Today 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.
(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!