This post was originally published on June 20, 2009. But I wanted to share it again today (and update it a bit) as the issue of blogging pay rates is hotter than ever as more and more freelance bloggers come onto the scene. As some background, this was originally written in response to Kevin Muldoon's post, Bloggers Need to be Realistic About Blogging Rates. It was Muldoon's claim that you shouldn't charge $100+ for blog posts, because you'll get outbid and your clients won't earn enough of a return that led to this post. I suggest reading his first if you want to understand where my arguments below came from.
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 -- they're common myths surrounding freelance blogging).
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."
While it's true that some (even many) buyers do in fact prioritize the bottom line when hiring bloggers, 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 a lot of businesses, from mom and pop shops to major corporations. The blogs may not even contain any ads or other direct revenue sources. 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 often do that through company news, industry news and commentary, and educational posts--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 than earning revenue from their blogs. One PR nightmare that isn't handled well can swiftly kill even the best sales efforts, and a blog gives them immediate access to their customers or other 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. Many have worked with professional writers in other capacities (either as employees or as contractors). They're used to professional rate tiers, and they know the quality they'll get from paying those higher rates. 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. That's one of the reasons you don't see a lot of gigs with high blogging pay rates publicly advertised.
"Hidden" Writer's Markets Lead to Misconceptions
These unadvertised gigs, or "hidden markets," are the key in the misunderstanding about how many freelance writers really do get paid well for their blogging services. Because we don't see a lot of these job offers publicly, it's easy to assume they don't exist. But that's not true. My own client base is a perfect example.
My lowest-paying blogging job when I originally wrote this post in 2009 was a little over $70 per post (which was a result of a discounted rate given for bulk orders -- something I no longer do or recommend). Blogging pay rates for all other clients at that time started at $150. As of now (2014) my starting rate for blog posts is $250, and it goes up from there based on word count tiers. As a more specific example, one of my more recent posts was a list-style post coming in at around 1000 words. I was paid $540 for that one, and that was including a minor discount I still give one of my oldest clients (something else I no longer do with newer clients). Blogging can be quite lucrative if you can get yourself on the radar of prospects with adequate budgets and an appreciation for what you bring to the table.
Here's the kicker: I've never applied for any of those blogging jobs. They come 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 writer 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 and bidding sites 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 more of those $100+ jobs were publicly advertised, I'd include them in our job listings).
Look. If you're happy with that $25 per article, by all means take it. It's 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 blogging pay rates of $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're not in a position yet to have one on their team. 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, especially if you're willing to be a ghostwriter and let the business owner take credit.
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.
If you're new to freelance blogging and you aren't sure what your own blogging rates should be, consider using my freelance rate calculator. The main version you see automatically allows you to determine rates based on a yearly income target (it calculates hourly rates which you can then turn into per-post or per-word rates if you prefer). If you click the "Advanced Freelance Rate Calculator" link at the top of the calculator, you can use another version which helps you determine the minimum hourly rate you need to charge to reach your financial goals. If you go that route, don't forget to tack on extra if you have extensive experience, great credentials, or other reasons for charging a premium.