Exposing Some Myths About Blogging Pay Rates

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on June 20, 2009 in Freelance Blogging, Professional Blogging
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This is in response to Kevin Muldoon's post, Bloggers Need to be Realistic About Blogging Rates. What this post takes issue with is the claim that you shouldn't charge $100+ for blog posts, because you'll get outbid, your clients won't earn enough of a return, etc. Read his post to understand where this one's coming from.

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As someone who both gets paid significantly more than $100 per post to blog for clients and who comes from a PR background, I have to point out some flaws in Kevin's logic (and I can't blame him for them - these kinds of thoughts run rampant).

The two mistakes are in thinking that:

A) A monetary return is the only kind of return buyers are interested in.

B) Writers who earn a good amount of money through blogging are "few and far between."


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While it's certainly true that some (even many) buyers do fit that first scenario, I can tell you from experience that there are plenty who do not.

Money Isn't Everything

A lot of buyers (especially those with bigger budgets who are capable of paying for authority bloggers) are not looking for a direct financial return. This is where the PR element comes in. Blogging is a public relations tool for quite a lot of businesses (including those major corporations slowly coming on board with it). The blogs may not even contain any ads. That's not their purpose.

Their purpose is to serve as a communications link between the company and their publics (customers, clients, readers, members, and even members of their local community and colleagues in the industry). They're used to build further exposure and visibility on the Web. They do that through company news, industry news and commentary, and educational posts often--all things that can be outsourced.

For them the blog is a support tool; not a sales tool (and to many businesses those goals are even more important - one PR nightmare that isn't handled well can swiftly kill even the best sales efforts, and a blog gives them immediate access to those audiences when they need to answer looming questions or put out small fires).

Think of it in terms of other professions. Would you expect to pay $25 per hour for a lawyer? How about an accountant? Neither does anything to directly earn you money, so by that logic their time isn't worth much. You know that's not true. Value doesn't always correspond to direct income.

Those companies looking beyond direct income from their blogs likely wouldn't even think of touching a writer charging $25 per post or less (and even that's on the low end). Many have worked with professional writers in other capacities (either as employees or as contractors), so they're used to a professional tier in rates, and they know the quality they'll get from paying those higher rates. In fact, it wouldn't be unusual for companies to turn to writers they've hired for other projects, already knowing their higher rates, instead of looking for someone new (it's one of the reasons you don't see a lot of high-paying blogging jobs advertised publicly).

"Hidden" Writer's Markets Equal Misconceptions

That's the key in the misunderstanding about the number of bloggers being paid well. Because we don't see a lot of these job offers publicly, it's easy to assume they don't exist. But that's just not true.

My lowest-paying blogging job these days is over $70 per post (due to rates negotiated quite a while ago with a long-term client). Most fall within the $150 - 200 per post range (and more for posts requested on the longer side). No, it's not the highest-paying writing gig in the world, but it's certainly not bad, especially since I love the medium (I'd rather write informational content than sales copy any day).

2013 update: This post was originally published in 2009. My rates have changed. As of this time, my lowest paying blogging gig pays a base rate of $180 (although the lowest rate I offer for shorter posts is $150). You can look at my current rates paid by my clients at any time at ProBusinessWriter.com.

And I've never applied for any of those blogging jobs. They come either from existing clients, referrals from those clients, or from people who sought me out after reading my work elsewhere (my blogs, forums, e-books, etc.--why it's important to build a platform folks.

Are Lazy Bloggers Bringing the Market Down?

Let me be blunt for a moment. If a writer insists they absolutely cannot find blogging jobs for more than $25 or so per post, either they're just being lazy or it's the market's way of telling them they need to up their game on the quality front. Those who do nothing but troll job boards looking for blogging jobs are on the lazy side. That's not how you get the bulk of the high-paying gigs out there (and if you've been reading this blog for a while now, you absolutely know that--if those $100+ jobs were advertised, I'd certainly include them in our job listings).

Look. If you're happy with that $25 per article, by all means take it. It's certainly better than the $5 gigs (and $25 gigs are being increasingly advertised, so they're not that hard to find if you don't want to be bothered with building your platform). Just don't allow someone's bad advice to stop you from charging what your time is worth to you.

You're in Business Too!

The worst part of it was where Kevin suggests we all think about it from the client's point of view, noting that they don't all have big budgets and those supported solely by advertising probably can't afford to pay $100 per post, even if they'd like to.

