Freelance blogging has become a popular entry into making money online for a lot of people. This is understandable when you consider that you do not need any technical experience to get started. Nor do you need to invest any money to get going.
It is a subject I have written a lot about over the last few years on this blog and through the release of my book “The Art of Freelance Blogging“.
Due to my attention to the subject, I have become known somewhat as an authority on freelance blogging (though I am not sure that is justified). I continue to blog for myself and blog for others every week.
Despite this, I am still surprised and disappointed by the way that many freelance bloggers conduct themselves; before acquiring a blogging position and after they have been hired.
This year I have been reminded that the overall quality of work submitted by most freelance writers is poor. There is clearly a major difference between your average freelance blogger and what most people would refer to as pro bloggers.
I finally got round to posting an advertisement for bloggers in October (for KevinMuldoon.com). I was quickly reminded that the first few weeks after posting an advertisement for a blogger can be a pain until you find the right blogger.
The sheer volume of applications means that you spend most of your days responding to emails and vetting potential bloggers. In the short term, this is a big drain on time. In the long term, it can save you time if you find a couple of good bloggers. In other words, spending time reviewing bloggers is a necessary evil if you want to reduce your own blogging workload in the future.
Over the next three days, I would like to cover this subject in more detail. In today's article, I would like to talk about some bad experiences I had when looking for bloggers over the last few months.
Tomorrow, I will publish my thoughts on what freelance bloggers are doing wrong and why they are struggling to find work. Finally, on Wednesday, I will publish some tips on how I believe aspiring bloggers can make their blog posts better.
* No names of bloggers have been used in this blog post. My intention for this article is not to point the finger at anyone. I am simply trying to illustrate the problems that face blog owners when attempting to hire bloggers.
1. The Inquisitive Time Waster
Shortly after posting my job ad, I received a rude email from a blogger asking why I expected bloggers to submit a post to me without any guarantee of payment. His claim was misleading. My advertisement had noted that “Payments will be made directly after an article has been approved”.
It was bizarre to receive such a rude email from someone who apparently wanted to work with me; particularly as it was his first email to me.
Rather than ignoring him or being pissed off at him, I explained that I unfortunately take that step with new applicants as the vast majority of bloggers who apply are not professional and frequently waste my time (e.g. if you specify that people should only apply for a position if they have experience in a specific area, over 95% of applicants will not have that experience). I used an example of bloggers who frequently submit great blog posts as examples of what they can do, but then submit a terrible blog post to me that is full of errors.
I also noted that I only agree to accept blog posts from people after they had shown me that they can write well. Therefore, the only time someone has not been paid by me is when they have refused to correct errors in the article and decided to submit the blog post elsewhere. I have never refused to pay anyone and never would.
This completely changed his tone and he said he understood my reasoning. He replied to me and said that he was interested in writing for me and he sent me some examples, which were all good.
I set up an account for him and told him to check out the writing guidelines page that I had set up. He replied and asked what the maximum width of images is for my blog, despite the fact that was detailed in the writing guidelines I just referred him to in my previous email.
He then added that he would have the article finished in the morning. This suggested to me that the post would be rushed, so I told him to slow down and take his time as I did not need the article that quickly.
Yet, when I awoke the next morning, I was greeted with an email saying that he had finished the article already.
The article was very disappointing. It was littered with grammatical errors and silly mistakes like brackets being placed around the wrong way. He constantly inserted hyphens and double hyphens throughout the article too.
Annoyingly, he had not followed my writing guidelines, so links opened in new tabs and there were no alt tags inserted. He had also left formatting in the post; something else which I had explicitly said not to do as it overwrites the styling of the WordPress theme stylesheet.
Not following the writing guidelines after I linked to them three times in our email was frustrating, however it was not the only issue.
There was a lot of bad advice in the article. He was also pulling statistics out of thin air and inserting them into the article without backing them up with a citation. For example, he said that it was impossible to get accepted into Google Adsense. He also said that direct advertising sales was not as good as Adsense and that you cannot make any money from sponsored posts or direct advertising. Bizarrely, he noted that Flippa was a bad place to sell a website if it was worth more than $10k. No reasons were given to back up any of these ludicrous claims.
I spent a good thirty minutes or so noting all of these things down and then emailed him what need corrected. I assumed he would review the article and make the necessary corrections, but he decided to just submit the article elsewhere. The whole thing was a complete waste of my time.
Considering the way in which the blogger had approached me, I was annoyed with myself for giving him the benefit of doubt. What I should have done is ignored his initial email as it was unprofessional and an indication of what was about to come.
2. The Experienced Copywriter
Despite the experience or skill level of bloggers, 99% of people who apply for blogging jobs are polite and professional. Unfortunately, in all walks of life, you will come across idiots who are angry with the world.
You can choose to ignore these people, but when I received an application from such a person in October, I choose to remain polite; partly because I knew it was annoying the guy! Hey, if someone is rude to me, the least I can do is be petty!
The person in question claimed to be an experienced copywriter, but he was nothing of the sort. I shared my email correspondence with the guy on Rise Forums last month and have reproduced our email discussion below for your convenience :)
* Apologies for the language used below. I wanted to show you all how offensive his emails were.
