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As an entrepreneur and a blogger I’ve been afforded a unique outlook on the whole blogging as a business discussion. Bloggers look at blogging as something they do for fun, for creative expression, for meeting people, for making money directly from advertising and affiliate promotions or indirectly by promoting a business. Most bloggers are either not blogging for money or are self employed content publishers. While there is nothing wrong with that, and I’ve been living the self employment life myself for a long time, it’s not my end goal.
Because of my entrepreneur mindset I always look at things from a strategic business point of view, not an employee mindset. This attitude has led me to study business strategy and systems and implement what I learn both in my business and in my blogging. I doubt there are many other bloggers out there who think and act as I do in this regard, which is why I enjoy writing about blogging as a business model so much – it’s not territory many people cover since they just don’t think about it.
Today I have a topic for you that clearly is from the entrepreneur mindset and if your goal is to use blogs for business, possibly as your business (the blogging business model), as a lead generator for your business, or as a cashflow source for bootstrapping your business, you will definitely find the ideas below of interest.
Attracting new writers to your blog is a difficult process and there are many variables to consider. Your goal is to sustain the value your blog offers, or ideally, increase the value it offers to your readers. As most bloggers know, value comes from content, and content comes from the minds of people, so your first goal when outsourcing the writing of your blog is to find the right people.
It’s pretty clear that the best blogs have talented people writing them. While talent alone isn’t enough, it’s important to focus on attracting, then filtering and finally retaining talented individuals as the key outcome of your outsourcing efforts. Even if a blogger can’t commit to as many articles as you would like them to write, having one great blogger send in one article a month will do more for your traffic and blog growth than a mediocre blogger writing once a week.
Finding talent is not a process that can be done quickly and you won’t really know if a new writer you bring to your blog works well until they have published to your blog for a period of time. Watching how the blogosphere reacts to your hired bloggers is a good way to determine if you have added a good person to your team. Look for comments, trackbacks and incoming links generated by your bloggers as key metrics to assess their performance.
This is a tough question to answer. You have two variables to consider –
How much writing do you intend to do yourself and what role do you want to play at your blog(s).
2. The current status of your blog
How much traffic you have, how entrenched is your personality with the current readership, what can your blog and you offer to incentivise contributions.
The first part I can’t really help with since you know what volume of work you want to contribute to your blog and what role you want to play. You may have an end goal of stopping writing altogether and acting as the manager of a team of writers. Or you may want to continue writing to your blog but want to bring on additional bloggers to increase traffic, or start a new blog or even a blog network.
The current status of your blog is a crucial element because it determines what leverage points you have to offer people you hire. If you have a hugely popular blog then many people will consider it a privilege to write for your blog and will likely give their best work because they know how much they gain from the exposure your blog provides.
The less traffic you have the harder it is to attract writers without offering some form of payment. If you plan to outsource from the start, with no traffic or brand in the blogosphere, you will either have to offer partnership or pay money. Other options include a contra deal where you trade products or services you provide in exchange for blogging, for example consulting, or web design/hosting, or SEO work in exchange for writing.
Given all these conditions you can decide when or why you think outsourcing your blog writing is something you want to do. The position you are in now dictates what options you have and what resources you can leverage.
If you were to ask me how you can get a person to write for “free” I would suggest focusing on building one great blog. If that means working on it yourself for the short term future then so be it, you have to start somewhere. Make one great blog, grow the traffic and brand into something well known and liked within your niche and then you have something you can leverage.
Like my story with Small Business Branding you don’t necessarily have to build the blog from scratch yourself – you can go out and buy a blog that’s already established. With an asset available you can offer exposure and traffic to your potential recruits in exchange for content.
Another alternative is to bring on a partner or several partners. The down side with this method is you share ownership of your asset with someone, the upside is they may be as motivated as you are to see your blog succeed.
You could consider offering a future payment option. Make a pledge to pay a set amount in a set time period regardless of the performance of the blog, provided they agree to contribute a certain amount of writing. This systems lets you “put off” paying your blogger until your blog is producing revenue, and is also secure for your writers since they are guaranteed a certain amount of money even if the blog doesn’t take off. It’s a gamble, but it might help you get started.
No matter what the option you choose, there really isn’t any way to hire a blogger for free, you always offer something of value in exchange for their work, it just doesn’t necessarily have to be cash or paid immediately. Even if you had your girlfriend or husband or other family member blog for you for nothing, they do it because they love you and enjoy the chance to demonstrate this, they feel good inside about it, or another way to look at it – they might do it to avoid feeling guilty for shunning a self-imposed obligation. There is always a self-serving motivation behind every action, even when actions appear on the surface to be 100% selfless.
If you have cash to spare (err…invest) then paying for blog content is a great way to motivate people. If you are serious about building a blog network then you better be serious about rewarding your writers very well.