Want a reality check? Here it is. If they can't afford to pay for a top notch writer, then they don't deserve them. Period. It's not a writer's fault that a business owner got into blogging with unrealistic expectations and an inadequate budget to account for them. Many companies are out there either already blogging or looking to get started, and they have perfectly adequate budgets. And for the record, no, you don't have to look for large corporate clients. Most of mine are small business owners and webmasters. You might be surprised at how many do have sufficient budgets to hire professional writers at professional rates to take care of their blogging.


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If some are happy with $25 article writers, let them have them. There's nothing wrong with that. But if your time is worth more than that to you based on your skills, credentials, and demand, then don't lower your standards to meet someone else's expectations. The "reality" is that blogging is only a low-paying job if you allow it to be.

Writers, remember this: if a client can't afford to pay the rates you're asking, move on. All it means is that they're not in your target market. Let the clients worry about their bottom line. You're in business too, so you just worry about yours!

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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13 Comments

  1. Jessie June 20, 2009 Reply

    Jenn,
    First off, you are my hero. I would not be a happy freelance writer if not for you.
    Second, if you want to talk about a PR tool, this very blog post is a perfect example of how you are a master of your work.
    Third, onto the topic at hand. I have no problem demanding writing rates of $45 per hour. To you, I am sure that seems very low. For me, I am new to my writing niche and I do not have any formal education. However, my rates will rise when I have actual proof that my writing’s quality has improved. I think that a seasoned freelancer should write for $80 per hour minimum. Just not there yet!
    Granted, a blog post may take half an hour or it may take four hours. I tend to charge literally by the hour and take an upfront deposit. I always advertise my rates, I don’t bid on projects that near slave labor…
    Thanks to you, I know the phrase “those clients and those projects ARE NOT my market” and I am not afraid to stand up for my freelance writing.
    Thanks again Jenn!
    –Jessie

    • Jennifer Mattern June 20, 2009 Reply

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with a rate of $45 per hour. You’re charging what your time is worth to you based on the career you’ve built thus far, and it’s completely achievable. And that’s exactly the right way to go about setting rates! :)

      I just find it unnerving that anyone would have the gall to tell freelancers that the budget constraints of potential buyers in the general marketplace mean they should accept lower rates, rather than understanding precisely what you do–that if the client can’t afford you, you find others who can. The low-budget blog owner is far from the only market out there. I’m always glad to hear from others who “get it” Jessie, so keep at it! :)

  2. Jennifer Mattern June 20, 2009 Reply

    On reading his post again, I actually found myself rather infuriated that someone who hires bloggers is telling the overall blogger pool what they should be willing to accept. Seems a bit self-serving if you ask me.

    To any new bloggers out there, be careful who you’re taking advice from. You’re far better off sticking with people who have gone before you and succeeded in the industry than people who are potentially future clients. They’re not going to get anything out of it one way or the other – we don’t save money if you choose to go the cheap route, and those who are actually established aren’t worried about a little bit of increased competition out there, especially in a growing field.

    I’ve seen the same thing happen for years in webmaster communities when it comes to Web writers in general. The buyers insist that a penny per word is “standard” (which any professional writer knows is bullshit), and when that’s the information new writers see when they get started, too many actually believe it. They work for slave wages because they’re lied to and told that they have to. I’m just glad there are so many pros out there setting them in a better direction (although more would certainly be better). I’ve seen a few great writers wake up to the reality of what’s possible and go on to earn more than 10 times their starting rates fairly quickly. But I still get the same questions from newbies desperate to figure out a better way. Blogging, like SEO Web content, can pay very well. It’s all up to the writer whether they listen to the lies and focus on the wrong target market or tell the cheapskates to shove it and actually respect their own work.

    It also drives me nuts to see someone saying that the benefits of hiring a great writer are “minimal.” That usually means one of two things. Either they haven’t actually seen great writing, or they don’t have a clue what to do with it. Slapping it on the site and letting it sit isn’t the buyer’s only job. A writer writes. If the owner can’t promote the content effectively, it’s not the writer who screwed up on the benefit front. Authority content carries great value, well beyond the initial bottom line. (“Value” being a concept Kevin really doesn’t seem to understand based on that post – value does not simply correspond with profit made.) Thankfully, many business owners do understand that and they know how to get the most out of it.

  3. Jessie June 20, 2009 Reply

    I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Jessie June 21, 2009 Reply

    Yes. It is terribly difficult to not be able to grab each new freelancer who believes this crap–and the people who say it–and tell them how it is.
    I’m glad that people like you will be there to share the truth.

  5. Damaria Senne June 21, 2009 Reply

    You hit the nail on the head, Jen.

    I’m also a blogger whose clients use the blog as a PR tool or an advocacy tool (in the case of non-profits).

