Q&A: Freelance Blogging with Tom Ewer of Leaving Work Behind

November 7, 2012

Freelance blogging is becoming an increasingly popular revenue stream for writers. But can you actually make good money from blogging? And how do you get started?

Tom Ewer, a freelance writer and internet marketer, is here to answer those questions. Tom quit his job in 2011 and has been helping people to do the same via his blog, Leaving Work Behind. He writes quality, detailed posts, so his blog is worth subscribing to if you don’t already!

Freelancer Tom Ewer

Freelancer Tom Ewer

Because Tom makes money through freelance blogging, he’s releasing a guide called Successful Freelance Writing Online: How to Generate a Full Time Income by Writing For Blogs. And yes, that’s an affiliate link; I’ve read the guide, and it’s a great resource for anyone looking to get into this line of work.

To prove Tom has something great to offer — and to help out even those of you who don’t buy the guide — we’ve got a solid Q&A lined up for you.

Welcome, Tom!

AG: How did you get started with freelance blogging?

Tom: Completely by accident actually!

I had been trying to establish passive income streams for a few a months; chasing the dream of The 4-Hour Workweek. Needless to say, it wasn't working for me. I was pouring a huge amount of time and energy into my projects, but I was not getting the return I had hoped for.

So I was extremely frustrated and unsure of what to do next. I desperately wanted to quit my job, but there was no way I was going to do that until I could be pretty certain of a future income. I just didn't know how to generate that income. I'm sure plenty of people can relate to this situation.

On a complete whim I decided to submit a few job applications via the ProBlogger Job Board. I didn't expect anything to come of it — after all, I had no writing qualifications, nor any experience beyond my blog (which at the time was all of four months old). And yet I managed to land a writing job at a popular WordPress blog called WPMU. This came as a huge surprise! The concept of actually making a genuine income from writing had not occurred to me before.

After about a month, I submitted another batch of pitches to listings on the ProBlogger Job Board and landed another client. That was all the encouragement I needed — I quit my job about a month thereafter and haven't looked back since.

What do you think is the biggest concern facing writers who want to work as bloggers, and how can they overcome it?

Successful Freelance Writing Online

Tom’s ebook.

That's a great question, because in my experience there are a lot of concerns facing aspiring freelance bloggers! Most of them entirely unfounded, I should add. Having said that, I think the biggest issue is confidence.

I have learned that most writers are far better than they think. They hugely undervalue their talent, and simply don't fully appreciate that they are good enough to make a very healthy income from writing. I had this exact outlook not too long ago.

The fact is that there is very little in the way of qualifications snobbery when it comes to freelance blogging. When I landed my first client, I had just four months experience with WordPress. And yet I was now supposed to write about it and teach other people how to use it! However, the blog's owner didn't care if I had been using WordPress for four months or four years, nor did he care if I had a degree in English (or not) — he just wanted someone who could write competently and informatively on the topic.

Because qualifications are all but irrelevant when it comes to freelance blogging, confidence is key. I would always advise people to assume that they are wholly capable until they are presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. If you behave like your writing ability is a valuable asset, people are far more likely to consider it as such.

How much money can a freelance blogger expect to make?

I started off on a fairly modest hourly rate — I had no qualms about paying my dues. Having said that, the rate was still comparable to the equivalent hourly rate I was being paid in my (well-paid) job — it wasn't pennies.

But since then, my earnings have improved dramatically. Based upon my experience, an established freelance blogger can expect to make comfortably in excess of $40-$50 per hour. Certain clients pay me the equivalent of $100 per hour.

What's even better is that the vast majority of my clients are repeat customers — after all, people always need more blog posts. Other “types” of freelance writers (such as copywriters) may boast of a higher hourly rate, but how much time are they taking to source new clients? I have a core of clients that I've been working with for many months, and I literally never have to go looking for more work.

Are there benefits to freelance blogging other than the pay?

Absolutely — this is one of the reasons I love freelance blogging so much.

First of all, if you have a blog, your bylines can send you free traffic. Referrals from client websites accounts for something like 10 percent of traffic to Leaving Work Behind, and I regularly receive messages from people telling me that they've found me via a client's website. Furthermore, those same links are great for SEO, so you can expect a boost in your rankings from them.

Secondly, being a freelance blogger really helps you to become a better blogger, which can lead to any number of benefits down the line. You can get firsthand experience of how “big” blogs operate — their content strategy, their marketing efforts, and so on. It's like free blogging training!

