How I Make My Living as an Online Writer (And How You Could Too)

by Ali on July 15, 2011

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(Photo by Antonina, a fantastic London contemporary portrait photographer)

The end of this month will mark three years since I left my day job.

Since then, I’ve been supporting myself through writing. It’s my dream career – and I love being able to set my own hours, work from home, and have a huge amount of flexibility and freedom.

I haven’t written much here on Aliventures about how exactly I actually make money. Maybe you suspect that there’s some amazing secret skill involved, or some sort of dark art.

But there really isn’t. Turning words into money might sound like spinning straw into gold … but it’s a darn sight easier.

And … if you want to … there’s no reason why you can’t do exactly the same as me.

In short, I have a bunch of different revenue streams that bring in cash every month. I’m going to explain the basics of each, and provide some links to places where you can get further information or try these methods out for yourself.

I’ll start with the ones that were easiest to get going with, and work up to the methods that take a bit more time…

#1: Paid Writing for Blogs (2008 onwards)

This is how I started out, in early 2008. My first ever paid position was with Diet Blog (thanks Jim!) and my second one was with Daily Writing Tips (thanks Daniel!)

My family and friends find it bizarre that I can get paid to write for blogs. It’s no big mystery, though. Like magazine and newspapers, blogs need regular content. Many generate revenue through advertising, and they need a constant stream of new articles to bring in readers.

Writing for blogs typically means:

  • Regular work – often one or more posts every week
  • Flexibility over what you write about – 90% of the time, I’ve chosen my own topics
  • Quick payments, usually via PayPal
  • The chance to get your work in front of tens of thousands of people

How much does paid blogging make?

I’ve been paid anything from $20 – $100 per post, depending on the length and complexity. Around $40 – $50 for a 750 word post is considered a good rate.

Magazines often pay more per word – but they’ll also have longer turn-arounds, and higher requirements.

When I write paid blog posts, I usually make $40-$50/hour. (Including admin time.) I write fast!

Learn more:

How to Blog: Blogging Tips for Beginners – a great listing of articles on ProBlogger. If you’re totally new to blogging, start here.

Freelance Writing Jobs – lots of writing gigs, including blogging ones, posted daily.

The Blogger’s Guide to FreelancingI wrote a whole ebook about making money as a paid blogger. It’ll teach you everything I’ve learnt in 3+ years of writing for blogs.

#2: Website Advertising (2008 onwards)

In November 2008, I got my very first Google Adsense cheque, for a whopping $100 or so. Nowadays, most of my advertising income is from people who pay to have a link or banner ad up on my site.

I don’t run much advertising here on Aliventures, and I try to keep it fairly unobtrusive: there are currently three ads in the sidebar. Most of my advertising revenue is from a couple of dormant blogs: The Office Diet and Alpha Student. I wrote a lot of content for those sites a couple of years ago, and I’m reaping the benefits every month!

How much do ads make?

This varies hugely depending on how big your site is. So you have some indication, I typically charge $60/month for a 125×125 banner ad here on Aliventures.

Advertising is a long-term strategy. It took me eleven months to get that first Google Adsense cheque – but since then, the time that I invested on writing content has really paid off. If you’re a fast writer, and if you’re willing to put in the work to get a good Page Rank for your website (by guest posting, doing article marketing, submitting to blog carnivals, etc) then you may well be able to make good advertising revenue.

Learn more:

Google AdSense – this is a good place to start, though as your site grows, you’ll want to look at approaching advertisers direct.

How to Find Advertisers for Your Website: The Ultimate Guide and 22 Ways To Find Advertisers For Your Website – two great pieces on Daily Blog Tips that’ll teach you all you need to know.

#3: Affiliate Promotions (2009 onwards)

A small proportion of my income comes from affiliate sales. When I write a review of a product, I normally link to it with a special URL that lets me get commission on any sales that I make.

This is one of my smallest revenue streams, largely because I don’t like to do too much selling here on Aliventures. I normally only post reviews to the Reviews page, rather than publishing them as blog posts.

If I’ve bought an ebook or piece of software that I find useful, I’ll review it (though I have a bit of a backlog to get to right now!) Whenever I use an affiliate link, it’s for a product that I own and that I like! I’ll only promote things that I’m happy to be associated with.

How much do affiliate promotions make?

On ebooks and other digital products, most authors/creators will pay 50% commission. With products on Amazon, you’ll normally get 5-6% commission.

Obviously, you’re more likely to make sales if (a) you have a big audience and (b) the product is very on-topic for your audience.

