Lessons Learned Blogging As A Freelance Writer

Posted on November 23, 2014 by in Editorial, General News | 35 comments

Lessons Learned Blogging As A Freelance Writer

Good news to all the writers in the world: you don’t have to be a novelist to make money from your writing. With the invention of the internet, the world as we know it has changed. The opportunities for working online and from home continue seem to expand with every passing year. One such opportunity that many people are drawn to is that of Blogging.

Whether it’s the idea of blogging on a site you’ve created or writing for others, blogging has become increasing popular.

How I Got Started Freelance Blogging

How To Become a Freelance Blogger

Image by jesadaphorn via Shutterstock

I sort of wrestled with whether or not to write this section. I mean, who would really care about my journey into blogging? I’m really not all that interesting of a person — not being humble, just honest.

My only real claim to fame in life is that I graduated high school when I was 15 and I have a pretty cute kid (I can take a bit of credit for that one right?). Even still, I personally feel that it helps to connect with what someone is writing when you feel like you know a little more about them. With that being said, this section seemed a little necessary.

So, here goes nothin’.

When you read about how or why many others started blogging, you’ll be drawn in by their rags to riches story. Those stories are captivating and inspiring, and I love them just as much as the next guy, er… gal. I, however, don’t have one of those stories. I wish I did, but alas, I do not.

As a kid, you could probably label me a bookworm. I always had a book in my purse and preferred to spend time in a bookstore instead of a clothing store. When I was around 14, I started writing little stories in my rather large collection of notebooks (I have a *clears throat* small notebook obsession) and songs for my two man band made up of me on guitar on my best friend singing.

Now I know this doesn’t sound like anything all that interesting, but this was the where my love for writing really started. Little did I know that scribbling song lyrics and stories in a notebook would turn into something else.

Flash forward to the beginning of 2014 and life for me had changed a bit. My hobby of writing was put on pause after marriage and having a little one, but I still fantasized about becoming a writer.

What can I say? Some dreams never die.

Honestly, I can’t even remember what I was researching online (probably something WordPress related since I had was doing mostly freelance web design back then), but one day, by sheer happenstance, I stumbled across a popular site called BloggingPro. One article led to me reading another, but it was a blogging job ad that was being advertised in the sidebar that caught my attention. Someone was looking for a blogger who knew WordPress and they were willing to pay $50 for an article on a related topic.

“$50 to write something I already know about?” I asked myself. “That’s cool… Ah, what the heck! I’ll just send an email and see if I can make some grocery money for the week.”

That small action changed everything.

It was the first blogging application that I had ever sent in, and I had nothing to prove that I could write other than my initial email. Surprisingly enough, I landed the job, wrote the post and got paid.

After that, I began to wonder if there was real money to be made from writing for other blogs or from creating my own. I mean, being paid to write? Was it possible to do that? Turns out that it was very possible. Stumbling onto that site opened my eyes to a whole world of writing that I didn’t even knew existed. I’ve been freelance writing ever since and have no thoughts of ever turning back.

Lessons I’ve Learned From Being a Freelance Blogger

I could probably write a book on all the lessons and mistakes I’ve learned and made since starting down the path of freelance writing. However, I realize that not everyone reading this is looking into freelance writing as a career choice.

Since most of the writing that I have done consists of blogging, I have learned quite a bit about blogging and the world of writing for an online audience.

Writing and Blogging are Very Different

One thing I quickly picked up on when I started blogging professionally was that blogging and writing were very different. Sure, blogging requires writing, but it’s not the same as the creative writing like you would see in a fiction book.

Blogging, in its own right, could be labeled as its own genre in the writing world. When you’re writing in a book, the formatting of paragraphs and dialog are very different when compared to a blog post; the styles are completely different.

Blogging and great blog posts are usually conversational in nature or relatable somehow, the paragraphs are short and easy to digest before moving on to the next; and while reading a book can capture one’s attention for hours on end, someone reading something online will only give about 8 seconds of their time before deciding whether or not they will keep reading you post.

Studying other blogs and bloggers taught me a lot about blogging and writing for an online audience, but the point of all of this is that blogging is its own style and it takes time to really make it your own.

