It’s always flattering when your blogging work attracts prospective clients who’d like to pay you to blog. But I’ve discovered not all paid-blogging offers are what they seem.
Here’s the tale of one disturbing little encounter I had recently, which shows it pays to keep your wits about you when people offer to pay you to blog:
I got an email from a guy — let’s call him Darius — out of the blue, from a site I’d never heard of, which aggregates a lot of different content links. Let’s call it His-Top-Blogs.com. He’d seen my blogging work for one of my bigger clients, and was interested in hiring me. The exchange went like this. Darius first wrote me:
“I’d like to write articles on His-Top-Blogs and then submit them to your networks, or if that’s not possible, include a link to His-Top-Blogs in your articles. Not sure how much that is, because I have never done it before. What is your rate?”
I responded that I didn’t have any situation where I would want to republish content from his site on my own or any of my client’s sites. And that I get at least $100 a post to write for clients. I got this response:
I can pay you $100 an article, as long as you include at least one link to His-Top-Blogs. The question is where would you submit the articles? Can you add it to [the blog of the major magazine you write for]?
Well, now. This is what we call a double-pay opportunity. In case that was opaque, Darius was proposing I write for pay for my usual clients…and then he would also pay me another $100 a post for each entry! All I had to do was oh, just casually drop a mention of — and most importantly, a link to — his website into each and every story I write.
In other words, he was asking me to be a sellout. A secret, paid shill for his site. A stealth backlinker.
Darius was hoping that without disclosing the fact that he’d hired me, I’d start creating backlinks for him on high-profile sites where I blog.
Instead of writing posts based on actual reporting, research, and my own knowledge of what’s truly valuable and groundbreaking in my subjects, I could simply make all the stories be about Darius’s site to make a little extra money.
I could forget all the journalistic credibility I’d spent two decades building and make a little quick cash pretending this junk-content linkbait site was something valuable and noteworthy.
Can you guess what I told him?
“I’m not getting into a pay-for-backlinks agreement,” I wrote him. “It would compromise the journalistic ethics of what I’m creating for clients such as [major magazine]. I probably wouldn’t be working for them very long if I did something like this with their posts.”
I never heard a peep from Darius again. No doubt he moved on to asking other reporter/bloggers if they would be his stealth link pimps. Here’s hoping he didn’t find any takers.
I’m sure I could have made a nice chunk of change doing what he asked — at first. Until somebody figured it out, and I got fired from all my paid-blogging jobs.
For anyone who’s not aware, if you have a paid relationship with any source, you have to disclose it immediately to your client. You can’t ever pretend to “report” on a company that is paying you to say they’re great.
But plenty of desperate would-be Web entrepreneurs out there don’t know these rules, nor do they care. It’s up to you to act ethically to keep building the most important asset you have as a writer and reporter — your reputation. It can be hard to say “no” when you need the money…but this is one type of blogging-for-pay offer you’ll want to avoid.