March 30, 2015

How to Make Money On Your Blog: So You Want to Be a Contributor

Looking to be a contributor? Here's some great tips for snagging a gig!

I get asked a lot about how I make money on my blog. One answer is sponsored posts (I wrote a whole post about those last year). One of the other biggest sources of revenue for me is contributing to other blogs and sites.

I currently write for Disney Baby, Mom.me, Cardstore, Brightly, Conde Nast, and Modern Parents Messy Kids. I also used to write for Spoonful and GoodLife Eats.

I actually spoke at Alt Summit last summer on a panel about being a contributor, so some of this is a recap from that.

Probably what you want to know most is "how do you GET a gig as a contributor?"

I started getting serious about looking for contributor gigs when Bart started applying to MBA programs. I had two blog friends who wrote for Babble and I asked both of them to recommend me when a spot opened. I didn't get that spot, but they emailed me instead to tell me about the launch of Disney Baby and to ask me to join the team.

And once you have a foot in the door as a contributor somewhere, it's much easier to get another gig, as editors and contributors move around a lot and will know who you are when they are looking for more writers (the editor who asked me to join Brightly used to work for Disney Baby. The editor at Conde Nast was at Babble. I met the woman who runs the Cardstore blog when I spoke at Alt and she attended that panel. I joined Mom.me when several of the other Disney Baby writers who wrote there mentioned they were looking for writers. You get the idea).

So. Here are some tips for getting a job.
  1. Let people know you want to be a contributor.  You'd be amazed at how high the turnover at lots of sites is (since I started at Disney Baby in the summer of 2012, there is only one other of the original 18 writers still there besides me) and when they are looking for new writers, they usually ask the current group for suggestions. I have a couple of people I know of that are interested in contributor jobs and so I send along openings to them when I see them or suggest their names to the editors (if you'd like me to let you know about openings, I'd be more than happy to pass info along to you when I see things!).  
  2. Email and ask. A lot of the big sites that hire tons of writers might not know who you are, but could be interested in you if you put yourself out there. I got my gig at Spoonful (RIP) because I emailed the editor and asked to join the team. 
  3. Figure out what you'd like to write about. Do you want to write about parenting? Food? Movies? Start following people in those spaces and see where THEY contribute. Chances are, those places will be hiring.  
  4. Ask to contribute on a trial basis. I did a guest post for Modern Parents Messy Kids and then when it was successful, she asked me to come on as a contributor. 
  5. Your blog is your resume. It's the first thing they are going to look at when you apply. If your layout is lousy or your pictures are dark, small, and blurry (here are some pointers about how to make your photos sharper and look better on your blog). Even if the gig you're applying to doesn't require any photography, they won't take you seriously if your blog looks lousy. The truth is, with blogging, you don't really get any down days. If you put up a terrible photo or bad post, invariably that's the day they'll look at your blog and think, "Nope, not hiring you." 
  6. When they ask your rate, go higher than you think you should. And then add another 50%. I probably would make about $5 a post if it weren't for Bart who is always like, "ASK FOR MORE MONEY." The worst they can say is no. And it lets them know you take yourself seriously and value the work you do. Especially because your content lives on their site and continues to drive traffic (especially if it's the kind of thing that does well on Pinterest) for years, they're getting a lot of benefit from your writing. Don't sell yourself short. 
A few tips once you do get a job:
  1. Do what you're supposed to do and you'll be the top 5%. It's amazing how little you sometimes have to do to be a big performer. Write the number of posts you're supposed to on time, and I promise, you'll instantly be one of the best people they work with. 
  2. If you're going to contribute to more than one place, write about different topics if you can. I feel like it's not too hard for me to come up with content because I write different kinds of stuff for each place. I do DIY projects at Cardstore, baby product posts at Disney Baby (although originally it was more parenting essays), parenting essays at Mom.me, and book lists at Brightly. None of them really cut into what I do on my own blog, and I'm not scrambling to think of 30 different posts about newborns every month. And on days when I don't want to write about books, I can work on a DIY project or vice versa. 
  3. If the pay isn't great, look for other possible perks. The pay isn't usually great on smaller personal blogs, as opposed to big corporate blogs, but they'll usually be more willing to help you out in other ways. They might pass along sponsored post opportunities they can't take or let you pin your stuff to their Pinterest boards with big followings or automatically share all your blog posts from your own blog on their Facebook or Twitter or Google+ pages. 
  4. Ask for a raise every year (or every six months). If you're performing on a high level, ask for a raise. Point out the traffic you're bringing in, how you're always submitting things on time, how your blog is growing and you need to make more to justify spending time producing content elsewhere, etc. Chances are good they'll say yes. 
  5. If something starts being a poor fit, walk away. I'm terrible at this because I hate to say no to money, but if things stop being worth your while or just bogs you down, it's okay to quit. When Spoonful shut down, I couldn't believe what a huge weight off of me that was. Since Bart was in school and my income is our only income, I never would have quit, but when I didn't have to do it anymore, I was amazed at how much stress that one gig was causing me. And when I was able to replace the income from that with much easier, more interesting, and more lucrative posts elsewhere, I realized it was okay to walk away from some money. And they can always find someone to replace you - there are lots of bloggers out there. No one's site is going to crash and burn because you decide to spend your energy elsewhere. 
Any other questions? I'm happy to try and answer them (and if you have other blogging topics you'd like to hear about, let me know!).

