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I like to use my time and the space Yaro gives me here at Entrepreneurs-Journey to base my articles on questions I often receive and this one will be no different as I am going to discuss how “Mitch’s Blog” became a company with 18 current writers.
While the building a company part I have talked about in the past and I’m sure I’ll talk about it in the future, this article is going to focus on the variety of writers on my site: who they are, how they got there, and just about everything else that people would want to know if this is an approach they are thinking about.
Since this is a huge topic, I’ll break it down the best I can, and of course if you have questions, fire away in the comment section; as usual I’ll do my best to respond to all of them.
This was one of the odd things for me because at first I didn’t always actively look for writers, most often they have contacted me.
I have a lot of content already and I cover a lot sports, which appeal to a broad segment of the global population. There are literally thousands of people who would love the opportunity to write and have their work read. I get at least ten emails per week from people asking to write on my site regarding a variety of sports and the bulk I turn away (I’ll talk about the process of who I choose in a moment), but with the pool given to me, I can find people who not only want to write, but who are also a good fit with the site and with me.
Once in a while, if I am looking for writers to beef up a particular section of the site, I’ll write a short post saying so, very directly and stating exactly what people should include in their response. While this is one that is more general, here is an example of something I have used in the past.
If you have been doing your work all along and have good traffic, enough people will read articles like this, either by happening upon them on your site or through Google, so you should be able to have at least a pool of people to work with and choose from. To be honest, I am always looking for talented and inspired writers, particularly in a sport or area we have light or no coverage of.
I don’t usually accept guest posts. I get requests from people wanting to do so, but at this point it doesn’t help my site enough to make it worthwhile. Usually the guest posts I get are loaded with links and marginally related to my site, I would rather not have them at all. We produced 800 articles last month, I don’t think having or not having someone’s one-off guest post is going to make or break us, so I would just rather not have it.
At Sports Chat Place, we only post original and unique content.
Picking who is a good fit to write on my blog isn’t an exact science and it has been a learning process, but it is something I have gotten better at over time through lessons learned.
I used to let anyone, who wanted to write on my blog, contribute. As the blog has become bigger, I no longer do this for a lot of reasons. What I have learned is that while people are enthusiastic at first to write, it usually doesn’t take long to realize it is a job and like any job everyone has good days and bad days. While some people are motivated by money and others by getting notoriety, if you truly love what you do and are passionate about what you are writing about then it makes it a lot easier to get through the bad days.
Some people are just good at writing and some people enjoy it more than others, the ideal writer is both of these. While it’s tough to find these people, they are out there, but in most cases it’s best to compromise and have some give and take with people, as long as it’s in the right areas.
Some people will throw together a hastily written article and submit it to me as a writing sample, that doesn’t really work. Some people try and talk about what great writers they are, I don’t really care much about that either. I need and will only allow people to write on my site who are passionate about what they are writing about, and as long as they can write coherently with minimal editing and need just light coaching and some pointers, I usually give them a chance.
While my writers are compensated (another topic I will discuss shortly), if a person’s first contact with me centers around compensation, they probably aren’t a good fit. A lot of my writers worked for free back when the site wasn’t making any money, they did it because they loved writing and they loved what they were writing about. Receiving a check or Paypal from me doesn’t change that at all with any of them, feel free to ask them, most don’t care about the money and getting them to give me Paypal info or a W-9 so I can pay them doesn’t rank too high on their priority list.
One thing I am leery about, which is usually a warning sign, similar to money questions or demands for money, are people who say they are “good writers”. Usually I get this from people who went to schools known for Journalism or people who maybe were told by a teacher or friend they were a good writer. While getting nice marks in school is a great thing, it doesn’t mean or make a person a good writer. Having perfect sentence structure, solid grammar, or even an editorial background for a known publication or website don’t make a person a good writer. The public decides who is a good writer and they decide who a good writer is by reading a person’s writings.
So in order for a person to truly be a good writer they need to write consistently, write passionately, and need to have a following. While it’s nice for a college professor to think someone writes well, I’ll take the guy who misspells a word here and there, uses questionable grammar at times, and writes several times a week with so much passion the world wants to read more, and thousands of people read their articles, any day of the week.
Everyone who writes at Sports Chat Place is compensated, though (believe it or not) getting them to take the money isn’t always such an easy thing.
Everyone who writes at the site has signed a contract that was written by a lawyer that clearly defines what is expected of the writer as a writer on the site and how their compensation works. No writer has ever had an issue with the contract, but I always offer to them that if they do see something they don’t like, we can possibly amend it if it works for both of us.