Learn more:

11 Lessons I Learned Earning $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program – an in-depth post on ProBlogger about Amazon specifically, but with advice that applies to any affiliate endeavours

Blogger’s Guides affiliate program – my own affiliate program, if you’re interested in spreading the word about my ebooks. It has step-by-step instructions to get you started.

#4: Coaching (2010 onwards)

For a long time, coaching wasn’t on my radar. But after I was asked if I offered mentoring, and after several friends had turned to me for help with blog posts or sales pages, I realised that there was definitely a demand out there for writing coaching.

All through my teens and my twenties, I’ve been involved in workshops with other writers, so I’m used to giving feedback and I know what sorts of issues to watch out for. I also really enjoy working with people on their writing, so it was quickly obvious that coaching was a good fit! I’ve also got a degree in English and a Masters in Creative Writing, which means that I usually know what I’m talking about…

I started out by working with a few people for free, until I was confident in charging for my coaching – then I set up my coaching page here on Aliventures. Almost every client I work with books multiple sessions, so coaching has become a steady income stream for me.

How much does coaching make?

I charge $79 for an hour-long coaching session. I usually spend around half an hour preparing for each session, reading the client’s work.

I’m on the low side for a coach: I’ve seen some business coaches charge $500/hour or more. I love working with bloggers, freelance writers and fiction writers so I’ve kept my prices low enough that these folks can afford my coaching.

Learn more:

How Do I Become A Life Coach? – a great post by Tim Brownson (who’s a fantastic life coach). Life coaching is a booming industry; if you’re interested in getting trained and certified, Tim explains how.

How To Get Coaching Testimonials That Make You The Monies – by Naomi Dunford. Testimonials really matter when it comes to coaching, and you’ll want ones that help your potential clients decide.

#5: Ebook Sales (2009 onwards)

I make considerably more money selling my own ebooks than promoting other people’s. I brought out my very first paid ebook in 2008 (it was okay, all things considered!) and since then, I’ve created several more. The ones that have sold best are in the Blogger’s Guide series:

I really enjoy writing ebooks, because they give me a chance to work on an extended project (the Blogger’s Guides are all over 20,000 words long) and because they’re affordable for people who might not be able to pay for my coaching or for an ecourse.

How much do ebooks make?

If you’re writing business-related ebooks (rather than novels or popular non-fiction) then you can charge almost any amount that your audience will pay. It’s not uncommon to find ebooks that cost $97 or even more.

In most cases, you’ll want to charge less – anything from $10 – $50 could work, depending on the length of your ebook and how specialist the material is.

As to how many you’ll sell … that depends on how big your audience is. I sometimes guest post on much bigger blogs (like ProBlogger) to get my ebooks in front of a wider audience.

Learn more:

How My Ebook Paid for South by South West – in Just Two Months – a post of mine on ProBlogger, which I wrote after the launch of The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing.

(In case you’ve not heard of it before, South by South West in Austin, Texas incorporates a geeky “interactive” conference that draws in bloggers from all over the world.)

e-junkie – this is the site that I use for my ebooks. It hosts the files, provides an affiliate program, keeps track of my sales, and so on. It’s very cheap, starting at just $5/month.

#6: Running Ecourses (2011 onwards)

I’ve only been running ecourses since January of this year, when I did my very first email ecourse, On Track, and also co-ran an online course with Daily Writing Tips. Right now, I’m in Week Six of Blog On, my online course for bloggers.

I’m still learning a lot, but so far, I’ve realised that:

  • Ecourses are a great way to have some small-group interaction with people who might not want one-to-one coaching.
  • They’re incredibly fun – I get to see members cheering one another on, conquering new challenges, and so on.
  • They take up a lot of energy and time. It’s not just a case of writing the materials – I’m showing up to answer questions, to encourage people and so on. There’s also a lot more admin involved.

Ecourses have been a great journey so far, and one which I’m very glad I started on: they combine a lot of what I love about both ebooks and coaching (I get to do lots of writing and lots of interacting!)

How much do ecourses make?

With both On Track and Blog On, I priced low – but I figured that was only fair, as my first groups of members are acting as my willing guinea-pigs!

Ecourses can cost almost anything, from a few dollars up to a few thousand. Some huge courses like Teaching Sells go for $2,000+. Realistically, though, you’re probably going to be looking at $40 – $100 per member for a six – eight week ecourse.

Learn more:

Courses That Matter – Ainslie Hunter has been absolutely invaluable in helping me structure and present my ecourses. She has a wealth of information on her website.

Engaging Ecourses (link goes to my review) – This self-study course from Pace Smith and Kelly Kingman taught me a huge amount, and gave me tons of ideas. I highly recommend it.