I am a very experienced copy writer with knowledge in this area. I am also a trained journalist, so I know how to find sources and conduct interviews. I do it frequently, actually. I would be very much willing to do an article a week for you. If you would like to see my CV to see my job history, please let me know.
Thanks for getting in touch.
I checked those articles, however there is no mention of you writing them. In order to verify the quality of a blogger, it is important for me to see who wrote the article.
Additionally, the quality of the articles was not high. They did not include any links, any images, or any references. I'm looking for bloggers with more experience in this area.
My byline is in the third one. The first two I ghost wrote for Nightlight Media.
Why would you email me back a multi-paragraphed rejection letter?
Don't call my work low quality. Your a jerk! Go fuck yourself, smartass.
It's “You're a jerk!” or “You are a jerk!”. It's not “Your a jerk!”.
If you are going to get insulted about me saying your writing is not good enough, you should at least take the time to use correct English grammar.
pay people pennies for 1000 word stocked content, that's fine…
but why insult what I do for living, man?
go write a big email for someone you're going to give a chance at this gig. I'm a graduate scraping by. I can't believe a jerk like you has my email now.
If you have any respect for a 22 year old with a broken laptop to his name – Don't bother replying, king.
A graduate scraping by? You told me you were an experienced copywriter and a trained journalist?
Chill man. I didn't mean to cause offense by my email.
I'm sure you are a capable writer, however the articles you sent me did not illustrate that. There is a big difference between just writing a generic article for a content mill and writing a good blog post. Those articles are not good enough for a blog.
If the money is not good enough for you, why apply?
Because I'm a trained journalist. Therefore, I'll take any job that means I could fill the fridge.
I told you not to email me back, which means you can't drop it and don't respect my privacy. Stop wasting your time, Kevin.
Go find your writers.
haha ok Tom. Chill man. No need to be so angry about all of this.
The catalyst for this torrent of abuse stemmed from my statement that the quality of his articles were not good enough. To say his articles were poor would be an understatement.
All of the examples he submitted were generic articles that contained no links, images, or references. They looked like they had been produced by content spinning software. Despite this, the guy clearly took pride in his writing.
In my initial email, I had not closed the door on him writing for me. If he had responded positively and then sent me better examples of articles he had written, I may have took him on. Unfortunately, he decided to act like a child.
3. The Hoard of Bloggers Who Cannot Follow Guidelines
It would be time-consuming to explain my writing guidelines to bloggers time and time again. That is why I have a page that explains my formatting rules. The page details information such the maximum width of images that should be used, the importance of using alt tags with images, and an encouragement to link to references and useful pages that make the article more useful (i.e. write for readers, not search engines).
One of the first things I do after agreeing to hire a blogger is email them a link to my guidelines page, advise them to read it, and ask them to email me if they are unsure about any aspect of it.
Sadly, very few bloggers take the time to do it. Usually, a blogger will ask me a question related to formatting a few days after stating that they had read my writing guidelines.
Nine times out of ten, bloggers will complete their article without even glancing at the guidelines I had created for them. Even great bloggers who have since went on to write for me regularly made this mistake.
One of the reasons this issue is so frustrating is the time that is lost. Blog owners tend to hire other people to write for them because their time is limited. Therefore, it is important that freelance bloggers follow these guidelines so that the correspondence between them and the blog owner is kept to a minimum.
As someone who also freelances for others, I am aware that many blog owners take guidelines and publishing procedures too far. I recall one potential client a few years ago who wanted me to update three different spreadsheets after completing an article for them. In the end, I advised that I could not work for them as jumping through all the hoops they put in front of me would take up more time than writing the short 500 word articles they required. And since I was only be compensated for the articles that were submitted, it turned a once attractive offer into one that was poorly paid.
(Note that I have no such procedures in place. My formatting guidelines simply address common questions that bloggers were asking me time and time again.)
I recommend you all get into the habit of noting down the guidelines that the blog owner gives you. This will remove the need from contacting them again about an issue they have already explained to you.
Lack of Professionalism?
I am someone who is on both sides of the blogging fence so I understand the difficulties that bloggers face more than anyone. However, I am really unforgiving about some things.
The very least I expect from any blogger is for them to proofread the article before submitting. Though most articles that are submitted to me are littered with basic errors that would be corrected if the blogger took 10 minutes to read what they wrote.
There are thousands of blogging advice websites out there that stress the importance of these issues, however very few bloggers seem to be following this advice. Since I started hiring bloggers in 2007, the vast majority of articles that have been submitted to me have been rejected because they were rushed. The articles were full of spelling mistakes and basic grammatical errors that would have been picked up during the proofreading stage.
Here is what bloggers forget: It takes time for a blog owner to read their article. It also takes time for them to note all the problems they found with the article and then explain it to them. This is time that the blog owner cannot afford to lose; which, ironically, is why they wanted to hire other writers in the first place.
Remember, every article you publish online is not only a job you need to complete for a client, it is an advertisement on what you can do. Almost every client I have came from a blog owner reading an article of mine on another website and then getting in touch. I doubt I would generate much interest in my blogging services if I rushed every job.
In the world of freelancing, it pays to take pride in your work. Be sure to remember that when you feel inclined to submit an article quickly to get it out the way :)
Have you had a similar experience with hiring people for your blog? If so, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear the problems you faced hiring bloggers.