Be a Freelance Blogger shares useful resources, valuable tips and guest posting opportunities for bloggers looking to earn a living from writing. Learn how to find paid blogging jobs and enjoy your freedom as a freelance blogger - whether you want to stay home with your family or travel the world
Freelance bloggers are constantly looking for ways to spread their talent to outlets all over the internet. Let’s be honest, having your own blog is nice — but, when you get published on a website with hundreds of thousands of unique visitors a month, it feels great!
Getting content published to big name websites isn’t easy, but it IS worth it. The satisfaction of getting your creativity out to scores of people while making money is perhaps one of the most rewarding feelings on planet Earth.
The biggest hurdle that you’ll have to champion when sending out a guest post pitch involves getting past the editor of the website. Editors, in particular head editors, act as gatekeepers for the publication. Their primary responsibility is making sure that high quality, amazing content gets published to the site that they operate.
If you can get the editor’s attention in a POSITIVE way you stand a good chance at getting published. We are going to dissect the steps involved in getting the pitching editor to take a look at your pitch — and respond favorably!
The editor’s code is complex, there is no doubt about it. But if you have the proper resources and know-how, you too can get a piece published just about anywhere.
Ready, Set, Research
This first tip might come off as shocking, but it NEEDS mentioning. When you plan on pitching to a website please, please, (did I mention please?) research the website in question before you even think about writing your first email to them.
It’s unbelievable how many people pitch to websites without knowing what the heck they do or discuss. Sadly, this is a trend that is never going to end. There will forever be those people who think that their idea is so good, so breathtaking, that it doesn’t matter that their pitch has NOTHING to do with niche of the aforementioned website.
Imagine this; you own a website that specializes in nothing but care for farm animals and crop tips. You wake up, grab some coffee, and hop online. The first email in your inbox says “AMAZING PITCH!” You click on it and it’s someone pitching an article about the finer points of taking apart a Boeing 757 engine. What do you do?
If you are a normal, rational human being, you chuckle, and hit “delete.” Some editors don’t give freelance bloggers the time for a rejection if they pitch so broadly off-topic. Their thought process isn’t hard to figure out. “They didn’t take the time to even see what we are about, so why should I take the time to respond to them?”
Make sure that you know the theme of the website you’re pitching to — it’s that simple. You can figure this out by reading through the website; even a quick skim can give you a ROUGH idea! However, I recommend reading their “About” page, “FAQ”, and of course, blog posts. It helps to know exactly what kind of content they enjoy before submitting your pitch!
Be Professional, Be Personal
Now that you know what their website is about, you can start thinking about your pitch IDEA (but not setup, we will get to that later) and what you’re going to say in your email.
We’ve all received the “DEAR SIR OR MADAM” type of email before, and no one takes them seriously. So avoid this opening at all costs. Instead, consider taking on a more personable approach that draws the editor in. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by being professional and mildly personal.
Chances are, the name of the editor is readily available somewhere on the website. I suggest you look either on the “Contact” page, or on random blog posts throughout the website. You may see someone labeled as the head editor on the byline or the bottom of the page.
If you have pored over every inch of the website and can’t find the name of the editor, don’t worry! You can simply start the email off by saying something like, “Hi there! I hope you are having a great day! I’m a freelance blogger…” If you CAN’T nail the personal aspect of it, you can, at the very least, send a message that is professional and friendly.
Read the Darn Guidelines
I cannot even begin to stress how important it is that you follow the guidelines. Believe it or not, there are people who regularly skip over this step as if it doesn’t exist. It’s reminiscent of the first tip — people believe that their idea is so perfect that there is no way the editor will deny them, even if they fail to follow simple directions.
The fact is, the editor came up with the guidelines for a reason. This information is meant for use by freelance bloggers who want to publish on their website. The goal is to put a format in place that will allow the editors to do 3 things:
So how do you follow the guidelines AND inject your own personality? It’s easier than you think! Your career is centered around the words that you use and your ability to string them together in a concise and engaging way. So all you have to do is continue doing your thing, but within the parameters of the guidelines.
Let’s Get Creative
Your goal is to SELL your idea to the editor. And to sell your idea, you have to inject your pitch with the same engaging tone and idea you use in any other writing you submit.
Make your thoughts stand out from the pack by using exciting language, presenting a fresh idea, and/or showing your commitment to the niche in question. Let’s go back and pretend we own the farmer’s website again. Which of the following pitches would you likely accept?
Pitch A: Best Ways to Harvest Your Crops
Pitch B: Farmer Hacks: Genius Tips and Tricks for Collecting Your Annual Harvest
Based on the title alone, most people would choose pitch B. It stands out, it delivers a clear message, and most of all, it’s ENGAGING. You need to bring this level of creativity to every single one of your guest posts. Editors get hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a week — what you write needs to immediately catch and hold their attention.
Double — No, TRIPLE — Check Your Pitch
First impressions are everything. When you send that email out to an editor, there is no second chance to get their attention. Once you’ve finished your pitch, take some time and proofread, proofread, proofread.
Make sure that your spelling and grammar are on point, check for clear, concise thoughts in your writing, and ask yourself, “Would I dig this if I were an editor?” Answer yourself honestly.
Luckily, there are many tools that can help you edit and refine your work.
For example, Grammarly helps you to check your work with a fine tooth comb. The “free version” looks for large, glaring issues, while the paid version is for people who like near-perfect work. Tools like this can help you tweak your language, suggest better words for you to use, and even track your word usage across every document you put through your account.
Another great tool is the Hemingway Editor app. You can use this program for free, or pay for a standalone version. This program focuses on sentence structure and helps you write more concise, easy to understand sentences. There is even an included readability tool that lets you see the “grade level” of your writing.