 

Whew!

I’m hoping this has given you a clearer idea of how I actually make money from my writing, and I also hope I’ve inspired you to try out some entrepreneurial routes yourself. (If you do, drop me a line and let me know.)

Find Time to Write

Of course, one of the challenges of making money from writing is actually finding the time to put words onto the page. I’ve had to get pretty good at this over the past three years (no words on the page = no food on the table…) so I put together a little ebook called How to Find Time For Your Writing.

You can nab it for free by going here and signing up for my shiny-new revamped email newsletter.

 

{ 4 trackbacks }

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikki July 15, 2011 at 7:51 pm

This is an excellent post, Ali! Thank you for sharing this.A lot of the times when I find articles like this, it’s hard to relate to or implement in my own structure, but this was perfect and exactly what I needed. Thank you for the help! :D Love you writing.
Nikki’s last blog post ..Custom Letterhead Contest Winner!

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Ali July 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Thanks Nikki! Glad this helped — if there’s any area you’d like me to expand on, just let me know. :-)

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irina July 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm

hello !
i was just wondering how you got your job for daily writing tips. i’ve visited the site, but i haven’t really seen if they’re looking to “hire” new contributors. i would very much like to write articles, not for the money, but to get experience in writing and share my ideas, and it would also be very good for my cv. could you please give me some information?
thank you very much!! have a wonderful day

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Ali July 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm

That job was back in 2008 (I’m not a paid writer there any longer, though I do write occasional guest posts for them). As far as I’m aware, Daily Writing Tips currently has a full complement of staff!

I got the job in the first place by sending in a guest post — the editor happened to be looking for writers.

If you’re interested in writing just for the experience, rather than for money, you could try guest posting for sites like Daily Writing Tips. Good luck!

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Zac July 16, 2011 at 3:08 am

All your money-making secrets revealed at last!

Just Kidding…your passion for writing shows, and I guess that’s also necessary. When you first started was your goal to make a living solely from blogging? or did you just do it for the love of writing?

Also, you mentioned that you write fast…is this just natural for you? Any tips?

Thanks Ali, great post!
Zac’s last blog post ..A New Direction For Turning Point Motivation Blog, Plus Bonus Preview Links!

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Ali July 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Haha!

I naturally write fast. (I also talk fast!) It helps that I can touch-type… I’m limited by my thinking speed rather than my typing speed. ;-)

And as to how I do it … How to Write Thousands of Words Every Single Week

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irina July 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm

thank you very much Ali! good luck

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Archan Mehta July 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Ali,

I always considered you to be a gypsy girl, gazing into a crystal ball, and yelling…abracadabra…ah, an occult artist and the dark arts. You, the female version of Darth Vader. These thoughts did cross my mind, but now I know better. (By the way, I’m just pulling your leg…don’t take it in the wrong way…I have a weird sense of humour.) Otherwise, how could you be so prolific? I would open any darn website–poof–Ali would be there.

On a more serious note, however, thanks for the autopsy report. Now, finally, we know just how you do it. Nobody does it better, Ali, not even James Bond. It’s time for 007 to start searching for another job. There’s a new gal in town and she’s armed with a license to kill. Truly, the pen is mighter than the sword–or the Walther PPK.

Cheers.

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Ali July 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Hahah! And thanks! I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been compared to James Bond ;-)

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Mary E. Ulrich July 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm

“Turning words into money might sound like spinning straw into gold.” Save this sentence for your next book–it is terrific and explains the problem perfectly.

Ali, you take my breath away that you figured all this out and made it work. I’m in awe…and overwhelm at the same instant.
Mary E. Ulrich’s last blog post ..HUD tips for People with Disabilities| Part 3

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Ali July 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I think I may have used that sentence before (can’t actually remember where now!)

And thank you! I probably made the whole process sound a bit neater than it really was … I bumbled into paid blogging by accident, and it took over a year of writing before I made much money from advertising income. But I’m very pleased with what I’ve managed so far, and I’ve certainly learnt from my mistakes as well as my successes!

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Alison Elliot July 17, 2011 at 2:21 am

Excellent post Ali and ever so informative. I learned a lot – especially about the marketing of ebooks. I did an ebook a year ago and to date have not made one single sale. Very discouraging as I spent 8 years writing the book. It’s all about my personal experience w/personal development and midlife. Informative and yet funny at the same time. I have had excerpts from it published in magazines and people who read pieces from it love it, but no sales. Can’t figure this out. I even have a free excerpt on my blog site. Any suggestions??
Alison Elliot’s last blog post ..The Lazy Daze of Summer Reading – What’s In Your Basket?