If you’re writing for you own blog, it’s important to become relatable to your audience. If you’re writing for others, you have to follow their formatting and style guidelines. Either way, there are a few general rules that I’ve found that myself and others tend to stick to:

  • Write High Quality Content | Creating “High Quality Content” really means that you should be writing with a specific audience in mind and that they are the ones who should be shaping what is written.
  • Titles | Headlines are just as important as the rest of the post. A good headline can be the difference between someone clicking on a post in the search engine or choosing another with a similar topic.
  • Formatting | There is no single rule to perfectly formatting a blog post, however, short paragraphs make it easier for people to follow the post to the end and so those are best to use.
  • What’s The Point? | Bulletpoints help readers retain things that could get lost in a paragraph so their important
  • Pictures | Pictures are powerful as they tend to keep a viewers attention and help with social shares and can even boost conversion.

Edit, Edit, EDIT.

When first starting out, I didn’t realize that I was the one who would do the editing on a post, however, I quickly learned most people expect you to edit your posts before submitting the article (which seems so glaring obvious to me now *facepalm*. I mean, duh!). Even if you’re writing on your own blog, spending the time to edit your post, though tedious, is vital.

Words that have been misspelled or placed in the wrong spot will trip up the flow of your post and frustrate a reader. Therefore, you should always take the time to edit your post before publishing.

But after spending a good couple of hours writing, the last thing my brain wants to do is edit a blog post, so I don’t. I’ve found that it helps to not write and edit back to back. When I do that, I tend to rush through and miss something. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a word here and there — it’s bound to happen to even the best of us.

Even still, you should take the time to edit before you make a post live.

Passion Will Get You Started, but Determination Will Get You Through

Love for writing has always been at the foundation for my decision to become a freelance writer. However, after a few months of working as one, I discovered that passion cannot be the main motivator behind my work and business, and I think the same can be said of anyone looking to work for themselves.

Passion for writing or any endeavor online really can quickly be quelled when you dump life’s day to day stresses on it, so it’s really not the best foundation to build a business one. Working for yourself takes both discipline and determination — or in my case, a bit of stubborn tenacity works good too.

On days where you just have to get that post written, edited and published, digging deep and finding the determination to power through can be tough, but when you’ve lost that passion for the moment, you’ll need that determination to get to the finishline.

A Bit Of Advice For Budding Freelance Bloggers

If you’ve come across this article because you want to learn more on how to become a freelance blogger, then I hope that the following tips will help you on the right path.

You Can Make Money From Writing, But Don’t Call It Easy Money

Whether you’re starting to blog for a personal site you’re planning on profiting from, or you’re looking into becoming a freelance writer in order to make money that way, there is one thing that should be settled right now:

Yes, writing can be extremely profitable, but it is no means easy money. If you plan to write because you think it’s a way to get rich with little effort, you’re going to be quickly disappointed.

Many have the idea that writing is easy and that anyone can do it, but it’s more than just pounding out words on your laptop. Blogging and writing online copy is a skill that takes time and even some training to get right.

The people who make a good living from blogging put a lot of time and hard work into what they do, and only a few of those people land in the category of millionaire status. No matter what your reason for blogging is, it’s important to be realistic about what you’ll make — especially when you’re just starting out. So, yes, you can make a good living from blogging, but it’s not a get rich quick scheme.

Learn To Love Constructive Criticism

Is taking criticism about your writing easy? No, but it is necessary. Now I’m not saying that you should just swallow being bullied and put down when it comes to your writing and your worth — that is definitely not something I’d ever support. However, constructive criticism when based around helping you become a better writer is some of the best criticism you can ever get.

I know that because I’ve received such assessments, and they’ve only bettered my writing.

Earlier, I mentioned the first post ever write. Well, what I didn’t mention was who it was for. The person I wrote for was someone that many here on Elegant Themes would know: Kevin Muldoon, who is a freelance blogger and has contributed some of the best articles to here on the blog.

Kevin was the guy that gave me my first “big break” into blogging. During and after writing the post for him, Kevin gave me some pointers and was honest with me about what he thought of my post.

His critiques were a some of the best I could have asked for in terms of bettering myself as a blogger. He also told me that I had potential to become a really great writer, and hearing that from someone who had been in the field for a lot longer than me was hugely motivating.

I never properly thanked him, so if he reads this, I hope to use this as a chance to extend my appreciation for his help.

While having people critique your hard work is not always an easy pill to swallow, I can say from personal experience that if you keep an open mind, you can use that to push you to become better. It’s invaluable and worth the cut to the misplaced pride that we all tend to carry around.

Confidence Is Just As Important As Your Skill

If you decide to venture down the road of full or part-time freelance writing, then you’ll need to be able to hold your own. Confidence is a struggle for some of the best writers, but a lack of self-confidence in your skill or your worth will wind up with you stuck in a rut that’s hard to get out of.