Handle Rejection with Dignity
Rejection hurts. There is no way around it. When you get that email back saying that your pitch wasn’t up to par, it’s going to feel like you just got punched in the gut.
You can’t let that feeling get the best of you. No matter what.
Rejection is part of pitching. Every single freelance blogger has had a rejected pitch.
Think of it this way: every “no” is one step closer to a “yes.”
Honestly, if you follow the guidelines, double check your work, and show respect, you have done literally everything in your power. It’s time to move on and see if you can get an idea accepted elsewhere.
HOWEVER, don’t forget to respond to the editor before you delete their rejection. This shows them that you are a professional, and it leaves the door open for future opportunities. My general response emails look something like this:
“Hello, (editor name)!
I wanted to thank you for taking the time to respond to my email. I also greatly appreciate your feedback. I understand that my pitch may not be a good fit for (insert website name) at this time. If another potential idea comes up, I may reach out to you again. In the meantime, if you have any other suggestions or concerns, please feel free to get in touch!
Thank you again, and have a great day!
As freelance bloggers, we all want success. The only way we are able to become successful is through constant, thoughtful, consistent pitching.
Strive to add your own personal touch to everything that you do, and that includes the pitches you send off to editors. They want to see your style, and the pitch is the first test to see if you’re going to be a good fit.
So follow the advice in this article, keep pitching, be respectful, and handle rejection like an adult. It takes time and effort to build momentum but before you know it, you’ll have a whole portfolio of pieces under YOUR name.
Psst… Want More Help to Perfect Your Pitches?
In their new Kindle book, How to Pitch a Blog Post, Sophie Lizard (this blog’s owner) and Lauren Tharp (this blog’s managing editor) share all of their best tips and tricks for reaching out to blogs and offering them your writing.
who to pitch…
what to pitch…
how to pitch…
when to pitch…
what to do after you hit “Send”…
and even what to do when your pitch is accepted!
Plus the book includes a handy pitching template you can use and re-use to make pitching your blog post ideas a breeze every time.
As a freelance blogger, you might have heard that you should get paid per project. Or per article, at least. That this way you won’t be penalised for working more efficiently after spending time and money improving your skills and knowledge. Better you get, faster you deliver, right? But we all know that some clients insist on paying per hour.
One of the reasons behind it is that the financial aspects of freelancing can be very confusing, and not only for the clients. And if it isn’t one of those cases where you would rather lose the deal than accept an hourly rate, your only option is to make the arrangement work for you. So here is how you do it, step by step.
Step 1: Calculate your average hourly rate
First, you need to straighten out your average hourly rate. Most freelancers can’t price their time, meaning that it’s fine if you don’t, but this will have to change now.
I say “average” because the catch of hourly rates is that you can’t tell for sure how long it will take to do something until you’ve done it. And yet, you need to come up with a fee. As time machines haven’t been invented yet, an average will have to do.
So, let’s calculate it.
Calculate your projected gross annual revenue
One of the biggest mistakes that freelance bloggers make is to think like an employee instead of a business owner. They couldn’t be more wrong. As a freelancer, you have several costs and no benefits: you pay for your own holidays, pension, health insurance − you name it. And your revenue should reflect these costs.
It would require another article to explain in detail how to calculate your projected gross annual revenue. However, for now, it will be enough if you decide the amount you hope to make per year. Again: this isn’t how much you want to profit. It should also include funds to pay for business expenses, taxes, and indirect costs.
Calculate your working hours and days
Your working hours probably aren’t something as simple as 9-to-5, five days a week. And not all the time you spend working is billable.
How many hours per day do you spend strictly writing for clients? Not answering emails, not marketing yourself, not doing your accounting. Five hours, maybe? Figuring out this number is crucial for determining where your income comes from.
The next step is to determine the number of working days per year – here you will discard days off or holidays. I also encourage you to add five extra days for emergencies or sick days.
Calculate your average hourly rate
Now, calculate your hourly rate. Here is the math:
Billable hours per day x number of working annual days = total of annual working hours.
Then divide your projected annual revenue by the total of annual working hours. The result is your average hourly rate.
Step 2: Estimate a specific hourly rate
With your average hourly rate in mind, come up with a figure for your client. Yes, it might not be the same fee you just calculated above.
Estimate the time you will spend
Assignments with only one type of article that you know well are easier to measure: just write down the number of hours spent on it − research, editing, publishing, and any other tasks should be included.
For all other cases, estimate the time based on your experience. But if you have absolutely no idea, I strongly suggest that you experiment writing a similar article and track your time so you can make an educated guess.
Consider the task carefully
Now, you need to think further about the task itself. Answer the questions below:
Does it require more expertise than usual?
Does it create any extra cost? For example, this could be images or an extra pair of eyes.
Do some of the topics require more effort to get done than others?
Saying yes to any question above means an increased rate.
Then, multiply the time you believe you will spend by your average hourly rate. Let’s say that the article should take around 3 hours to get done and that your hourly rate is €30. In this case, your article will cost €90. Does it sound fair to you? If not, you might want to increase your hourly rate. By how much? It’s totally up to you, really.
Step 3: Communicating your rate to your client
Now that you got an hourly rate in your head, it’s time to talk to your client.
Explain your writing process
Even though some clients might try to take advantage of you, believe me the majority are in fact clueless about the expertise and procedures required in your work. Others can’t tell the difference between a remote worker and a freelancer, not realising that you have far more expenses and zero benefits.
Take the time to educate them. Explain what happens from first contact to publishing, describe the costs, and how things can vary from topic to topic. And always tie each point to time spent.
Suggest a trial period
The next step is to propose a trial period arrangement. Say that you will write a few articles or work for a predetermined number of hours – clearly state how many – under a suggested rate, so you both can see how it goes.
If it is all good, happy days. If it isn’t, you will then explain why and recommend a new hourly rate. This will get them prepared for a possible future renegotiation.
Make it simple
Even though everything here sounds very serious (and it should be), don’t dramatise it for your client. Make it very simple and casual when you write or say it. For instance:
About my fee, an hourly rate can be tricky as it’s hard to predict how much time will take to write each article. And it can differ case by case, depending on the topic and the tasks involved.
As you might know, writing a high-quality article means more than putting words together. It’s about XYZ (talk about your process here).
What if we get started with a provisional rate of €50/hour? I will write 5 articles under this rate (and I believe I will spend around 3 hours on each article), then we can evaluate the cost-benefit and renegotiate it if necessary. How does that sound?
Just ensure that it’s clear that what is on trial is the hourly rate, not you.
Step 4: Make the most of the trial period
So, you both agreed on writing those five articles, congratulations! Your next step is to gather as much information as possible during the trial period. Start by picking your five articles wisely (if possible). Choose topics with different styles, word counts, or complexity, so you can analyse each case.
Download a time tracker app on both your desktop and mobile phone, such as Toggle or Rescue Time, so you won’t miss a second – track everything from answering emails to delivery procedures. I suggest that you record each task separately, so you can figure out exactly where your time (and money) is going.
Keep an open channel with your client by creating a report on Google Sheets or another online collaborative tool. Update it with the time spent on each task as you deliver them so they can learn with you – be prepared for adjustments along the way. It will also prevent surprised reactions when your invoice arrives.
Step 5: Renegotiate your rate
Once your trial is over, send your evaluation to your client. Prepare something very professional with reports and timesheets so you can have all the facts organised there.
If an increase in your hourly rate is in order, be direct and confident about it. You’ve proved your talent and will be presenting solid arguments to support your request. This could also become the perfect time to suggest a change from an hourly rate to a per project or per article rate, if your analysis showed that this makes more sense.
Yes, there is a possibility that you have overestimated something and that your rate should be decreased. If so, accept the fact as nicely as you’d expect your clients to.
Profiting from an hourly rate can be a challenge. You will need full control and understanding of the assignment, your craft, and finances. And the truth is that you don’t always have this information until after completing the job.
That is why you should start with an average rate, do a few assignments, and then sit with your client to renegotiate your rate. Make it clear from day one that this will happen, and that it’s a natural part of the process. This will avoid you feeling trapped in a far-from-ideal rate in the future.
In the movies, the heroes decide whether to do the right thing, or take the money and run. Our decisions in freelancing can often look similar: Do I take the lucrative blogging gig, even though the client makes me queasy? Or do I starve with integrity? If you’re going to have a successful career as a freelance blogger, you should know right now that this is a false dichotomy.
Reaching your maximum earning potential and maintaining your professional integrity is NOT an either/or proposition. In fact, acting with integrity is actually the best way to earn the most money. It’s true—the top earners in this industry are the ones who stick by their values, whether they’re rolling in clients at the moment or not.
The fact is, acting with integrity is the best way to ensure that you are working with the right kind of clients, and earn the kind of reputation that keeps them coming in droves. Let’s take a look at how we ended up buying into this lie that you can either have your integrity, or financial success.
Why Do We Think It’s Either/Or?
Our culture has a weird guilt about earning well. That might seem nuts—we appear to idolize the young and wealthy social climbers of the world. But do we, really? Or deep down, do we equate being rich with being greedy and immoral? When we think about our businesses, we eventually come to think that you need to choose to either be evil magnate Lex Luthor, or humble reporter Clark Kent.
The reason for this is either/or thinking is often a symptom of just being a young business. When you’re starting out, you probably won’t have more than enough gigs to choose from. Turning down bad gigs, therefore, means losing out on the money outright. But keep in mind: this will only be true in the beginning of your career.
I had a potential client lined up recently who was offering lots of work at good rates–but was a dumpster fire of a person. In one meeting, he managed to insult my religion, degrade people with mental health issues, and imply that women earn less because they take so many days off because of their periods. Yes, really.
The problem was, I had just lost my biggest blogging contract, and I was desperate for work. I was sorely tempted to ignore his many issues and just take the paycheck. I even planned a follow-up phone call with him after escaping the meeting, which felt more like a hostage situation than a business sit-down. I really struggled with a decision, agonizing over whether or not to call it off, and how to do it. When I first started freelancing, I told myself that I would never shy away from writing about my politics for fear of offending someone, because I felt that if someone wasn’t cool with me being a feminist or an advocate for mental health, then I didn’t want to write for them. Now that decision was staring me in the face. If I wrote for this guy, knowing about his misogyny and phobias, could I say that I had upheld my own standards? On the other hand—rent.
I got in touch with my network of freelancers in a Facebook group, who were all aghast at the guy’s behavior, and they advised me to run, not walk away. I came to realize that I was framing the question all wrong–it wasn’t “can I afford to act on my principles”, it was “can I afford not to?”
Why “Shady Practices” and “Earning Well” Rarely Go Together in Reality
Here’s the thing about the clients who promise big payouts but ask you to ignore too much. Who’s more likely to come through on a deal—the client who acts professionally, treats you with respect, and makes their expectations clear? Or the guy who can’t handle a simple meeting without making his opinions on Catholics known and sharing his genius theories about the gender pay gap? The client I was considering was a startup that was looking for more venture funding. I realized that if this guy couldn’t handle one meeting with a freelance blogger without going off the deep end, how was he going to act in front of his next potential investor?
The same principle goes for other types of sleazeball behavior. If you’re uncomfortable with a client’s ethics or the way they treat others, know that you aren’t privileged. A client who disrespects others will inevitably do the same to you when it suits them. It’s just like getting into a relationship with someone who’s already spoken for—you already know their policy on cheating, and you can’t assume that you’ll be the exception.