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Ali July 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Cheers, Alison! :-)

Sorry to hear about your ebook – how frustrating :-( I wonder whether there’s a clear “why to read this” for the reader? I find that it’s much easier to sell something that’s business-related than something that’s mainly entertaining/enlightening.

Do you have a sales page for the book? Or are you just using the free sample to market it? I found this page – http://lifebydesignwithalison.com/product/ebook-free-chapter/ – on your site, but I couldn’t find anything that explained what the book was, gave testimonials, told me why I should read it, etc…

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farouk July 18, 2011 at 8:24 am

that was a very interesting read for me Ali
of course i know about the advertising thing because i advertise at your blog :D but the other sources are new to me
keep it up :))

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Ali July 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Haha! Glad you enjoyed it, thanks Farouk :-) And thank you for your continuing support of the blog, too!

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Cygnet Brown July 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I was blown away at all the information you were willing to share on this blog! I had to bookmark this page so that I could come back to it again and again. Thanks so much!

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Ali July 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Cheers Cygnet! Glad to help! :-)

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Anastasiya July 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Thanks Ali for being so transparent about your income sources. So many bloggers and writers give general ideas of what you should do but without any how-to resources or actual numbers.
Your are an excellent writer (no need to mention that of course ;-) ) and your writer’s income only proves this point. I found several very helpful resources in this article that I haven’t seen before. I am currently working on my first ecourse/ebook (a mix of both) and hopefully by mid fall I will have some monetary results.
Thanks for the inspiration and the experience that you share on this blog and all over the web :-)
Anastasiya’s last blog post ..How to Ignite a Spiritual Spark in Your Romance

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Ali July 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Thanks Anastasiya, and hey, my writer’s ego always appreciates a boost ;-)

Good luck with your ecourse/ebook, sounds like a great project! If there’s anything specific you’d like me to write about here on Aliventures (or even as a guest post on ProBlogger or similar) just let me know. :-)

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Farnoosh July 19, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your income strategies, Ali. I think you are far too qualified as a writer and a coach and a teacher and I was surprised to see your hourly-rate to be so reasonable. It’s a steal and I’d recommend anyone that I know to work with you in a heartbeat and it’s great to know you enjoy the coaching too. I hope it’s ok to send you referrals. Hope you are doing marvelously in all other fronts too!
Farnoosh’s last blog post ..Gary Vaynerchuck Spells it Out in Thank you Economy

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Ali July 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Thanks, Farnoosh! It’s more than okay to send me referrals, it’s positively encouraged. ;-) By all means, point people my way!

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Nomadic Samuel July 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Ali, this is a really encouraging & resourceful post. As a beginning blogger (long-term traveler) I have an enormous amount of resources to share in terms of my photos and youtube videos. My goal is to monetize my blog and I will start pursuing some of the diverse streams of revenue you’ve suggested in this post. I’m definitely bookmarking this! :)
Nomadic Samuel’s last blog post ..Boy & Buddhist Monks | Almsgiving, Laos | Travel Photo

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Ali July 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Cheers Samuel! Glad this one helped — and good luck with your monetization. Just let me know if you’d like me to write more about any of these particular revenue streams. :-)

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Ann @ Creative Boomer July 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I’ve been wondering about how one starts in some of these revenue sources. Thanks for sharing your resources. I’m going to have to bookmark this post so I can keep coming back to it!

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Ali August 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Thanks Ann, glad it was useful! :-)

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Shyxter July 23, 2011 at 1:39 am

Hi Ali! Thank you for another wonderful post =) You don’t know how much this post has inspired me today. You see, I left my regular job just recently, 1 month as of today to be exact =) Most of my officemates thought that I was crazy to leave everything, but writing has always been my passion and I know I just have to believe in myself. This post made me realize even more that following your passion could be both fulfilling and sustaining. I’m still at the starting line of my writing career but I know I can make it as long as I never lose faith in myself. Plus, there are people like you who are always there to give advices and inspiration. Thank you =)

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Ali August 2, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Wow — good luck, Shyxter! You absolutely can do it … there might be some ups and downs, but stick it out, and you’ll get there. I’ve got no regrets that I quit my office job three years ago. :-)

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Rebecca July 29, 2011 at 8:01 am

Ali, this is a brilliant blog, THANK YOU!
I came across you today via your guest post on Write to Done and I’m hooked! I’ve been writing my blog very part time for about a year around my job and 3 children! You inspire me to keep going and tell my story.
Best
Rebecca
ps weirdly the wonderful lady who took your photos lives not 2 miles away from me – serendipity!
Rebecca’s last blog post ..Summer Holidays and a 13 year old boy

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Ali August 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Cheers, Rebecca! And good luck with your own blog (and the summer holidays…!) I love your blog’s title, by the way… :-)

I lived in London until a year ago, which is how I know Antonina!