Now, don’t walk around like you own the world — no one likes someone who is cocky. But don’t get so low that you think you’re not good enough to write or that you can only work for low pay because you don’t think you’re worth better pay. Confidence can take some time to build, so once you have it, don’t let it be something that can be undermined. If critiques or criticism come your way, take it all with a grain a salt, learn from it and move on.

Strive To Better Your Writing

Do you want to know the secret being a great writer? It’s always looking at your art as evolving and growing. Whether you write for your own blog or you’re going to become a freelancer, being able to continually learn and grow your skill will do you wonders. So how to you grow? How do you become a better writer, a better blogger? Here are a few tips:

  1. Read Blogs | Read blogs like Boost Blog Traffic, Be A Freelance Blogger, ProBlogger and the like. The people who run these blogs, and the people who write guest posts there have already accomplished what you’re trying to do. Gobble up the information and learn from others who have mastered the skill of writing viral posts and who make good money from blogging.
  2. Get Training | Even great bloggers like Job Morrow from Boost Blog Traffic had a mentor. If you’re serious about bettering your blogging or writing skills, then why not find someone who will train or mentor you too? Many bloggers offer courses or one-on-one training to budding freelancers and can help you hit the ground running.
  3. Read Some E-Books | You know what the best part about e-books is? They’re cheap. $50-60 in e-books will give enough reading material for a couple months. There is a plethora of e-books on the subject of blogging, freelance writing and bettering your writing skills and they’re worth so much more than the few dollar your pay for them.

If I could offer any advice to new bloggers, it would be to aspire to always grow. Grow your experience in life, expand your art and be willing to learn something new. All of that will translate to readers in a way they’ll love and appreciate, and you’ll also be proving that you’re worth your salt.

These were just a few things I’ve learned along the way as both a writer and a blogger. But you know what I love most about Elegant Themes in particular? It’s the amazing community that is here. With that being the case, I’d love to hear from you.

What advice do you have to share with new bloggers? Any tips on blogging or freelancing that you’ve found particularly useful? Is there a point that you thought I missed or would have liked expanded on?

Article Thumbnail by Dooder via Shutterstock

35 Comments

  1. Randy A. Brown

    Hi Ariel. Excellent post! This post comes at a god time for me because I just started a full-time freelance writing business, and I love blogging. I’ve started several blogs over the years and the one piece of advice that resonates with me the most is to stick to it. I’ve started and stopped many blogs before they had a chance to grow. It can be disheartening to write to no one, but the longer your blog stays active, the more popular it will (or at least can) become.

    You are very correct that writing and blogging are two different things. I started my freelance business to go into corporate writing, but I really wanted to blog. As soon as I started I spent some time on this blog and several writers here convinced me to stick with blogging.

    I have a few that I’ve ran for several years and they’re starting to get fairly popular. I never really considered using them for freelance writing. I’m currently in the process of starting another blog (WPignitor) just for the purpose of promoting me as a freelance writer in the WordPress tutorial and review blogging space. It has more of a purpose (providing tutorials and building a portfolio at the same time), so I finally found something I can start and stick with instead of starting and stopping.

    Thanks for this post. I will read this one several times.

    Randy A Brown

    • Ariel

      Hi Randy,

      It’s always nice to hear from a fellow writer :). I’m so glad you found the post helpful, but I completely understand what you mean about starting and stopping blogs when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

      I fell in love with blogging when I saw how the genre really allows you to express yourself like this post here. I’ll be sure to take a look at your site—sounds like my cup of tea!

      • Hello Ariel!

        I really love to write on my blog, but I’m still looking for interested content that will add my knowledge about writing and blogging and thankfully I found your post!

        I would say, I am fully inspired and you deliver it really well.

        Good luck to you and more power!

        Cheers! 😀

  2. Awesome post Ariel! As a green blogger (6-7 months in) I recently got my first money opportunity and I was in shock when I did. I don’t know how long it will take to get the next one, hopefully half the time or less, but it takes a lot of effort and determination to get those checks.

    • Ariel

      Great job on landing a gig! I think finding work and marketing yourself can be one of the toughest roads to navigate when first starting to freelance. What’s been the hardest part for you when it comes to finding work?

    • Nice resources Eric.

    • Ariel

      Thanks for the addition :). I love and read all three of these blogs!