Affording Your Principles
It’s easy to justify ignoring your integrity in the short term until you can “afford” to be choosy in the future. This is the wrong way of thinking. Bad work tends to beget more bad work. Many of your future blogging clients will come from contacts that you make with your current ones, so the network you build now matters. That’s also the reason why you shouldn’t accept lousy rates or predatory contracts, even when you’re first starting out. That only puts you in the position to accept more lousy rates and more bad contracts down the line. The obverse is true, as well—good clients tend to beget more good clients, and with them, good rates.
Ignoring your business integrity will always have consequences, and they may be expensive ones. Acting in a shady way can get you a bad reputation as a freelancer, or it can expose you to the risk of lawsuits or other penalties. No matter how hard up for work you are, it’s never worth it.
Instead of trying to decide whether acting with integrity is worth the financial loss, think of it instead as a business investment. Your freelance blogging career is YOUR business, and you get to decide how it is run. Many of us left our full-time gigs specifically because we wanted to leave shady businesses behind. Don’t allow yourself to recreate that toxic culture in your own business out of some misguided notion that you can’t “afford” to act with integrity. The best earners in this business are the ones who act like professionals, and stick to their guns.
The Integrity Checklist
Here’s a handy list of questions to ask yourself while you’re considering establishing a business relationship with a new client. Run through this checklist every time you do a business deal or start a new gig, and you’ll come through with your integrity and reputation intact.
The gut check—how does this new client or gig make me feel instinctively, before I start rationalizing the pros and cons? Am I excited or a bit queasy right off the bat?
Has the client thrown up any red flags? Have they done or said anything to indicate that they may not treat others with integrity? Do they hold any beliefs that are contrary to my values?
If this deal fell through without you having to make a decision and through no fault of your own, how would you feel about that? Would you be sorely disappointed, or the least bit relieved?
Would I want the writing I do for this gig to be visible to every future potential client? Or am I considering omitting it from my portfolio and not sharing it to any of my social networks?
So, acting with consistency and integrity while you run your freelance blogging career pays off in the long and short term. Acting according to your values will limit your risk of dealing with predatory clients, of garnering a bad reputation that scares the good clients off, and of possibly exposing yourself to lawsuits or fines for shady behavior. Instead, your good reputation will attract the kind of clients that you actually want to work with—honest, and willing to pay for what good work is worth.
Drop me a line in the comments if you’ve had an experience in your own career that showed how sticking to your guns paid off in the long run!
Do you want to be known as a freelance blogger with integrity?
Are you committed to all that “integrity” implies? It’s not just about never telling a lie, or being straightforward with your clients, or even finishing everything by deadline.
What “Integrity” Really Means
Word-wise, “integrity” comes from the Latin integritatem or integritas, which meant “soundness,” “wholeness,” “completeness,” “purity,” “correctness,” and/or “blamelessness.” So maintaining integrity as a blogger means being thorough in your writing and editing—and that doesn’t just mean “thoroughly” getting rid of typos. The online world is full of blog posts that are perfectly spelled, grammatically flawless—and achingly dull or incomprehensibly confusing.
Integrity of thoroughness—making a post complete and whole—includes:
Putting in all needed information. Many a how-to post, especially those featuring crafts or recipes, draws complaints of poor results because the writer left out a step he thought went without saying.
Organizing the text to flow smoothly. This means tying paragraphs together with transitional words and sentences (“however,” “also,” “speaking of”) rather than jumping scattershot from one idea to the next. Smooth flow also means keeping the whole piece in logical order; even if it isn’t chronological or step-by-step, the ideas to be presented will always fall into natural groups.
Getting rid of technically correct but unnecessary words. This typically includes most adjectives and adverbs; the word “very”; most forms of “be”; and overly generic words that could be interpreted differently by different readers. Any amateur can write “very big” or “ran fast,” but using enormous and sprinted makes for smoother reading plus a clearer mental picture.
Got that? Okay, let’s look at a few situations where integrity does center on honesty.
Being Honest With Your Clients
You probably wouldn’t think of deliberately telling a total untruth to a client. However, few of us are so honest as to be incapable of “bending the truth,” especially when the alternative might cost us opportunity or pride. Are you in the habit of automatically replying “Sure” to the first deadline or price the client proposes, regardless of how convenient you find it? Do you say you “don’t mind” doing a full rewrite for free, while inwardly fuming? In that case, you’re probably getting a poor return on your work investment, hurting your health and productivity with stress, and perhaps overloading your calendar until you have time to do only substandard work.
Let’s get one point clear: No client worth having will be offended at negotiating price or parameters. Negotiation is a universally accepted business skill that every businessperson, including freelance bloggers, needs to use regularly. (A lengthy discussion of negotiation is beyond the scope of this post, but the BAFB archives—and those of my other favorite freelancer’s blog, MakeaLivingWriting.com—are great places to find tips.)
Sometimes, “negotiation” is as simple as saying, “I’m afraid I have three other deadlines this week. Would you be okay with getting that post next Tuesday instead of this Friday?” You’ll be surprised how many clients agree to counter-proposals without argument. They know that the busiest freelancers are often the likeliest to deliver work worth waiting for—and they’ll be a lot more likely to hire you again than if you turn in second-rate work because their first suggested deadline was too much of a rush job.
(Of course, once you do agree to a deadline, integrity demands you meet it—unless you have a much better excuse than “I underestimated the time needed” or “I got distracted reading other blogs.” See the last section of this article.)
If you’re lucky enough to have more prospects than you can handle, you can further “complete” your reputation by knowing other bloggers and supplementing your “Sorry, I’m too busy right now” with “Why don’t you try Janie Fellowfreelancer? Here’s her contact information.” (Let Janie know you’ve referred the prospect, and send them both a friendly “How’d things go?” follow-up note. That ensures you’ll be remembered with good feelings—perhaps six months later when your former prospect has a friend who needs a post just when you need more work.)