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Juliana Deen August 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Hi Ali,
I’ve only been reading your blog and email newsletter a short time now, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Finally, a blog about my secret passion (writing) that feels REAL, down to earth, and is actually more helpful than I could have hoped! I’m so glad I found you! Thanks so much!
Juliana Deen’s last blog post ..Free Pattern for the Fourth of July

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Ali August 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Thanks Juliana! So glad you’re enjoying the blog and newsletter – and if there’s anything extra-helpful I can write about, just let me know. :-)

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Faun August 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Hi Ali,
Great post! Thanks for sharing the specifics of how you make it happen…the details are just what I need as I get my blogging start.

Thanks for sharing…looking forward to future posts! -Faun

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Shauna August 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

Ali, you rock! You work so freakin’ hard and I just admire the heck outta you for making all this happen
:)
Shauna’s last blog post ..The Amazing Adventures of Svava – Part II

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Ali August 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Ah, cheers Shauna! :-) I probably make it sound easier than it is (there have definitely been a few wrong turns!) … but I really enjoy what I do, and that’s worth all the work!

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Brad Waters September 27, 2011 at 2:09 am

What a brilliant post- an inside look at a writer’s multiple streams of income. My experience is the reverse of your story- I started out coaching with creatives and now I’m starting to make money with writing and blogging. Like your site, I’ll be adding ebooks and product packages so I’m coming to you for inspiration and direction …and will be buying your ebooks!

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Ali October 5, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Cheers, Brad, and best of luck with your writing and blogging! Hope you enjoy the ebooks … :-)

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Lyd October 19, 2011 at 10:53 am

Ali

I love what i have read. I have been looking for something like this for a long time. I have a passion for writing and not necessarily for money but to gain an experience in that field. I have got tactics and am very much delighted to find this article.

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Ali October 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Thansk Lyd – glad it was helpful! :-)

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Victoria October 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm

You have a ton of great information here. Great post!
Victoria’s last blog post ..Activities For Stay At Home Moms

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williams December 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

This is a REALLY good post. I have been writing for money almost two years, but haven’t had the courage to go at 100% full time. I would basically sell one of my ebooks and write SEO articles. What I have found when it comes to pricing your services as a writer, is that it is better to write for blog owners who have a subscription list and/or reader base. This way, they would be more interested in the quality of the content rather than quantity. Website owners looking for SEO articles, usually are desperate for traffic to their site, and they are often very flaky and low-ballers.

My question to you is, how do you establish a LONG TERM relationship with clients. I would find it more enjoyable to write if the work was long-term and I didn’t have to keep advertising. Some writers say they use a writer’s contract or agreement. How do I present this to potential clients without scaring them off? Thank you advance to anyone who can answer this question ;)

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Ali December 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

Thanks, Williams, glad this was useful. :-) I agree that it’s good to write for quality blogs rather than producing SEO articles.

I’ve never presented a client with an up-front contract/agreement, so I’m not sure how best you’d do that without scaring people off! What I do is look for clients who are likely to want regular, long-term content — blogs are ideal. I’m still a regular writer for two big blogs that I started writing for in summer 2008…

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Elly March 14, 2012 at 9:21 am

Thanx Ali,

I left my day job few months ago and am still struggling…
Hope things will start working out soon.

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Brimshack March 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Interesting advice. I especially like the breakdown of prices. very helpful.

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irene March 24, 2012 at 11:56 am

Nikki,
I am very encouraged and I thought I just say thank you. I am new in blogging and from your content I have already got quite a few ideas that I could implement in my local market. I write for my blog. i did not think I could offer the same service to a Corporate. Its wonderful news.
irene’s last blog post ..To Lose Weight in Kenya is my New Year Resolution

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Daniela Caride - Taildom October 3, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Wonderful post, Ali! Yes, making time for writing is quite difficult, especially when we have to answer comments, emails, network and take care of the back end. You are doing a great job. Congrats.
Daniela Caride – Taildom’s last blog post ..The best pet odor enzymatic cleaners

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Yulia November 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Hi Ali,

I love you website, and this article is such a treasure! I bookmarked it and keep coming back to it. I’ve been getting paid writing for blogs and slowly getting into affiliate marketing, but you’ve given me so many other great ideas to add to it :)

Thanks for taking the time to share and help others!

Yulia
Yulia’s last blog post ..Ten Useful Online Resources for Writers

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