  3. Thanks Ariel…. that was a really interesting story….

  4. Randy …. did you see it spelled like wPIGnitor …

    • Randy A. Brown

      Hi Jim. Good point. Thanks for pointing that out. I’m creating my logo now. I’m separating the WP from ignitor like this: WP ignitor.

  5. Thank you Ariel! I am now inspired to continue my blog!

  6. Fascinating, you’ve given me a new impetus and sincerely, I loved the way Kevin Muldoon blog. A question and this is off the above topic;

    Can bloggers do the work of a Web/Portal admin? What actuall does it entails to be a web administrator?

    Thanks Ariel

    • Ariel

      Hi there :). Do you mean can a blogger work as a content manager? If that’s the case, then absolutely, but it’s not for everyone.

      Managing other bloggers and editing their posts or communicating with them as to what needs to be fixed is a TON of work. Don’t get me wrong—some people do it and love it. It can be fun and challenging, but is a challenge.

  7. I hope every ‘wanna be’ freelance writer will find your post and read the very first thing you’ve learned being a freelance writer – thousands of bloggers apply for writing positions with freelance writing agencies that work with academic and business assignments. However, they are totally unprepared for this kind of work. They may be good writers, but with freelance writing you are bounded by format, language, topic, etc.

    Great read!

    • Ariel

      I completely agree. Freelance writing has so many avenues including Blogging and Web Copy, which have a very different style and tone from traditional writing.

  8. This article is excellent, I found it to be extremely helpful and informative. I’m just starting out (4 months in) and I largely feel like I write to an audience of crickets. I faithfully post on the same days at the same times each week, but sometimes I feel like I’m just faking it, my following is so small right now. I’m hanging in there (either I’m determined or insane).
    What advice do you have about how to monetize your blog? I don’t really understand how people are being paid, if they don’t have a book, service or product to sell?

    • Ariel

      I’m glad it helped, and I know how it feels to create content you think that no one is reading—it’s that I’m-in-Limbo feeling which is a total drag :/. Hang in there though, and consider trying your hand at some guest posts or commenting on blogs that relate to your niche as it can help boost traffic.

      As far as monetizing, that one is tricky. With new blogs, it’s usually best to not trying making money with it right off the bat, but there are ways to make money aside from selling a product service:

      – Sell ad spots in sidebar or posts
      – Google Adsense
      – Affiliate services like Amazon, Clickbank or other sites that offer to pay affiliates from promoting their products

      Affiliate marketing is usually the most common route, but it’s hard to sell the products if you (1) don’t have a large audience, or (2) you haven’t built a strong enough reputation.

      It can be hard to spend a lot of time on something that isn’t making money, but learning from other successful bloggers/marketers like Neil Patel or Spencer Hawes could be helpful. Just a few thoughts though 🙂

  9. Excellent and timely post Ariel. As an Instructional Designer and web designer, I can attest everything you said is true. In fact, from what I see of even “good” websites and blogs, it is still not a widely accepted belief that it is the copy that is the glue holding the website together. There are so many ways to take a website to a new level by just reaching the audience with effective writing. My must-read would be Stein – On Writing. This book will open your eyes and make you want to kick yourself for not knowing all of the gems he gives away in this amazing book about writing better:
    http://www.amazon.com/Stein-Writing-Successful-Techniques-Strategies/dp/0312254210

    • Ariel

      Looks like a great read! I’ll be sure to check it out 🙂

  10. Very interesting article as always Ariel. I am completely agree with your statement that “Passion will get you started, but determination will get you through”. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. This is an interesting post. I have so much to learn from and to understand well and deeply.

    Thanks for the link given as I will read up more on blogging and writing.

    I simply love to blog/ write everything. I have never thought of freelance writing until this post hit me up. =)

    Ariel, this is a great post for me.

    Cheers,
    Boon

  12. Hey Ariel…
    Your post has some amazing resources. I checked one of the sites you mentioned and it seems really great!
    I loved to read about your experience as a freelance writer!
    I really learned some new things today!

    thanks

  13. Comment or ‘thought’ pieces can be very useful for inspiring blog content — especially if you feel particularly passionate about the topic being discussed. I’ve written a few posts that have been inspired by thought pieces. I simply pondered over their point of view, decided whether or not I agreed, and started writing. It tended to flow quite easily from there. 🙂

  14. Hello Ariel,

    I myself am a small business owner building a travel magazine and employing freelance writers. I have had my fair share in writing and managing wordpress sites. I also read lot of blogs in these interests. Why am I saying all these? Because after more than a year of reading hundreds of blogs and being part of this broader blogging/e-magazine community, I would like to quote that this blog post could very well be called as one of my best reads.

