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Writing Paid Guest Posts for Clients: My Nightmare

Carol Tice

Overworked freelance writer takes angry client phone callsWriting blog posts for pay has become the Internet’s easy break-in freelance writing gig. There are so many businesses that don’t have time to keep up their own blog!

As blogging has gotten more sophisticated and businesses have learned more about it, owners have discovered the world of guest posting.

They see that links left on guest posts on a bigger blog could really help their blog get more traffic.

Which is why I’m getting more and more emails like this one (a few details have been omitted to protect the guilty):

Dear Carol:

We are in search of writers who can pitch to and write for high quality blogs with a domain authority higher that 40 on [RANKING WEBSITE].

Writers can write on any topic that they and the blog owner agree on. The only thing we ask is that writers include 1-2 links back to medically-reviewed content on [OUR WEBSITE] (we will send links) within the body of the article.

If writers have any blog or product they would like to promote, we encourage this in the bio section of the post.

Some examples of past guest blogs include: [LINKS]

We can pay $70 for every published post, and we would need to pay you via Elance.

We will help you find sites to contact and write for, and it would also help if you are connected to other [OUR TOPIC] bloggers to work with them to get published.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Utmost thanks for your help!


As it happens, I have done paid guest posts for clients in the past.

And I’ll never do it again.

These gigs are a big sticky, chocolate mess. They’re very hard to pull off. And more importantly, it’s very hard to earn a living wage at them.

Let me give you a look behind the curtain at what these gigs are like, and why you’d need to get paid way more than $70 a post if you want to write guest posts for clients.

My paid guest posting story

I had one small-business blogging client I was posting for weekly on their own company blog. They needed posts on a reasonably arcane business niche similar to insurance, which I happened to understand.

Life was good, I was cranking out $100 posts for them at a rate of four a month. Hourly rate on it was probably $50-$75 an hour.

Then they wanted to change my contract — instead of writing four times a month on their blog, I’d write fewer times for them, and get them a guest post or two a month. For the same rate.

They gave me an initial list of sites to target, perhaps 50 of them. And I began to email.

Our strategy was that I’d post on their site about a particular piece of industry news or hot topic. Then I’d reach out to the big target sites, show them a link to that post, and ask if their CEO could do a unique guest post on the same topic for their site. Said post to be ghostwritten by me, of course.

This seemed like a fairly legitimate reach-out to me: “Hey, we write interesting blog posts about X, here’s a sample. Would you like a guest post about this?”

But it turns out most sites are not interested in this sort of self-promotional CEO post.

It gets worse

After running through that first list of 50 and going back and forth with a few, I landed one guest post. Yow. That was a lot of unpaid marketing time for one $100 fee! My hourly rate was plummeting here.

Next, they wanted me to find the sites we’d reach out to. I went through Alexa and pulled a bunch of likely contenders and tried 20 or so with no success, which was frustrating and also took a chunk of time. My hourly rate was now falling through the floor.

In the next round, I insisted they provide the list of their targets. And I began charging an extra $100 for a marketing hour spent emailing to find that one ‘win.’ But it was so difficult to get any acceptances, my hourly rate was still abysmal.

After a couple months of this, I dropped the client.

It was way more marketing than writing, and I prefer to write. Also, I like projects where I can be successful, and it’s very hard to get these guest posts to happen. The frustration factor was too much for me.

The hourly rate was more like the minimum wage than a professional wage, with all the marketing time spent hunting up big blogs that would take our post.

I had taken a great-paying, steady blogging gig and turned it into a low-wage, time-sucking nightmare.

And here’s the really sleazy part

I don’t know if you read that email I posted above carefully, but there’s something a little ethically squishy going on here.

What the client really wants is for you to leverage your own relationships and reputation as a blogger to reach out to big sites. The sites are going to respond because of who you are.

They want you to post under your own byline…and slip a couple mentions of their product or service into your post on links.

What they don’t say is whether that’s supposed to be disclosed to the site you want to guest on or not. They may think it’s OK to keep your relationship a secret from the host site for your post…but it isn’t.

If you don’t disclose that you’re in the pay of the company you’re linking to — that’s unethical. You’re secretly shilling for a company and pretending you’re an impartial blogger who just happens to find this company’s thing interesting. That’s. Just. Wrong.

If you do disclose it, most sites are going to pass. They would have to state somewhere on the post that you’ve been paid to endorse this company, which is awkward.

Also, if someone’s getting paid to endorse something in a post, well, some sites do engage in that. In that scenario, if someone is getting paid for mentioning a company the site owner would like it to be them, not you.

To sum up: This sort of guest post is a dream many small business blog owners have, but one that is unlikely to come true.

Even if you wanted to do this, it’s increasingly hard to find any takers. And it’s even harder to make a decent wage at it.

When paid guest posts work

There is one scenario where guest posting for a client can make sense and pay well.

That’s where it’s all aboveboard, and you write on behalf of the company. And their brand has a good reputation and some visibility already, which makes sites more receptive to their posts.

Your tagline includes the company link, NOT a link to your site. Also, ideally the company does the marketing to find the opportunities, not you.

This gets rid of the ethical problems and make it a straightforward guest post with you authoring on behalf of your client.

It’ll still be hard to get this placed, but at least you won’t feel like you need to take a shower after you pitch it.

My advice: Keep your guest posting for promoting your own blog, especially if you’re building a reputation as a blogger. Don’t confuse readers about what or who you stand for.

An increasing number of small businesses are seeking these kinds of guest-posting deals. Make sure you know how to handle these clients so you don’t go down an ethical and low-wage rabbit hole trying to do them.

Ever been asked to guest post for a client? Leave a comment and let us know how you handled it.