A trickier situation arises when you’re approached about a project you find overall bigoted, immoral, or blatantly false. Usually, all you can do is say, “Sorry, I can’t take that on” and leave it at that: a moral lecture rarely accomplishes anything, and your integrity will be a long time recovering if you take the project anyway or otherwise encourage its success at all.
If, on the other hand, a prospect thoughtlessly asks for a guarantee you can’t give (“You’ll get paid after the post gets a minimum number of shares”), for a ludicrously low price ($15 for a 1,000-word post), or for something of questionable legality (an advertisement disguised as an objective article), you can briefly explain why you can’t do that and other reputable bloggers won’t either. If the prospective client is defensive, cut the conversation short and let them learn the hard way. But if they made the request in ignorance, you could be saving them a lot of frustration or even trouble with the law.
(Incidentally, I don’t recommend putting “I don’t work with this or that type of project” on your About Me page; any publisher with “We do not accept fiction” in their official guidelines can tell you how often people ignore such disclaimers. Besides, your “none of this” description may be confused with a vaguely similar type of project you do accept. Focus on the positive.)
Being Honest With Yourself
While we’re talking about ethical values, it’s worth noting that you can’t stick to yours if you aren’t sure what they are—which happens to more people than you might think. At best, they say they believe in honesty, time with family, or standing up for their rights—while making every practical decision as though expediency were the only value they knew.
Usually, these are people with good intentions, but low self-esteem and a terror of uncertainty. As a result, they lie to themselves constantly, and not just about matters of ethics:
“One little compromise won’t hurt.”
“I’m sure I have time for this. I just need ten sources to answer my emails within an hour.”
“If I don’t take this job, nothing else will ever come along.”
“I have a bad feeling about this offer—but I’m probably just being paranoid.”
Most of these are rooted in One Big Lie: “I’m not really very talented or very smart—I’m worth so little that anyone I meet has the power to ruin my life on a whim—so I’d better do everything I can to please others and protect what little security I have.”
For some reason, that kind of thinking is common among freelance bloggers—perhaps because the same detail orientation that attracts us to writing also leads us to equate imperfection with failure. Regardless, any day is the right day to replace the lies with truthful self-talk:
“I believe in my values, and nothing is worth compromising them for.”
“I know from experience what’s a realistic time frame for gathering information, and it’s my responsibility to let my prospect know that.”
“If I have to turn down this job for good reasons, a better one will come along soon.”
“Instincts are right more often than not. Better to turn down this job than find out the hard way my ‘bad feeling’ was spot-on.”
If you have real difficulty, a good rule is: don’t talk to yourself with any words you’d be ashamed to say to a friend. Also, remember that accepting yourself as you are doesn’t mean becoming proud and complacent. Keep learning, keep improving, but believe that the best you can do now is good enough for now. “Faking it till you make it” isn’t a breach of integrity; it’s a way to nurture the “better self” you really are deep inside. (If you can’t abide the word “fake,” try “walk tall till you stand tall.”)
How to Be Blameless Without Becoming a Toxic Perfectionist
That leads us back to the detailed definition of “integrity”: thorough, sound, blameless. Especially “blameless.” Contrary to popular opinion, “blameless” and “faultless” are not the same thing. The elements of actual blamelessness have little to do with agonizing over whether “It’s time to raise the shades” sounds better than “It’s time to raise the blinds.”
Blamelessness means planning your projects so you can do your best work.
Do the bulk of your writing when your creative energy is highest. Know the approximate amount of time you need to write a post (adding 10 percent for a learning curve if this is a new client), and reserve that space on your calendar (which will also give you a reference tool to judge if you have room for new jobs). Include time to finish your drafts a few days before actual deadline, which allows for unexpected interruptions and a brief “cooling” period before the final edit.
Blamelessness means keeping yourself in good physical condition, so you’ll be able to do your best work for years to come.
Take frequent breaks (preferably for a quick walk or healthy snack) during your work day. Take at least one full day a week off from work. Get your 7–9 hours of sleep every night, and have more than coffee and doughnuts for breakfast. Take time to eat a real lunch (though not so big as to leave you bloated and drowsy). Practice meditative prayer or whatever near equivalent you prefer. Contrary to many gut reactions, cultivating these habits is not a waste of time; it keeps you sharp so you can get more work done, not to mention saving your useful years from being cut short by burnout or heart failure.
Blamelessness means being open about real roadblocks.
As a Houstonian, I rode out Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 with my freelance-blogging schedule relatively intact; but with a little less luck, I could have lost all computer connections for days—or I could have seen the whole computer washed away toward the nearest bayou. Sometimes, despite your best planning, life knocks you for a major loop and sticking word-for-word to what you promised a client is no longer an option.
In which case: don’t beat yourself up as if it were your fault, and don’t hope the client just forgets all about you. Get in touch with the client at the first opportunity, explain the full details of your situation and when you expect to get back to work, and figure out the best mutually agreeable solution together. Even if they have to transfer the job to another blogger, they won’t blame you for anything—and they’ll respect you for being honest and responsible.
In closing: the “completeness” of integrity does not mean taking complete responsibility for making sure the entire world runs smoothly. It means taking complete responsibility for being someone your clients can rely on—and for believing in yourself.
At the beginning of your freelance blogging career, you worried about getting enough work. Now you have a better problem, but a problem nonetheless: you have more assignments than you can comfortably handle on your own.
This article will show you how to outsource some of your work to other writers while maintaining professional integrity with your client and subcontractor(s). Now, I know some of you are thinking “but I’m not at that point in my career yet. How do I get there?” While there are different ways to land more decent-paying freelance blogging gigs, the good news is it doesn’t necessarily take as long as you might assume.
