You Need To Give Writers Freedom To Write

Every blogger works differently. As a blog owner I have come across various blogging traits, different routines and different levels of experience.

Most inexperienced bloggers need you to walk them through everything. Specifically, new bloggers ask you exactly what type of article they should write. I can understand the concerns of someone new wanting to get the article right however I do feel that they should show some initiative. If they took the time to look at previous articles on the website they were writing for they would have a good idea of the length the article needs to be and the topics that need to be covered.

As a blog owner, I give guidelines to writers on topics they can cover (when needed) but I don’t like to tell them exactly what they should write about every time. It can take just as much time thinking up topics and making sure beginners know what they’re doing as it would to just write an article yourself.

I try and give most writers the freedom to write about what they want. The only stipulations I have are that the quality of the article is high and the article is relevant to my website. For example, I’ve rejected dozens of making money online articles for my WordPress blog WordPress Mods as it has nothing to do with WordPress. Likewise, I’ve had to reject at least 20 guest posts on subjects such as ‘What is WordPress?’ etc i.e. an article explaining that WordPress is a CMS is not really relevant to people who already run WordPress websites and modify them regularly.

Most Writers Need Freedom

I occasionally write articles for Blogging Tips and John Chow. Both blog owners allow me to write about pretty much anything I want. They don’t edit what I have written and they trust me to write something that their readers will enjoy. This freedom brings out the best in me and ensures that the article is of a high quality.

I’m also currently writing for the design website Noupe twice a week. I liaise with their editor Rob Bowen on a weekly basis. He’s friendly, professional and always gets back to me quickly. Their submission policy is a little more streamlined than Blogging Tips and John Chow; which you should expect from a large design magazine such as Noupe. We usually agree on the topics before hand and then talk a little about what each article will detail. Apart from ensuring I use H3 header tags and crop images to 550 pixels in width, they don’t restrict me from what I write. This is one of the main reasons why I enjoy writing for the site and why it hasn’t become a chore.

The freedom to write without having worrying about an editor ripping your work apart brings out the best in writers. Granted, editors are there to ensure that all writers are consistent and write articles that fit into the owners long term goals for the site. Grammar issues aside, I think editors should trust the people they hire and allow them to do the job they were hired to do.

Too Many Rules Restrict Bloggers

I was recently in talks with a large gambling related network about writing for them on a regular basis. Their rate wasn’t amazing but most articles were short and news related and I didn’t suspect they would take long to write. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I first became suspicious when the editor starting talking about their writing policies and said that they wanted to chat on Skype for an hour about the writing guidelines they were going to send me. On the day that we were supposed to talk I emailed them and apologised for not being able to talk because I was swamped with work. They were fine with this and asked if I could have a look over the writing guidelines and email them my thoughts on it.

Whilst I can understand that a large website network will have more rules and guidelines for writers than a stand alone blog, I was really surprised at what they force their writers to go through. It’s ridiculous.

In total they sent me several documents with each document being several pages long. There were over a dozen guidelines each on style, tone, formats, headlines and SEO. The section on meta tags was incredibly long too. There was also an overly complicated scheduling process that all authors had to check and update on a regular basis and articles had to be submitted by certain days and times and then be approved for publication. To top it all off, all edited content had to be uploaded to Dropbox!

To be fair to them, they were quite understanding when I explained that I couldn’t work for them because their system makes writing articles for their network too time consuming. As I noted before, the rate was pretty poor. Around $20 for a 500 word article. As most of their articles are news related, I figured that if I did enough research and subscribed to all the relevant blogs in the niche, I would be able to write 3-4 articles an hour as all I would have to do is report the news and give my own view on it etc.

$60-$80 an hour is a good wage if the work is consistent but their whole system ruined any chance of me giving it a try. It would probably have taken me 15 minutes to write the article, another 15 minutes to make sure all of their numerous formatting rules are adhered too and then another 15 minutes to update all of their spreadsheets and documents. I’m sure this process would have got easier over time but I was reluctant to waste any of my time finding out.

Guidelines Are Important But Keep Them To A Minimum

It makes sense for a blog owner to create a set of guidelines for those who write for them. I do feel that there comes a point where guidelines become counter productive and make the whole editorial process needlessly long for both authors and editors.

Guidelines about header tags, image sizes, tone and relevance are important. Beyond that, I think that you are asking too much of authors. You really shouldn’t want your authors to be worrying about meta descriptions and weighing them down with complicated procedures that puts 10 different stages between an author submitting an article and the article getting published.

If you are a blog owner, I encourage you to have a rethink about your overall editorial process. Are you asking too much of your authors? Can the submission process be more efficient?

Thoughts, suggestions and general rants all welcome :)

Thanks,
Kevin