    None of my clients expect their blogs to make them money. They need an authority blogger because they need someone who understands their business/cause, and can communicate their message effectively. On the blogs I speak on their behalf, and you don’t get that kind of representation from a $25 per blog post.

    And nope, my gigs were not advertised either. I did other types of writing projects for them, and when they decided to start blogs, it was natural that I do the work, at professional rates.

  6. Mary Davis June 21, 2009 Reply

    Wonderful points you make, Jenn. I appreciate your being upfront about the rates you command. This shows others what is possible. Jessie’s comments are great as well, demonstrating someone who’s been successful in acquiring decent rates as someone new to the process. The only part I take exception with is that anyone who takes less than $25 a post is simply being lazy. Not lazy, uninformed and unaware, I’d say.

    • Jennifer Mattern June 21, 2009 Reply

      Sorry if it wasn’t clear Mary, but the “lazy” comment wasn’t in regards to people who choose to accept those rates of $25 or so per post. I’m talking about the ones who constantly complain on forums, via email, etc. that there’s absolutely nothing else out there because they’re not willing to do the work to get those gigs (building their platform and visibility). If a writer chooses to work for those rates because they’re happy with them, and because they really do prefer only having to look through job ads for the advertised gigs, then more power to them (I wouldn’t classify $25 per post as similar to the $5 per post gigs which are nothing but exploiting writers).

      The lazy ones are the ones who come to me (or others) complaining there’s nothing better out there. We tell them how to go about getting the better, unadvertised gigs. And then a few weeks or months later they come back complaining about the same thing. When we ask what they’ve done in the meantime, it’s nothing. No blog. No professional site. No activity on the forums other than advertising and complaining about the market. They usually go through the cycle more than once, expecting that one day the writers who have done the work are just going to start outsourcing or referring gigs to them or something (I’ve had more than a few people beg me to do this in the past). I can’t think of a better word for that than “lazy.”

      And yes, there are certainly some that are just unaware. But there are also a lot of great writers out there telling them there are better options and how to find them. With everything so easily accessible on the Web, I don’t really think there’s a good excuse for them to be uninformed–not for long at least. Everyone should conduct some basic market research before jumping into business for themselves, including freelancers. That includes evaluating the competition, and getting an idea of what kinds of rates are charged by people with similar credentials. Perhaps more disappointing than the fact that some writers buy into the garbage blog owners spew about rates in the overall marketplace is the fact that so many freelancers don’t take the time to do that research up front. But that’s a topic worth a post of its own – maybe this week.

  7. Angela Booth June 21, 2009 Reply

    Love this: “Writers who earn a good amount of money through blogging are “few and far between.”

    Heh. He should get out more. In 2004, back when I was still taking for-pay blog jobs, I and other pro writers were charging around $1500 per week for five 100-word posts, and one longer article of around 600 to 800 words.

    This was on a six-month contract.

    At the time, I enjoyed these writing gigs, and there were many of them available. I was working with a company which was selling a heavy-duty intranet blogging application to corps, and the marketing manager was constantly hassling me to find more writers…

    Jenn, I’m busy this morning, and I just glanced over your article (no time to read Kevin’s post) but I just wanted to pop in and mention that inexperienced writers judge that ALL writers are in the same boat. I was getting paid $1500 a week back in 2004, and I was far from the top earner in the field.

    Writers are earning that today, and much more.

    They don’t find these jobs on job boards however, nor do they frequent forums and other venues. They’re too busy writing.

    I just hope your post opens the eyes of a few writers who could be more successful if they realized that there are many more opportunities than they’re aware of.

    Now, back to writing for money — I’ve got two deadlines today. :-)

  8. Jennifer Mattern June 21, 2009 Reply

    Those gigs are definitely still out there Angela–you’re absolutely right! Corporate blogging is a big money job, because not all writers can do it well. I know quite a few through my PR work. It’s far more prevalent in that crowd than in the traditional “blogging for money” crowd (the ones blogs on blogging seem to target, while neglecting the other huge segments of the blogging field). It’s also a perfect area for freelance business writers to get into–those who understand corporate communications and PR (but even that’s not necessary).

  9. Antony Hayes December 6, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanx for the heads up, your post is definately inspiring. I have recently become a full time writer and charge $25 minumum per post. Over the last few weeks I have understood that writing gigs are not found on job boards and very rarely on freelance bidding websites. I would like to increase my income, however I am having difficulty finding clients and was wondering if you have any tips on that front?

    Short of spending time searching on google that could be spent writing do you have other suggestions? I have created an online portfolio and will work to market that once it increases.

    Any advice would be appreciated,

    Regards,

    Antony.
    Writer@timetobefree.com

    So far I have been

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