How freelance writers make real money as staff bloggers

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The sun on my finger by Gaetan Lee

Your brilliance moves you (photo by gaetan lee)

Ali Hale makes real money as a staff blogger, her primary revenue stream. Ali is a freelance writer and entrepreneur, in her 20s, carving out a solid living for herself. This Q&A interview will introduce you to Ali and her new ebook staff-blogging course. Further – you may gain some insight about parlaying one revenue stream, freelance writing into more – like making money by teaching others what you know.

Ali Hale

Ali Hale

So, Ali – let’s do some quick bio before we talk about staff blogging. Give us a little personal/professional background?

I live in London, in the UK. I moved here in 2006 to start a technical support/testing job after graduating from university: it really wasn’t “me”, and after nearly two years of it, I left to start my own freelancing business, Aliventures, primarily providing writing services and also some website work for very small companies.

What is staff blogging — why is it hot?

Staff blogging is working as a staff writer — that means regular and paid — for a blog that you don’t own. It’s awesome because it’s easy to get into, it’s fun and immediate, the pay is fast and surprisingly good if you’re an efficient writer. You know exactly what you’ll be getting per post (unless you’re writing for a share of advertising revenue, which I don’t really recommend), and because you can write for multiple blogs at once, you’re not going to end up in a financial crisis if one of them shuts down.

Is that your main revenue stream or a part time thing?

Currently, it’s my biggest revenue stream, though I don’t work on it full time. I have a few other small jobs going on, and I’m taking an MA in Creative Writing at the moment, too.

What else do you do for a living?

Over the past few months, I’ve created websites. I’ve done some childminding, (a great way to get some stimulating human interaction in the day!) I’ve done various small writing and editing jobs for clients, one of whom contacted me after enjoying one of my staff blogging posts; and I’ve written the Staff Blogging Course, which I’m selling as an ebook.

How many hours do you spend staff blogging and how much recognition does it get for you as a writer? Is it like ghost writing?

The number of hours fluctuates a bit week to week – I’d say it’s probably ten hours a week, on average; that’s including writing posts and also the admin side (comments, invoicing, contacting editors).

It’s definitely helped me to get my name known in the blogosphere, though I doubt more traditional, mainstream outlets (like newspapers and magazines) would pay much attention because of that. All the blogs I write for put my name on my posts, and most have an “authors” page with more information about me and the other staff bloggers. Dumb Little Man give me a full bio on every post, and I get good traffic to my business website, AliVentures,  from there. So no, it’s not like ghost writing (though I’ve done a bit of that too).

What made you decide to write a course? What background do you have in training?

One of the things I did enjoy about my technical support/testing job was that I was in charge of company documentation, so I got to write lots of user guides. The subject matter wasn’t exactly thrilling, but I enjoyed breaking down instructions into an easy-to-understand format.

In my second year with the company, I did a number of presentations and also ran a couple of full-day training sessions. I really enjoyed these (after I got over my initial nerves!) and used to prepare sheets of exercises to get people interacting with the software and trying out what they’d learnt. I’ve included exercises and handouts with the Staff Blogging Course, and had a lot of fun putting those together too.

I usually work alone, though my boyfriend helps with any graphic design when I’m doing website work — he’s got a real eye for it whereas I’m definitely a “words” person!

What kind of writer might be successful at staff blogging?

Ideally, you’ll want to have had some experience blogging — it doesn’t need to be in a “ProBlogger” way, but a familiarity with blogging software and writing for the internet in general will be a big plus. I recommend in the first unit of the Staff Blogging Course that would-be staff bloggers set up their own blog, so they have somewhere to build up a few samples of online pieces.

Is the compensation based on pay per click like Examiner.com or AssociatedContent or is it flat rate or hourly?

It varies depending on the blog, but all the blogs I’ve written for pay per post. Dumb Little Man even gives an extra bonus to authors who get the most traffic to a single post in a given month. I’m wary of writing for a share of advertising revenue, as this doesn’t give you much certainty over income, and can lead to very low incomes. A few blogs do pay hourly, but these tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

What kinds of companies or entities use staff bloggers? Is the demand healthy?

I’ve noticed IT companies increasingly advertising for staff bloggers, including PCWorld and similar. I’ve also written for a magazine with a blog, who paid very well, but that was on a one-off rather than regular basis. Most of the blogs who use staff bloggers are large blogs with a readership of 10,000+ and who are run by an editor (often not the owner), though some are much smaller in terms of readership and are using a blog to supplement their main website.

Demand seems very healthy to me; despite the credit crunch, I’ve had new jobs coming in from new start-up blogs, or from blogs who’ve become big enough to hire writers.

How much fun are you having?

Loads! The best thing is when I get an email from a reader who’s found one of my posts particularly helpful or useful — that’s always lovely. I love staff blogging because it lets me get my writing in front of a huge audience, and there’s a definite writerly thrill in being read!

What’s your best advice to writers in today’s challenging marketplace?

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Keep looking for new places you can write for, rather than assuming that current jobs will be around forever. Eighteen months ago, I had no clue that staff blogging even existed. I’m sure there are other writing areas now that I’m not aware of, too! Be proactive, and don’t be afraid to put out the word that you’re looking for jobs — you could be just the writer who someone needs.

What’s your last best project and what’s your next?

Great question! I think the Staff Blogging Course is my current “best” project, because it was a lot of fun to do, and I’ve learnt to be a bit brave about putting the word out — leading to an interview with Daily Blog Tips, a guest post on ProBlogger and a review on Freelance Folder.

My next project … I’m working on revamping the Aliventures site completely and turning it into a blog, not a business site. I’ve got enough staff blogging and other things going on at present that I’ve stopped taking on new website work completely, so the site really does need an overhaul.

Where can writers find you and your work?

You can find the list of blogs I write for, or have written for, with links to each, at AliVentures. The blog I probably enjoy writing for most, where I have a post or two up each week, is Dumb Little Man.

Thanks so much, Maryan, hopefully my answers will help your readers with their own freelance writing or writing businesses.

Note to readers: I’m taking Ali’s staff blogging course and will have a review of it for you very soon.  –mkp

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6 Responses to “How freelance writers make real money as staff bloggers”

  1. Informative interview!

    Ali – I also do some staff blogging and I feel that everything you said really rang true. I haven’t been going the staff blogging route for long, so it’s also very gratifying to see that you are making a good go of it.

    MK – I’m also interested in the Staff Blogging course. I’ll await your review with baited breath!

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