16 comments:

  1. This is a very helpful post. I never really knew anything about contributing before but you've maybe inspired me!

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  2. All of your blogging posts are life changing for me, just know that haha! Also, I'm about to be that real annoying person that says, "If you hear of an opening can you tell me?!" But I would love you forever!

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  3. I was at that panel last summer! It was helpful..I'm contributing now to a site and along with some content strategy freelance work. It was definitely motivating!

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  4. Penguin Teen linked to your YA road trips post on Facebook I didn't know you had written the post until I clicked over and was like, "Hey! I know her." (Fun post, by the way.)

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  5. Thank you for writing this post! I've been thinking about becoming a contributor, even looked into it a little, but didn't really know where to start. Please let me know if you hear of opportunities. I'm off to check out some of the places you contribute!

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  6. I would love to know when spots open up with the brands you work with! I studied journalism in college and now work as a receptionist. I miss writing so much and would love the opportunity to get to write again!

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  7. You are amazing for writing this! I've just started having some of my writing published elsewhere for money, but right now it feels like I'm just guessing my way along, so reading about someone who is doing it far more successfully than I am is incredibly helpful. I've actually read your blog off and on since the early days when you were a baby-less, married librarian in Texas, so seeing the evolution to where you are now is quite inspiring!

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  8. This was a very inspiring post. I can feel the gears in my head spinning with new ideas. Thanks so much!

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  9. Very interesting read. I found you via Modern Parents and am now a big fan of yours. I pin your posts often. Just pinned your list of parenting books for boys. Thank you 😀

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  10. Follow up contributor question! When you said that you just e-mailed Spoonful and asked to contribute, did you pitch something? Or did you flat out just ask if you could write for them? I am so intrigued!

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    1. I just asked if I could write for them! I told them I was interested in doing more food contributing and shared a couple of links to my food posts on my own blog. (Because I already wrote for Disney Baby, I knew the editor a little and she knew who I was).

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  11. This was such a helpful post! I'm on the look out for freelance/contributing work at the moment and this really got me thinking.

    Lynsey xx
    allsortsandanecdotes.blogspot.co.uk

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  12. This was such a helpful post! I'm on the look out for freelance/contributing work at the moment and this really got me thinking.

    Lynsey xx
    allsortsandanecdotes.blogspot.co.uk

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  13. Super helpful post! Thanks for sharing your experience - as others have mentioned it's never easy to start to freelance, so reading posts like this one is truly helpful!

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  14. I realize you posted this forever ago, but I do have a question. Do you have to be a blogger to get the gigs? I work as a freelance writer for a SEO firm, but I'm getting burned out of the content I'm writing about and would like to mix it up a little. Thanks for your time! (If blogging isn't necessary, could I be super annoying and ask to be added to the list of possible job openings??)

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    Replies
    1. I think it depends - in some cases, they want you to drive traffic to their site, so they want you to have a blog. In other cases, they just want content, so not having a blog wouldn't matter.

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