Blogging has not only seen an upswing in popularity in the past few years, but it has also seen a shift in focus. The majority of blogs used to be almost exclusively used like a personal journal, a place to share your thoughts with others and hash out your own opinions and feelings in a new format. They were also always popular with creative writers looking for an outlet from which to share their poems and short stories. All of those uses are great, and blogs like that still exist in droves. However, with the rise of freelancing has come the age of the monetized blog, the business blog, the blog that earns its author $100,000 a month (Not kidding! I’m slowly taking a course on affiliate marketing from a woman whose blog does just that.) Working from home is in, and why shouldn’t it be? People are making money from the comfort of their home. Single mothers can stay at home with their children and still make a substantial income that supports their family’s needs. Millennials disillusioned with the corporate world can blaze a new trail for themselves online (Hi, Mom!).
People are making money from blogs alone, but it has also become standard practice for freelance writers in all niches to have a blog. Why? Even a blog that isn’t monetized can bring a freelancer income in various ways.
Umm, well, Hannah, are you actually going to tell us how? You’d better believe it, bucko!
1. Keep Clients Coming Back
If you write a blog that is tailored to your clients’ needs, you can attach it to your website. It can help drive clients to your website, and thus, your services. So, for instance, I’ve recently been batting around the idea of attaching a blog to my website in which I would focus on posts about the publishing process and writing tips (aka, how to create strong characters, how to write realistic dialogue, etc.). That way, authors who may need editing services would find me through searches on publishing, and people thinking about writing a book could find me by doing a search for tips. After reading my post and seeing my site, they might want to hire me as a collaborator. Even if visitors to your attached blog don’t automatically decide to hire you, if you keep posting regularly on topics that interest them, they will keep coming back and become more familiar with you. In PR, there is a principle that says that if a person hears the name of a product or person at least three to five times in the space of a press release, they will automatically begin to feel more familiar with it and like it more. If people keep coming back and seeing your name and your services, they will be more likely to turn to you if they need editing or ghostwriting services. They will also be more likely to recommend you to others.
2. Writing Samples for Beginners
Your blog doesn’t have to be directly aimed at your clientele to help you get work. This blog, for instance, is here to help other freelancers, not my clients. However, when I was first starting out pitching my how-to ghostwriting services, I put links to my early blog posts in my pitches. I also initially put some on my website until I got more relevant portfolio pieces. While my blog posts were aimed at other freelancers, they still accurately portrayed my writing abilities and also showed that I know how to breakdown topics in an engaging and easily readable way.
If your blog directly relates, awesome! You have even stronger samples, but it’s not 100% necessary. When you’re reaching for those first few jobs, any example that shows you can speak plain English and carry a topic succinctly and successfully from intro to conclusion puts you ahead of the pack in quite a few ways.
3. Passive Affiliate Income
With this method, it doesn’t matter whether your blog relates in any shape or form to your regular freelancing business. All that matters is that your topic can be related to the thousands upon thousands of affiliate products out there.
What’s affiliate income? I think the easiest way to explain is just to go through my process of adding affiliate links. So, when I write a post, sometimes it relates to a product or program. For instance, I read a book that taught me some things I hadn’t known about ghostwriting. I wanted to share some of those things with my readers. I’m an affiliate of Amazon, so whenever I mentioned the book in that post (which you can read here), I inserted a special link that I got from my Amazon affiliate dashboard. That link does not change my readers’ experience. When a reader clicks on my affiliate link, it is recorded by Amazon, noting that I was the one who referred that person to the site. That information is stored via cookies. If the person decides to buy that book so they can read it themselves, I get a small percentage of that sale for referring the person to the book. A great thing about Amazon’s affiliate program is that the person doesn’t need to buy that book specifically. If the reader looks at the book and decides they don’t really want it, or maybe they want to wait on buying it, but they start shopping for something else after clicking over to the site, I get a percentage of whatever they buy. An affiliate link is not a nefarious tool that somehow makes a reader buy something they don’t want.