If you have ambitions to make something of your own blog, all of this experience is invaluable. After all, these clients are paying you to blog, so there must be money in it. Why can't you work towards getting a slice of that pie?

What's the best way to go about finding paying blogging opportunities?

I'd say the easiest way to get started is by browsing online job boards, like the ProBlogger Job Board I mentioned earlier. You're not likely to find any real high-paying job, but it's a not-so-intimidating way of dipping your toe in the freelancing waters.

As for the “best” way(s), you can't beat a combination of (a) having bylines on your articles written for clients and (b) having your own blog. The dream as a freelance writers is to have prospective clients come to you, and that's exactly what bylines and your own blog can do.

What types of blogs are most likely to want to pay for content?

A simple rule to follow is that blogs that don't generate a considerable amount of traffic will generally not pay good money for posts. You really need to be looking for blogs with RSS subscribers in the tens of thousands.

But just because a blog is huge does not mean that it pays for content. Some are very deliberately one-(wo)man blogs (such as Smart Passive Income), and others rely upon free contributors (such as ProBlogger).

What I'm getting at is that there is no “formula” for a blog that will pay well for good writers. Having said that, your best bet is to look for high-traffic blogs with multiple authors. I don't think there is a particular “niche” in which blogs are more likely to pay for content.

One other thing — if you're willing to cross over to the “dark side”, there are an endless number of business blogs looking for a writer to take the weight off their shoulders (even if they don't know it yet), and they will pay handsomely for the privilege.

Do you have any recommendations for marketing yourself as a freelance blogger?

Absolutely — as I mentioned before, you've got to have your own blog. It was absolutely integral to me “making it” as a freelance blogger, and Leaving Work Behind regularly drip-feeds me new client referrals.

It doesn't matter to an extent what you blog about (although I would recommend that you pick a topic related to what you want to be paid to write about) — the key is to (a) demonstrate that you are a capable blogger and (b) give prospective clients an opportunity to find you.

Although this is by no means an instant form of marketing, it really does pay off in the long run.

Can you offer one other piece of actionable, practical advice for writers hoping to make money and get some exposure from freelance blogging?

I think the best piece of advice I can give, in its most simplistic form, is just to write.

Write posts for your blog. Write guest posts for other blogs. Write samples to send to prospective clients. Write pitches for prospective clients. Write, write, write!

The more content you produce, and the more people who read your content, the more likely you are to become a successful freelance blogger. At the end of the day, it really is that simple.

Thanks so much, Tom!

While we’re on this topic, a quick reminder: my next webinar is about the magic of guest blogging, so be sure to grab a spot if you haven’t already!

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6 Replies to “Q&A: Freelance Blogging with Tom Ewer of Leaving Work Behind”

  • Laurie says:

    Tom mentions having bylines on blogs we write for others… I am currently doing some freelancing for a local web management company that provides blog posts for a list of businesses, but the tagline for the posts is the name of the person for whom I am working, not my name. Is this common, or acceptable? Some of the posts are edited slightly, some are not. Either way, the bulk of the content and the ideas for the posts are mine. I’m just starting to get out and test these waters, so I’m not sure if this is something I should question or demand to be changed.

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hey Laurie,

      That’s not abnormal — I ghost write for one of my clients. Having your name in the byline is certainly a benefit, but it’s not something you should necessarily insist upon.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  • MaryBeth says:

    You mention it’s important to have a blog, but I have no idea what to write about. I have a blog already — that I haven’t updated in awhile — that talked about local business issues, etc. (As a freelance writer, I mainly write for regional business publications) On the other hand, I’ve thought about writing about my personal experiences of being a mom of a child with autism. But that might not help trying to land blogging jobs elsewhere.
    So how do you determine what to write about? I was thinking social media, but that seems to be saturated. Any ideas you may have would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Hey! I’ll answer until Tom stops by, and then hopefully we’ll get his response as well. I think it’s smart to write about topics your potential clients care about, so you can prove your expertise in that area and help them decide to hire you. But you might also be able to weave in your personal experience to make it even more interesting. (That’s basically what I do here on this blog.) Let us know what you decide!

  • Mark Leo says:

    I actually admire Tom and Alexis because they can write really really great. I really love to write but I am having problem with the English language since its not my primary language. No matter how much I try, my articles are really so awkward to read. In fact, I even have hard time letting my articles pass ezinearticles’ standard.

    Poor me! Sigh!

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