Business Skills for Freelance Bloggers (How to Survive and Grow Your Income)
When you decided to become a freelance blogger, did you immediately write up a 5-year business development plan? Calculate a full financial forecast?
If you did, you have everyone’s permission to skip this blog post and order more champagne while you wait for the rest of us to catch up.
But most freelance bloggers start with a talent for writing and then pick up a bit of business sense along the way. If that sounds more like you, don’t worry — you can still grow your blogging into a lucrative business. We just need to fill some of the gaps in your understanding of how your business works.
Here’s the important part, though: you need to fill the knowledge gaps in your business now, because every month they go unfilled is another month you go without the money you deserve.
Value your business skills!
These concepts and skills can speed you to $1,000 per month and beyond if you’re just starting out, or part-timing it alongside a day job. And if you already got your freelance blogging business going without developing business skills first, then you can add an extra $1,000 per month to your freelance writing income.
That means if you wait another year to pick up basic business knowledge, you’ll be down 12 months x $1,000 = $12,000. And that’s probably an understatement, because strong business skills will let you grow your business WAY beyond the $1,000-a-month mark.
I learned from my own screw-ups for the first couple of years, without any business training at all. And it showed. I worried too much and charged too little because I had no idea what I was doing or how to value my services.
What turned my once-amateurish freelance blogging business into a high-paying career wasn’t any kind of big break scenario. I didn’t get discovered by a new media mogul or apprenticed to a famous blogger. I didn’t start a personal blog that went viral, or Insta my breakfast and suddenly get propelled to fame and fortune.
I got schooled [in the nicest possible sense] by several business blogs, then took the big step of investing some of my pay back into my business by joining several excellent training, mentoring and mastermind groups. That’s how I finally started to own my business.
These are the 3 questions I’ve learned to answer that made a real difference to my business and my income:
#1: What’s your business model?
In other words…
- What do you sell?
- What does it take for you to deliver that?
- What (and how) do you get paid?
For me, the first answers I had were:
- What do you sell? “Writing.”
- What does it take for you to deliver that? “Me, writing.”
- What (and how) do you get paid? “Whatever I can get, however the client wants.”
Now, though, I know the answers for my best blogging offer:
- What do you sell? “Website traffic, audience love, and more sales for my clients. Via blogging.”
- What does it take for you to deliver that? “Me, writing feature length blog posts that are useful and interesting for readers, based on intensive research to make sure each post gets the results my client needs.”
- What (and how) do you get paid? “At least $500 per 1,000 words, monthly in advance, direct to my bank account.”
Yours might be different — shorter corporate blog posts paid per item on a net 30 days basis, for example, or quarterly high volume batches of recipe posts with Insta-ready images and paid per word on delivery.
It’s easier on you to charge a decent rate for a smaller number of gigs than a low rate for a large number of gigs. And it’s much better for your cash flow to get your payment in advance, or at least partial payment in advance, than to wait 30 or 60 days after invoicing.
Stating the obvious, right? But these are lessons that come late to a lot of freelancers, and I was one of them. Another thing I never thought about at all in my first year or so of freelancing was my product. Wow, I was really clueless…
#2: What’s your best offer?
Nope, I don’t mean the least amount of money you’re willing to accept. I mean the offer that’s best for you. In other words, which of the products you sell gives you the most profit for the least effort?
The first thing you might think is, “I don’t have any products — I just sell my writing services.” But when you offer one or more services with pre-set details like a price, timeline, list of what’s included, and payment terms, you’ve created a product.
In freelance blogging, it often feels like you create a whole new deal for each new client. But once you look a bit closer, you’ll probably see a pattern in which certain post types, post lengths, delivery speeds and add-on services are more popular than others.
Are the most popular deals also the most lucrative for you? Do they offer a good rate per hour of your time, including all the time you don’t bill to your client such as time spent getting the gig in the first place or communications that don’t get entered on your time tracker?
And how do you feel about that time? Does it bore you to tears or is it the kind of gig you’d do for fun even if you won a gazillion dollars tomorrow? Is it typically rush work that eats into your weekend, or does it fit neatly into your schedule?
If your most popular product is one that pays well in terms of your hourly rate equivalent and involves work you love to do, then you’re already on the right track.
But if your bestselling product only pays you $15 per hour after all your unbillable hours are taken into account, or it means you have to spend hours late at night on a task that drives you crazy, then it’s time to change the product description.
Here are 4 simple ways to tweak your existing product for your own benefit:
- Increase the price
- Get paid sooner
- Learn to produce the product faster
- Make the product easier to produce
All easier said than done. That’s why it takes most freelancers an age to figure out what’s going on in their business. Hell, it takes most freelancers an age and a half to even start their business.
But you don’t have to figure it out by yourself. Click the links in the list above for more info on how to do each of those 4 things.
#3: Can You Start Today?
This is the key to successful freelancing: get started, then keep improving. [You like that? Tweet it!]
With the experience you gain in your very first freelance blogging gig, you’ll feel more confident (and be more competent) in your second gig. When you’ve been in business for a while and can analyse what your clients need, you’ll be able to make your product even more appealing and even more profitable.
Your answers to these 3 questions will evolve along with your business, so it’s a good idea to reassess them at least a couple of times a year no matter how successful you are.
If you feel like now’s a good time to take a look at your business, or you haven’t really started yet and you’re not sure what to do, scroll up to the start of this post and write down your answers in detail for each question.
Now, write down what you’re going to do about those answers.
Now go and do it.
Image: M4D Group