The payment structures for paid blogging is an area where the market is constantly in flux. It’s such a new job that there is no standard as yet, but for the sake of helping you decide what to pay I offer a few examples I’ve either implemented myself or seen other blog networks use. Bear in mind that ultimately you pay what it takes and you can only find that out by making an offer.
Generally most agreements are based on posts (articles published), either paying per post, or paying a set amount each month or week in exchange for a set amount of posts. Other aspects of the agreement might include having your paid bloggers interact with the community via comments and performing additional marketing or blog management tasks.
I can’t remember which network it was – not one of the big ones – that paid $5 per post to bloggers with a minimum of 60 posts per month, so bloggers had to commit to an average of two per day. Note that posts don’t need to be fully fledged articles, news bites of a few hundred words count as a post too.
This particular network spent $300 a month minimum on each blogger resulting in a lot of posts in a short period of time. If after three months it is clear the blog is not taking off even with that much regular content, then the blog is sold off. If the growth curve is good, then the network renegotiates a new contract with the blogger based on a revenue share for moneys above the $300 a month minimum, for when the site starts making good money.
This method requires a significant investment upfront for each blogger, but you guarantee that you fully test the niche. I’d recommend focusing on only a few blogs to start with so you can see the results of two posts per day for yourself. This method is possibly one of the best ways to seriously start a blog network, but it might be too much money for some of you reading this.
A few years ago, the original blog network, Weblogs, Inc, had a blogger contract leaked to the web, so we all got to see how their system worked. While not every blogger had the same agreement, it was possible to garner a general impression of how the most successful blog network hired bloggers.
The agreement was for $500 a month in exchange for writing 125 posts, interacting in comments and deleting spam. I later read that not every blogger was paid the same, but this pricing point certainly felt like a “general standard”.
This is a solid payment structure and for many of the hired bloggers was a nice additional source of income – a part time job. Some people made a go of freelance blogging, combining the income of several blogging gigs to equal a full time wage. Weblogs Inc was one of the first networks to offer stable pay for hired bloggers and could be held responsible for creating a new job type – freelance blogger.
Sharing revenues with bloggers is a great way to stimulate motivation and empower your bloggers with control over their income. Of course if their income grows, yours does too.
B5media piloted a system where they paid their bloggers 100% of the revenue up to the first $100 and then a 60/40 split (the blogger received the 40% I believe) of any moneys over $100. They have since adapted a new method with a different payment structure.
I like the split payment option because it means your outsourcers are paid in proportion to the work they put in and are rewarded well for hard work. It’s important to offer a basic minimum retainer so they know they have a guaranteed income, and it should quickly become clear which bloggers are working hard and motivated and who you might have to let go.
You can keep things very simple and offer a set dollar amount for each post a person makes with no limitations on how many posts they make. This is a very ambiguous payment method and I don’t recommend it. It’s important to have set boundaries and expectations otherwise your bloggers may lack motivation or simply slack off.
Performancing.com until recently had an exchange area of their site including a blogger job board. It was launched shortly before the Problogger.net Job Board. Performancing was free and Problogger costs $50 per advertisement. Unfortunately performancing recently went through a rough period of changing owners and I’m not sure what happened to their job board. Since then the Problogger Job Board has become the standard.
Jon Symons from the HomeTurfMedia blog network told me that each ad he places at the Problogger Job Board is bombarded with applicants and he has no trouble finding bloggers willing to write.
Another method if you have more time and patience is to search the blogosphere for good bloggers in the niches you want to target. Once you find someone who’s work you like, email them and propose a job writing for your blog. Using this method you can view a person’s “portfolio” as a means to assess their talents before approaching them.
I like this method best, but it does take the most work and you must be prepared to face a lot of “no thanks” since many writers will be happy with their current blogging gigs.
Before you go down the path of bringing on people to write for your blogs make sure you know why you are doing it. If you have a business goal in mind, then make sure you track your metrics. Know how much a blog earns for you at certain traffic benchmarks so you know how much you can budget to pay bloggers.
As a rough guide, if you are good at blog monetization, generally each unique visitor you have to your blog should be worth about $1. So if you can get to 1000 daily unique visitors then you should be able to earn $1000 per month from your blog. That is a VERY rough guide, but I have found it to be true in general.
The rule tends to apply only when your blog starts to surpass the triple figures mark in daily traffic and becomes more consistent once you get past the four figure daily traffic milestone. It’s not set in stone either – you can make even better returns depending on the audience you are tapping into – as much as $5 per unique visitor is not that unheard of.
Once you know your revenues and costs, you can start to look at things like the ratio between how many posts are made each day compared to your traffic growth rate. If two new posts per day sees you bring in an extra 2% in traffic each day, then you can start to play with your numbers.
The relationship between content production, traffic and income are the core drivers of a successful blog, so if you intend to take your blogging business serious you need to know your numbers, at least to a basic understanding.
If you want more details on building a blogging business I suggest you read my series on professional blogging.