Like many freelance bloggers, I started out writing for a content mill. After nearly a year of writing content in the evenings after my toddler was in bed, I was unhappy with the low pay and demanding deadlines. I knew there must be something better out there, but I wasn’t sure how to find it. Around that time, Sophie offered a new intensive mentoring program and I decided to enroll. Some people are good at putting themselves out there and forging their own path to freelance blogging success, but I’ve always benefited from personal mentoring and external accountability.
After two months of working with Sophie, I landed my first steady gigs as a freelance blogger. The first one came with a byline and the responsibility of writing a few articles a month for a personal finance website. I discovered it through a job ad and used Sophie’s pitch templates to send a winning application. The second gig involved ghostwriting blog posts and other content for a private client who filled out the contact form on my website. With Sophie’s help, I’d recently given my site a makeover to add a portfolio and focus on my freelance blogging services.
Both of these gigs expanded after a few months. My editor liked my work, so she assigned more articles. My client was starting a new marketing firm and as his customer base grew, so did my workload. After a year of freelance blogging on the side while working my “day job” as an adjunct English professor, I realized something had to give. I was overwhelmed and falling behind. If this continued, I would likely lose a writing client or receive bad evaluations from my students.
First, I scaled back my teaching load from three or four classes a semester to just one. Then I decided to share some of my blogging work with a few writer friends.
Here’s how I maintained my professional integrity in the outsourcing process so I could catch up, stay on track, and keep my clients happy.
Is outsourcing a better solution than the alternatives?
After all the effort you put into building your freelance blogging business, you may resist parting with any of your hard-won work. I felt this way, too. It’s difficult to let go of that “fasting or feasting” mentality many freelance bloggers have. To convince yourself that outsourcing is the best solution, you must first consider the alternatives.
Find more time in the day to work.
It could be you simply aren’t devoting enough hours to writing. If you can find time on the margins of your days, like early mornings or evenings, you might be able to catch up without outsourcing. I tried to do this, but with two small children at home, I couldn’t make it work.
Fire a good client.
Like good friends, good clients are worth holding on to. (But if you find yourself stuck with a crappy client, by all means break up with them.) I had positive relationships with my two long-standing clients. They paid well and on time, rarely criticized or asked for changes, and I enjoyed the work. I didn’t want to quit.
Go on hiatus.
Instead of firing a good client, why not just take a break? There’s a valid argument to be made for hiatuses in certain situations. For example, in retrospect it was ridiculous for me to finish a writing assignment while in labor with my second child, just because I was afraid of letting the client down by asking for time off. But a hiatus in my current situation didn’t seem like the best idea. For one thing, I wasn’t sure how long I’d need to take off. I would seem unreliable if I had to keep saying “I’m not ready yet, try me again in another week.” Plus, my client would have to find someone else in the meantime, and after going through the effort of hiring another writer, who’s to say they’d take me back when I was ready?
Suffer from burnout until you can’t help anyone, not even yourself.
This is the option I was facing before I decided to outsource, and as you can guess burnout isn’t a very productive state. If I continued to turn things in late or ask for deadline extensions, I could very well lose all my clients and have to start over again.
After I weighed my options, outsourcing seemed like the best compromise. Now I had to find a few interested writers whose work I could count on.
Where to find dependable, talented writers for outsourcing
There are plenty of writers in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find one with the right combination of talent and reliability. My recommendation? Turn to your personal network first. If you don’t know other writers through real life or online friendships, you should join a local writer’s group or start hanging out on a freelance blogging forum. That way when you need to outsource, you’ll already have one or two people in mind.
Since I’ve been involved in various writing communities since college, I relied on my personal contacts to find writers for outsourcing. Of the three friends I asked first, two said yes and one said no. Since I’ve only needed help with two-three blog posts a month, two has been a perfect number. I always have a backup if one person is unavailable.
Of course, hiring friends can be tricky–it’s not the same as making a referral and relieving yourself of responsibility for the project. If you don’t have writer friends who can help, or you’d prefer to do business with strangers, your best bet is to ask for recommendations or post a free ad in a self-selecting community like The Freelance Writers Den. Spare yourself the time and energy drain of receiving hundreds of responses to a Craigslist ad.
Make sure you outsource the right work
If you have more than one client or writing gig, the next step in the outsourcing process is to figure out what you should delegate.
First, disqualify any assignments with a byline. Passing off someone else’s work as your own is not a hallmark of professional integrity. Plus, no matter how awesome another writer is, I only want to put my name on something I created from scratch. How else will future clients know I’m the right writer for them if I didn’t actually write all of my portfolio clips?
Next, consider the different pay rates you receive (if applicable). It makes more sense to outsource lower paying work and save longer assignments for yourself. But if there’s something you just don’t want to do, go ahead and outsource it.
Speaking of pay, what’s the right amount of compensation?
An important aspect of professional integrity is how you treat others, including clients and subcontractors. I’m sure you could find new writers willing to accept content mill-rates, but exploiting others definitely compromises your integrity. Plus if you pay crap you can’t be surprised to get crap in return. And if you end up needing to rewrite the work you outsourced, you haven’t saved yourself any time.
Treat your subcontractors as you wish to be treated. I decided to pay my friends the same rate I charge my client, but it would also be fair to take a little off the top since you will still spend time on small tasks like proofreading. Consider what you could keep for yourself while still paying a fair rate to your subcontractor. For example, if you charge $60 for a 500-word article, you could pay another writer $50 and keep $10 for yourself.
Here are a few other etiquette tips for treating your subcontractor with professional integrity:
Set reasonable deadlines.
Provide feedback on what they did well and any areas for improvement.
Send payment within 30 days of your receipt of the work.