Morality of affiliate links only comes into question when the blogger is posting links for things they’ve never tried, know nothing about, or maybe even tried and didn’t really like. But they talk up that product in order to entice others to buy it so they can get money. That’s pretty sleazy if they are falsely advertising the product to make a sale. You won’t find that here. I read that book mentioned cover to cover and found it helpful. That is what spurred me to write the post. Affiliate links must always be disclosed at the top of the post, too, so that readers who are adverse to them for any reason can opt not to click on them. If someone uses affiliate links without doing so, that’s illegal. I always put my disclosure right above my images, and I make sure the font is easy to see and read. It looks like this (you may have seen it before).
That green “DISCLOSURE” is always hyperlinked to the actual page.
Whenever a blogger whose content I enjoy posts an affiliate link, I make it a point to click on it if I’m interested. For instance, when I started thinking about earning a steady affiliate income, I remembered a post one of my favorite freelance bloggers, Gina Horkey, had written about a course she took on the subject. I made it a point to track down that post and click on her link, plainly disclosed as an affiliate link. Why? I wanted to support her. She’s a great blogger who has helped me out in many ways (read this post on how her free course helped me get started—there are affiliate links in that post and a coupon code for a special sale on her paid freelancing writing business course that’s going on between May 25 and June 2—and this post on how she helped me launch my first pitching bonanza that landed me PurpleInkPen’s first clients), so I wanted to give back to her. If she can make a little extra money that supports her business and her blog by me buying a course I’m already interested in, great! Why wouldn’t I help her?
The key to affiliate links is to make sure you just don’t act like a sleazy a-hole (duh!). Be honest with your readers, only link them to products you believe in, and you shouldn’t have any trouble. And, if you build your readership and learn the ins and outs of successful affiliate strategies, it can provide you with a very nice passive income. That woman who makes $100,000 through her blog (Michelle Schroeder-Gardener. You can check her out here) does it through affiliate links, along with other monetization strategies. You can do it, too.
4. Free Advertisement
Okay, so if you pay for hosting and your blog’s domain name, it isn’t exactly free, but I’d wager it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for regular ads, “boosting” your Facebook or Twitter posts, or buying yourself a booth at a conference (or hell, even just paying to go to conferences regularly as a guest). The point is, if your blog is bringing in any sort of readership, it’s advertising you as a writer. It’s best if you make your blog relate to freelancing or your niche in some way because then your readers actually know that you are available for hire.
I have had two editing clients approach me for jobs thanks to this blog. Yeah, two is not a lot, but hey, it’s still free advertisement that landed me two jobs, one of them semi-regular. I’m not complaining. My blog doesn’t have the biggest readership yet, either, so that conversion isn’t too shabby, especially since this blog isn’t even targeted at clients. I also landed my first set of how-to book ghostwriting jobs thanks to using these blog posts as samples.
5. Build a Platform
I’ve talked about platform a lot lately because it is essential if you want to be an author. It’s also pretty damn important as a business owner. Platform just means your audience. How many people do you reach? How many people enjoy and engage with your content? How many people would want to buy your book or hire you? My platform consisted of my family and friends on Facebook before I started this blog. I’m still not Kylie Jenner, never will be (thank God), but I have a nice following on Twitter, I have a Facebook page related to this blog that is steadily growing, and I have a nice amount of connections on LinkedIn. I actually have something that resembles a platform (albeit a small one), and I earned that platform by creating my blog content and sharing my posts. And as I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, hopefully that platform will keep on growing, and maybe some traditional publishers will actually give me the time of day by the time I complete my second novel.
You have to actually enjoy blogging in order for any of this to work, but if you’re a writer, jotting down your thoughts, sharing information, and engaging with readers is probably right up your alley. Why not give it a shot? If you’re starting a business, I highly recommend you at least try.
Personally, I’m seriously considering starting a second blog that’s connected to my business website. It sounds like a ton of fun, and I know it would be good for business. The only thing holding me back is the time commitment. I don’t know if I can do it just yet. I think I would need to hire some help in the form of another freelancer (most likely a proofreader to help me send out writing assignments faster) to have that kind of time, but I’m not making enough right now to pay someone fairly. We’ll see how it goes.
In the meantime, let me know if you’re thinking about starting a blog or, if you already have one, link to it in the comments. I would love to read your stuff.