning off from a column on Engagdet. Maybe you’ll enjoy similar success ;-)

    @Erika – that is a great example of building a solid freelancing business around value added services. Sounds like you’re becoming more of a web content strategist along the way, well done!

    @Ali – good tip. Just like in the regular workforce the best jobs are rarely advertised.

    @Manjusha – thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you were able to tough it out and are seeing some success now.

    @Karen – you’re correct, writing content to meet a company’s objectives is different to just writing for your own fun and enjoyment. it is a skill but I think most bloggers have it inside of them waiting to be fully utilised. And hey, if you’re doing it professionally why not call yourself a problogger ;-)

    Apologies if I missed anyone’s comments along the way there.

  29. Karen Marley says:

    Thanks for the reply! I agree that a lot of bloggers probably have the skills inside them. I guess my point is that it takes a lot of effort and focus even to transfer your skills, not the least which is marketing yourself to get hired! I’m still surprised. Then again, maybe I’m just really inefficient. One thing is clear–everyone here loves what they do and that is very cool. Cheers!

  30. Not sure I could freelance- I like to write about what I want to write about……..

    Like to be in control of what I do and when…although IT IS a lot slower!

    Of course, the steadier income sounds nice….

  31. Thanks for the link to the eJunkie site.

  32. yatra says:

    Great ideas to implement in blogs.

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