A little over ten years ago, I read that a wave of online platforms would soon take the web by storm. The platforms would serve as important channels for businesses to use to help differentiate themselves and engage with customers and target audiences. At the time I was looking to reinvent the marketing communications part of my work experiences, this seemed right up my alley. (I learned about website design and development in the mid-to-late 90’s.)
Eagerly, I jumped onboard. Like many people, I taught myself what I needed to know about applying social media use to businesses. Ultimately, I wrote and published my first freelance blog post about social media marketing in 2006, and I continued to write on the topic for many years. Freelance blogging provided a perfect opportunity for me; it offered an extension of the nonfiction writing in which I already was engaged, tied-in my interest in research, and helped me keep my technological skills up-to-date.
When I first started blogging about social media marketing, there wasn’t a lot of information about the topic online. One scholarly book (whose title and author I’ve long forgotten) had received mention in a business magazine. I tracked the book down at a store a few towns away and proceeded to read the book from cover to cover the same day. I took copious notes, and over the next 6 to 12 months, the notations served as guideposts as I learned about this entirely new field.
So why am I telling you all of this? As a writer, one day you may choose to write for online and print publications on a topic outside of your wheelhouse. Or you may choose to begin freelancing on a subject you know well.
When I started to apply for freelance blogging gigs, a few critical issues became clear right away:
- I didn’t have a budget and would need to figure out how to maximize as many free and public domain offerings as I could.
- I needed an online portfolio to show examples of relevant articles I’d written.
In this post, I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned along the way, including free public domain and low-cost resources, that helped me deal with these issues.
#1: Become a freelance blogger for reputable publications that specializes in your subject matter.
Check out sites you’re interested in. See if they are looking for guest posts, e.g., an easy-to-find Write for Us page. Or, send them a query email to see if they’d be interested in a guest post. For more information, check out this article about guest blogging.
In my case, I chose Technorati, a respected “publisher advertising platform that served as an advertising solution for the thousands of websites in its network.” I would write a long article for the site and include copyright free images on some aspect of social media marketing, submit it to an editor, who would send me suggested edits within 24 to 48 hours. After I made the changes, they’d publish the article with my by-line.
Even though I wasn’t paid for my time, the benefit of this work was far-reaching. I not only built a freelance blogger portfolio, but I also gained invaluable online writing experience. In a short time, my name was associated with a highly recognized publisher. Important to note too, I never met any of the highly talented editors in person or on the phone who read and published my pieces.
#2 Create a portfolio page on your website and include links to the posts on your site.
Create a page on your website where you feature your guest posts. Keep it updated with links to all the articles or posts you write for other sites. This becomes your online portfolio. You easily can direct editors considering your work to this page when you send out a query email.
Once added to your portfolio, you also can promote the articles from your social media accounts. This is a great way to help them reach more people. Your friends will enjoy seeing mention of your articles in their feeds, too. (Information about free websites is covered in step #4.) Keep building upon the articles you write so you have a lot of material to share with editors.
#3 Cite articles and books readers might benefit from reading about and, when needed, request a review copy from a publisher.
Request a review copy of books you reference in your posts. This may be one of the most beneficial things I learned along the way, and it’s helpful when writing a book review post or for mentions in articles. Check out this article about what to include in your request. Essentially, you will need to provide all the information on your post, e.g., where the post will be featured, your mailing address, etc. Including pertinent information in your initial request will help streamline the process and avoid the need to answer questions about information you failed to provide.
#4 Use open source and public domain sites when your budget is limited (or non-existent).
Not everyone has the budget to create a fancy website or purchase images for posts. That doesn’t mean you can’t build a professional website and provide images that accompany your written work. And by doing so, you begin to look like a professional freelance blogger.
Create your free personal website on WordPress.com. (If interested, for a nominal fee, opt to purchase your own URL.) You can convert your WordPress.com site to a WordPress.org site later when you have the funds. Check-out this infographic for helpful information about WordPress.
Use royalty-free images. Read all the details for each site or photographer to make sure you have permission to use the image.
Large Media Files
If you have large audio or video files that need to be hosted somewhere, upload the digital files to Internet Archive. You can share the link to the file in your post, if necessary, or send it to your employer so they can access it.
#5 Get up-to-speed on business and technological skills.
Use Lynda.com to watch videos on topics that will help you improve your knowledge of a range of subjects including marketing, software, and photography. Lynda.com is available through many libraries. Learn more here.
#6 Adhere to Privacy and Disclosure Issues.
A few years ago the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implemented a policy requiring that all bloggers disclose when they are getting paid for posts or receive free products that they are reviewing. To ensure you are compliant, read more about the policies here.
#7 Put your best work out there.
Brainstorm good story ideas—ones appropriate for the sites you want to query. Save versions of your Microsoft word documents; don’t lose any work you’ve produced. Use a spell-check program, and run your completed file through Grammarly’s free writing assistant before you submit your work to an editor.
Freelance blogging is a great sideline for nonfiction and fiction writers. Find your blogging niche by pursuing, researching, and writing about topics that interest you. Once you’ve established yourself as a freelance blogger, take yourself and your writing seriously. Stop giving away everything away for free, and charge for your work.
Are you trying to become a paid blogger—or are you already? What tips can you share in a comment below?
About the Author
Deb Hemley writes memoir, personal essay, short fiction, and articles about social media. She has published pieces in Biographile, Hippocampus Magazine, All That Matters, and Survivor’s Review. You can follow her on Twitter @dhemley.
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