Ensure consistent quality for your client
Outsourcing when you have more work than you can handle helps your career by allowing you to keep good clients. However, if you turn in error-ridden or plagiarized work, or try to conceal the fact that you’re outsourcing, you could end up losing your client anyway. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain professional integrity with your client during the outsourcing process.
Check your contract if you have one. Every freelancer automatically has the legal right to outsource as they see fit–clients pay for the deliverable, not the writer, unless you’ve signed a contract specifically saying you’ll personally do all the work.
Regardless, it’s still an act of courtesy and professional integrity to discuss your outsourcing plan with your client. You can frame it as part of the excellent service you’re providing. When you outsource, the client is spared the time and effort of hiring another writer themselves. Assure them that all the work still gets reviewed by you, so the same standards will be maintained without a disruption in service.
Proofread everything before sending it to the client (This is a no-brainer, right?).
It’s a good idea to run your own work, and especially anything you outsource, through a free plagiarism scanner. You’re not accusing anyone of deliberate cheating. It’s easy to make a mistake and inadvertently copy a sentence here or there when you use sources. Getting the all-clear from a plagiarism scan gives you peace of mind.
Make edits as needed. Hopefully you won’t need to change much, or you’re not reaping the full benefits of outsourcing, but in order to maintain your professional integrity with the client, it’s always good practice to make revisions as needed to reflect the client’s voice or make sure subcontracted pieces blend in with your own writing style.
Now you know how to outsource like a pro without sacrificing your professional integrity. Has outsourcing gotten you out of a jam in the past? Share your stories and tips in the comments.
This month’s theme is all about time: using it, saving it, managing it, billing for it…
So, in the interest in saving us all some time, let’s get right to the contest!
We Want to Hear YOUR Ideas
In case you’re not familiar, Pitchfest is a blog post pitching contest we run here on Be a Freelance Blogger every three months. You tell us your blog post idea and we choose our favorites, with prizes of up to $100 for the winners.
The contest starts today.
Your theme for this Pitchfest
This time we’re looking for pitches on the theme of “time.”
Interpret that theme any way you like! It could be anything from how to write faster blog posts for clients, how to bill for the time you’ve worked, or how to manage your time as a blogger when you’ve got newborn twins and three puppies to look after — anything!
We’re looking forward to seeing what YOU come up with.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your pitch’s theme not only has to involve the “time” theme, but it also MUST revolve around freelance blogging (Be a Freelance Blogger’s niche). Whatever idea you present to us HAS to benefit freelance bloggers (or their clients) in some way.
Anybody can enter the contest by typing (or pasting) their pitch into the comments box at the bottom of this page.
Only ONE PITCH per person, please.
Follow the pitch format I’ll tell you in a moment.
After you submit your pitch, Sophie and/or I will offer feedback to help you optimize your idea for this blog’s audience and improve your pitching skills. You may also get feedback from other entrants, BAFB team members, and innocent bystanders — pay attention, because they represent your readers here.
After you get our feedback, you can revise your pitch if you like and re-submit it by pasting it into a follow-up comment. And yes, that means you can offer us a completely different idea ifwe’ve told you your first idea definitely won’t work for this blog.
If you win, we’ll ask you to send us a draft of at least 1000 words, so bear that minimum word count in mind when you pitch.
First prize: $100 for your guest post, paid on publication.
Second prize: $50 for your guest post, paid on publication.
Third prize: A 3-question mentoring package with Sophie via email.
Submit your pitch before the end of Saturday, December 9th, 2017.
We’ll announce the winners on December 16th, 2017.
If we choose your pitch, we expect you to deliver your first draft to me (Lauren) by December 31st. But if you need a little longer, let us know and we’ll work around it.
Suggest at least one headline designed to make freelance bloggers want to read your post.
Follow the headline with the opening lines you’d use in the post. No less than 30 words, no more than 60. You DON’T need to write a whole post (or even a whole introduction) before you pitch — we’d like to give you feedback on your idea before you write a draft.
After the opening lines, give us no more than 6 pointsyou’ll make in your post, and provide a one or two sentence summary of each point. (If you plan to make more than 6 points in your post, only tell us the most important 6 in your pitch.)
Then explain in no more than 3 sentences why this is a great post for Be a Freelance Blogger and why you’re the right person to write it.
Put your pitch in the comment box at the bottom of this page.
Check the little box that says “Notify me of follow-up comments” so you’ll know when we’ve given you feedback.
Submit your comment and if you followed all the steps above, you’re entered into the contest.
It’s a good idea to explain how your pitch reflects the theme we’ve set for you — unless it’s blindingly obvious, in which case you can probably assume we’ll see the connection without extra signposting.
Remember to tell us why you think your blog idea will interest the people who read Be a Freelance Blogger.
To get a better idea of what Sophie and I are looking for in your pitch, study the pitches and responses in previous Pitchfests.
Save a copy of your pitch somewhere before you post it here — if your comment gets lost in the internet, you don’t wanna have to re-write it from scratch.
Your comment may get held in a moderation queue, especially if it contains hyperlinks. Don’t worry if that happens; we’ll get to it and reply!
“Do you honestly believe I don’t have a plan B? And if that fails a plan C? Then a plan… You know how the alphabet goes, don’t you?” Katherine Pierce says in The Vampire Diaries, episode 6 of season 2 after Salvatore brothers, her arch-enemies and former lovers, take care of her plan A.
Though she’s one of the villains of the show and makes life very difficult for my favorite characters, she has my respect due to her strategic thinking. Freelance bloggers should take a page or two out of her planning book – just not the evil endgame part.
Because like life and all compelling TV, freelancing can be maddeningly unpredictable. Unexpected illnesses, recurring health problems, romantic distractions, loss of loved ones, disappearing clients, constantly changing editors, and more keep you on your toes, terrified to look at your bank balance.