Without getting into too much detail, the compensation is based on the contribution to the site and the income of the site over that period. Some writers only write certain sports and those sports are only played during certain months, some writers write about multiple sports at the same time, everyone gets treated the same as they are paid based upon each of their total contribution.
Basically there is a pie and the pie is based on income. The division of the pie is based on the formula we have agreed upon and recalculated monthly. While I like paying everyone, this isn’t what makes the site a success or a failure as I couldn’t always afford to pay the writers and I still always had plenty of people to write and plenty of success.
While the number of articles over the pay period each month is the biggest consideration in dividing the writer’s compensation pool, other things like timeliness of article submission and if articles need a lot of editing are other factors that are involved. The writers can also use affiliate programs and promote those within their articles, do product reviews, etc. to earn extra income and we have separate deals that address those. Everything is up front with the writers and I, there are no surprises unless it’s me throwing them an extra payment or bonus which is known to happen.
Payments go out to the writers on the 10th of each month. Some writers prefer to be paid every other month so they receive a bigger check, it doesn’t make any difference to me. As I will say over and over again, no one writes on my site for the money alone. While some of the people like getting the money and care about it more than others, we are talking about a group of people who are over the top passionate about what they are writing about, and being able to write at a place where 400,000 people a month (and growing) read it – is something they think is pretty cool.
While it’s usually a feel-good situation, not everyone works out over the long term; it’s just part of having a business. Like any job, writers have responsibilities to the site and have parameters they need to work within. We have deadlines, as sports have starting and end times, however the shelf life of a lot of what we write about isn’t too long, therefore timing is important.
Communication is important as well and although quality is paramount, I’m also a big believer in quantity, not something most bloggers hear too often.
Before I get this question, the answer is that my writers are all over the world. I have writers in Australia, Ireland, Canada, all over the United States as well as other places. It’s global and it’s the Internet, it doesn’t matter where everyone is as long as they can communicate.
I use the most common method which is email for a lot of my communication, but it certainly doesn’t end there and on most days it doesn’t begin there either. Because of the number of games being played in a certain day, as a group we try and cover as many different games as we can without duplicating coverage of the same game. Of course there are days with a lighter schedule or more prominent games like playoffs, tournaments, and championships where we have several writers cover the same games but really those are less common.
Our current primary source of communication is Google Docs. We have a shared spreadsheet that list all of the upcoming games of the sports we cover and when a writer is about to begin an article about a particular game, they put their name next to that game on the spreadsheet so all of the other writers know that game is covered. We still get double coverage once in a while but it is very rare and really doesn’t do any harm, it just helps less than a fresh topic would.
While it sounds too simple, simple is usually best, and we also weren’t smart enough to come up with anything more complex, so it works for us. Every few days or so I update the schedules of the various sports, move things around, delete the old games that have passed, add new sports that come into season, whatever. The whole scheduling takes me about five minutes per week this way.
We also use this schedule Doc to post if we can’t write or cover any games on a particular day, this gives the other writers who cover a sport a heads up that there are some extra games if they want to cover them, or if it was a day they may have taken off, maybe it’s not the best day. It’s rare two people need the same day off, but when it happens, we usually get it covered. One thing is for certain, days off are expected, but letting everyone know that someone is taking one makes the site run a lot smoother.
I also do conference calls with the writers and try and do so every month though we miss some months. I also like to talk to each of the writers at least once a month to talk about what they are doing well, what needs work, and any ideas I have for their areas or any ideas that they have for the site. I like to stay in touch with everyone and though we are growing, it’s still important for me to do so. I use the phone, Skype, Google Chat, or whatever we need to use.
All of the writers on my site post their own content live on the site.
Because of the language in the contract they signed and because I am pretty picky about whom I bring aboard, I know there won’t be any objectionable content on the site. I also know the writers aren’t perfect, but they can edit their articles as well. If there is a larger issue, it can be sorted out in the comments or forums through interaction with the readers, or if I can edit everyone’s articles.
I don’t read everything the writers write, they know this and aren’t insulted by it nor do I worry too much about it. I do read at least a few articles each week by each writer just to make sure they are still on the right track.
Most of the headings and such are auto formatted by a system I had custom built. As far as style, every writer has their own personality, but there is a specific style of writing that works well on the internet and works well with our readership, and I have a document which hits on the key points. I also spend at least an hour before each writer starts to go over a few of the real basics as writing on the net is just a different animal than print or anything else.
As I say often, if the people who come to the site have something fresh there to read, that’s the most important thing, the other stuff is just secondary or will sort itself out over time. So far this system has worked well for me.