    Great work! Keep it up.

    • Ariel

      Thank you so much, Sakthi :). That’s very kind of you to say. I’m so glad that the post resonated with so many. It’s always a little nerve-racking to open up in these types of personal editorial posts, but I find that people like them so much more than the average blog post. Comments like yours certainly add weight to that. Thanks again!

  15. Great article, Ariel, with lots of very useful information. Spell check programmes will catch many typos, but not all of them – “Bulletpoints help readers retain things that could get lost in a paragraph so their important – should read “… they’re important.” 🙂

  16. Knowing how and what to write is very important for blogging success. But apart from that the reality is this: to build a web business and make money online the vast majority of people need an easy-to-follow, all-in-one, proven, ethical ebusiness-building system (not a get rich quick scheme) to get (1) a significant amount of traffic and get (2) targeted traffic (example of such a system: IncredibleFreedom dot com). Otherwise you’ll end up having (and building) only a webBLOG but not a webBUSINESS.

  17. Great article Ariel.

    Many thanks for the kind words. I am glad you took my feedback positively. Your articles were good but just had not been proofread and edited. However, you have taken the feedback in the right manner. Many other bloggers take offence when errors are pointed out to them.

    It’s great to hear that your career has gone from strength to strength. Best of luck 🙂

    Kevin

    • Ariel

      Thanks, Kevin :). I really think that constructive criticism is invaluable to new and old bloggers/writers alike, otherwise we can never get any better. There’s no point in getting offended when someone is sincerely trying to help you better yourself.

      Thank you again for your help and sincerity. It’s made all the difference.

  18. Thanks Ariel!

    Really loved this post. I recently started blogging and I love the new challenge.

    Thanks so much for the tips and I wish you nothing but the best!

    Cheers,

    Mathijs

  19. Thanks for a great article. I love all things creative and like you, often found cradling a book. Soon I’ll be part of two popular worlds; blogging and life coaching. Though I’ve had to put it off due to health challenges for a long time, especially the migraines I get that prevent me from finding the right words, never mind the thought of being near a computer.

    Ironic as this may seem, I’ve found encouragement from finding missed edits (typos, misspelled words, grammatical errors etc.,) in blog posts, including your post here. I won’t point them out except to say there are several “you’s” that were meant to be “your’s”, and see, I am not even sure how to correctly state this with the apostrophes. So it’s not as big of a deal as some make it out to be. It may annoy at first, I hate it when I miss my own mistakes, but then it just reinforces the fact that I can do this. I always got A’s in my writing and literature classes and was one class shy to have a minor in English with a double concentration.

    I think most folks are forgiving enough with typos here and there as long as the content is great and the voice is authentic. I’m also sensitive to the fact that English is not every blogger’s first language and with the web being world wide of course I think as a reader, it helps to be a bit less particular about editing being perfect, unless one is an editor of course.

    For now, I’m going to write about what I’m passionate about, connect with my readers by being authentic and handing over my posts for a select few to read and assist in editing before I “go live”.

    I think what’s most important is to just go for it,

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. Ariel,

    A very informative post that is an excellent example of incorporating all of the blogging advice it contains. The only criticism I can give is on the first bullet point under he “general rules” paragraph.

    The bullet title is “High Quality Content”, but your description is more about targeting your audience. I would define high quality content as being well-researched and providing a lot of useful information. You should write about topics that you are an expert in or that you have taken the time to investigate thoroughly. Not many people will be interested in reading the random thoughts of someone that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    Keep plugging away!

    Cheers,
    Craig

  21. Can’t believe I find this article only now!
    Thanks Ariel, this post has generated also very useful comments from other people.

    A fantastic topic for discussion and contribute to the blogging community.

    I’ve released my blogs website just a few weeks ago although I’ve been blogging on Linkedin a few months back and I’m not considering the option for making money with it at the moment as I really just enjoy writing and contributing, however it’s not something that hasn’t crossed my mind and I really enjoyed reading this!

  22. Can’t believe I find this article only now!
    Thanks Ariel, this post has generated also very useful comments from other people.

    A fantastic topic for discussion and contribute to the blogging community.

    I’ve released my blogs website just a few weeks ago although I’ve been blogging on Linkedin a few months back and I’m not considering the option for making money with it at the moment as I really just enjoy writing and contributing, however it’s not something that hasn’t crossed my mind and I really enjoyed reading this!

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