Luckily, you already took efficient measures to keep one step ahead of the damn fast curveballs: your plans B, C, D and beyond:
Plan B: Stay Updated on Your Original Field
Whether it is your favorite writing niche or the area you majored in school, staying atop of on what’s going on in an industry can help you take on extra writing gigs or even a temporary office job, should the need arise.
You can keep up with any industry by setting up *Google Alerts to catch up with the news, following the most popular blogs in the niche, reading current bestselling books in the area or by taking inexpensive or free courses. But before jumping into buying another training program, I urge you to read Ashley Gainer’s post.
For a more social approach, you can join networking events and meet-up groups.
Just don’t neglect to update your resume and portfolio with your new clips, certificates, and courses to attract better clients.
(*You can use Google Alerts to find jobs as well.)
Plan C: Save Whenever You Can
Ramit Sethi (bestselling author of I’ll Teach You To Be Rich and founder of GrowthLab) defines a rich life as the ability to splurge on areas you care about the most and cutting back from areas you aren’t passionate about.
Until you become traditionally rich, you don’t need expensive retail therapy, fancy coffee, luxury travel, weekly mani-pedi, etc. all at once. Save, so that when payments are late, or you lose clients, you have money to fall back on.
You can increase your savings by budgeting, using a free app to track your spending, and investing your money in an account that gets interest.
Not every frugality tip will work for you. However, it is important to remember some things add up: eating out every week, buying only hardcover books, buying new stuff even when you don’t need them (I’m guilty of this with notebooks and make-up – it is fun!), finding expensive ways to celebrate accomplishments and so on.
Cut as much as you can without feeling miserable. Read a couple of personal finance blogs for ideas.
As uncomfortable as it might feel to drink less than your friends or make your own meals (and trust me, I don’t like cooking either, so I know your pain), it will more than make up for it when you realize your safety net – aka savings – has grown substantially.
Plan D: Invest in Evergreen Skills of Freelance Blogging
Spend time, money or both so that you are not just a writer. You can brush up on your knowledge by taking free or paid courses, reading popular blogs and doing some experiments on your own. Having multiple skills will make you a valuable writer that won’t keep you “clientless” for long.
You don’t have to do all, and you shouldn’t try to, but having at least some of these skills will keep you ahead of the competition while helping you charge more:
Managing and promoting content on social media.
Managing a WordPress site
Creating images or infographics
Copywriting, newsletter writing, email marketing
Knowledge of basic SEO and how to find the balance between writing for your audience and ranking higher in the search engines for more shares and better ranking (which will make your clients happier, and it will give you room to negotiate for higher rates).
Plan E: Always Be Marketing
Let everyone know what you do for a living. You don’t need to shout you are a writer from the rooftops, but let people casually know you are a freelance blogger and what it entails. How much time you spend on this can change, but marketing when you are busy with client work is a lot more fun and a lot less stressful than when you are broke.
I’m never shy when it comes to marketing. Pretty much everyone I meet knows what I do for a living.
The problem is, saying “you are a writer” doesn’t usually suffice. Most people think writers as published authors, journalists with bylines in famous magazines or both. So be ready for the follow-up questions:
“What do you write about,” or its more famous cousin, “Have I read anything of yours?”
To bypass these questions, you can just start with your elevator pitch instead.
Then if your audience is hooked, you can delve into the mysteries of blogging, ghostwriting, self-publishing, and beyond:
“I mainly write about luxury travel for travel blogs.”
“I earn a living via my popular gadgets review blog.”
“I write B2B articles for health industry websites.”
Your descriptions may vary in length and content, but it’s important that you can get across what you do while people are still focused. And then if they need your services, they will think of you next, because they already met you in person, and hopefully you hit it off.
Unless I’m not talking about fiction, my answer is something like this:
“I’m a double freelancer.”
This is attention-grabbing and true. I freelance as a blogger as well as an ESL teacher for adults. So the next time someone needs to improve their language skills, they think of me. And the fact that I’m good enough to have bylines in English-language blogs excites them, and gives them an idea of the level at which I use the language. And vice versa: The fact that I’m a language teacher sounds good to people who are looking for people with meticulous grammar and editing skills.
Your pitch can and should change according to your audience.
Some great free marketing tactics include business cards, your blog about your niche(s), guest posting, attending marketing events, publishing an ebook, creating downloadable content, maintaining a social media presence, creating an e-course and so much more.
Plan F: Consider Teaching Your Skills
Do you like helping others out? Then consider teaching. Whether it is writing, social media or another skill all together, teaching provides you with extra income, better recognition and a lot of story material. You can teach in-person, online or through an e-book you created. Nothing helps you keep sane and well-fed like multiple income streams.
What are some of the platforms you can use to teach your skills? Teachable, Thinkific, Udemy and Skillshare are some of the more popular options. Thinkific, for instance, offers a free plan for beginners.
I have taken courses on all four, and I’ve been quite happy with the experience as a learner. My only beef was that when I wanted to become an affiliate for a course on Teachable, I learned you can only get paid via PayPal, which cannot be used in all countries. (You should always check if a product you find valuable has an affiliate program. It’s a great way of diversifying your income streams and back-up plans.)
I’m also currently toying with the idea of creating a course with a writer friend, and the only thing that scares me is the video aspect. I’ve never loved the sound of my recorded voice, and as a writer, I tend to favor the written word over podcasts and videos.
But sharing what I’ve learned in my over 7 years of blogging is worth leaving my comfort zone.
The freelance blogger’s life never comes with guarantees. That’s why we need back-up plans in place. The moment we feel like things might turn south, we can turn them around. And if they do go south, we can find north again. It’ll just take some effort on our part to create back-up systems. Remember to save money, market your business, keep up with your industry, invest in your skills, and maybe teach other bloggers.
What about you? What are your back-up plans for a steadier freelance blogging career?