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How Will Freelance Writers Earn Well From Longer Blog Posts?

Carol Tice

photodune-3393975-money-bag-with-question-marks-xsHave you noticed that blog posts are getting longer? Many top blogs are standing out with detailed posts of 1,000 to 2,000 words.

New survey data shows why — longer posts get more and better quality traffic.

I’m definitely a fan of detailed posts that offer examples and case studies on this blog, as you’ve probably noticed. I believe offering more value has made a big difference in growing my blog.

But growing interest in longer posts poses a problem for writers who do paid blogging, as well as for writers looking to promote their own blogs through guest posts.

Popular blogs that could drive traffic to your own blog are looking for longer posts from their guest posters, which is a big commitment when it’s an unpaid marketing activity. Which brings me to this important rule:

Think before you guest post

Suddenly, its not dashing off 500 words off the top of your head for a guest post. Which calls into question whether devoting hours to writing a free guest post is still worth it.

It may be worthwhile if you’re writing for huge blogs that have the potential to be a game-changer for your visibility as a writer…for less powerful blogs, possibly not. I’ll say I find myself checking Alexa or PageRank more often now before deciding whether I’ll write a guest post for a site for free.

My advice here: Weigh the pros and cons carefully, especially in light of the recent raging controversy over whether all guest posting is a spammy SEO gambit that will be penalized by Google. Writing a truly fresh, informative, 2,000-word guest post could take the better part of an entire work day. Only you can decide if that’s a good investment of your time, or if there might be a better way to draw your audience.

One possible solution to the problem of free longform guest posts is to refuse to do them. There is another way to approach guest posting that may work better as longer posts become the norm.

Look for paying guest posts

One way I worked my way out of the free guest-post trap was to focus on blogs that pay writers for guest posts, sometimes on an ongoing basis.

Personally, I was guest posting for free on Copyblogger when I got an opportunity to guest post for a modest fee for Freelance Switch (now Microlancer). Even $50 or $75 a guest post, if you’re doing it regularly, will start to add up. When I was writing for them regularly, I often billed Freelance Switch for $300 a month or more — a nice chunk of change for guest posts I might have written free for another site!

I was lucky that FSw paid more for longer posts, too. That’s another thing to look out for in future, as longer posts become more desirable — sites that have a higher rate for longer wordcounts.

Another plus to guesting for pay: I believe guesting on paying sites is also a better lure for attracting clients.

The fact is, if prospective business blogging clients are impressed that you’re on Huffington Post, they’re going to be more impressed when you’re on a site with a reputation for paying its writers. If you find paid guest-post opportunities, you’re crazy not to take them.

Problem: longer posts, same low rates

At the same time that longer posts are increasingly desired by top blogs, businesses are quickly picking up on the long-post trend, and wanting to hire freelance writers to write longer posts for their blogs.

Problem is, they don’t necessarily want to pay any more than the going rates for shorter posts.

For instance, we got a request on our Freelance Writers Den job board not long ago from an employer who wanted to post a job listing for 1,500-word posts that paid only $100.

Since that’s our floor for posts of 500 words, we passed. But it points up a big problem.

Having struggled mightily to educate businesses about why a blog post should pay $50 or $100 instead of $5 or $25, now paid bloggers face a new challenge: How can we get paid appropriately for long blog posts that are really a lot more like magazine articles than the dashed-off, 300-word posts of old?

As Den member Bree recently put it:

” I’ve been reading more and more that longer blog posts are what Google’s going to consider legitimate and helpful for readers. If this is the case, should we still be suggesting to clients that they pay us for 500-word posts? Or is that a good starting point that we can later jump off to convince them to up their word count (and rate)?”

Yes — it is a puzzle.

I used to do just that — discourage clients who wanted long posts, and sell them on the idea that short ones at $100-$125 a pop would get the job done.

But now there is a compelling case to be made that longer posts will be more effective for your clients.

Which means we need to help clients understand why writers should be paid more for longform blog posts.

9 Tips for higher blog post pay

If clients want longer posts, what should you do? Here are my tips:

  1. Define the project. Writers need to ask careful questions about what the client imagines will be in this long post. Interviews? Survey data? Infographics you’re supposed to create? I’ve heard too many sob stories of writers who didn’t find out — and ended up with an appallingly low hourly rate for writing longer posts.
  2. Think hourly rate. Remember that ultimately, wordcount isn’t as important as what you make per hour. If these are posts you could dash off in two hours because you know all about antique tractors or bathroom remodels or whatever it is, maybe $100-$150 a post would make sense to you. But usually, I think long posts take loads more time than that. So be realistic.
  3. Learn about rates. Going rates for these are still emerging, but I’m going to say $300 should be a floor. That’s still below the bottom rate I’d expect for a 2,000 word magazine feature (even at $.30 a word, a low-end print article rate, that would be $600). So it’s in line with the tradition that blog posts cost less than magazine articles, but is still a major hike from $75-$100.
  4. Charge more. If that rate discussion above doesn’t compute with what you’re earning now, do this: Whatever you charge for short posts now, charge 3-5 times more for longer ones. Or your earnings are going to take a hit.
  5. Work with their budget. Some clients will say they can’t afford to pay fair rates for longer blog posts. But they may be able to if you consider their overall blogging budget instead of their per-post rate. For instance, if a client says they can’t pay more than $50 for a blog post, but they want three long posts a week, sell them on the idea that they could get good traffic with four two long posts a month at $300 each — that’s the exact same budget. Or maybe a mix of short and long posts with less frequency could get it done affordably. Be creative to come up with an answer, but make sure you don’t end up writing 2,000-word posts for $50.
  6. Educate your client. If clients want long blog posts and balk at paying $300 or more for them, they need education about how much more valuable these are than shortie posts at grabbing attention and building their authority. Don’t compare a 2,000-word post to a 300-word one — compare it to having a feature article placed in a magazine, or placing a paid print or radio or Yellow Pages ad. These are the marketing alternatives in many companies’ budgets — and compared to them, blogging is still a terrific bargain, even at $300 a long post.
  7. Find better clients. Yes, the type of clients with the budget for longform blogging will tend to be bigger clients with bigger marketing budgets. If you’re targeting small businesses and startups now, think about moving up if you want to write longform posts for good pay.
  8. Sell repurposing. A long, fully fleshed-out guest post can be combined with a few other long posts and turned into a special report, a short e-book, sent out as part of a newsletter, and more. Explain to clients how much mileage they might get from creating longer posts — and why they will get their money’s worth if they pay $300-$500 or more for them.
  9. Flash your article writing skills. As I’ve mentioned, long blog posts often closely resemble magazine articles. If you have article-writing experience, be sure to play that up to clients — they’re getting journalistic reporting and quality storytelling delivered right on their blog. If you don’t have magazine clips, consider learning more about article writing to get some published credits and strengthen your cred for writing long blog posts. My experience is business clients are heavily impressed by magazine credits.

The rise of longform blogging could be a financial boon for writers — or a sinkhole for writers who don’t stand up for themselves and get paid more for longer posts.

My forecast is that article writing is the killer skill of 2014, and the rise of longform blogging is one of the big reasons.

The era of hastily slapping together a few paragraphs and calling it a blog post is over. So it’s time for writers to up their skills to ride this trend to better pay.

Have you written long blog posts? Leave a comment and give us your take on the rise of longform.

How to be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger