I still remember my first day as a freelance blogger/writer pretty clearly, even though it was some years ago.
I was sitting on my computer at my mom’s house, looking at an email from my first ever client and thinking something along the lines of, “So you really want to pay me for writing blog posts?! Awesome!”
It wasn’t long until I realized that blogging for a client involves a lot more work that just blogging.
My first setup, both in terms of technology and methods was rather simple, and it was totally different from how I do things today. So if I were to start over, I would do it in a way that I’m just about to share with you in this guide.
And if you’re all about passive income – like many online marketers – then sorry, you won’t find any advice on this here.
What I will be talking about is the opposite – active income. Despite the fact that it might not sound as sexy at first, active income is actually one of the best ways to get introduced to the money making department of the web.
You’re not going to like what I’m just about to say. But here goes.
If you desire to start a blog today, create a bunch of posts, put some affiliate links here and there, and finally build and offer a product next week, then you’re heading for defeat.
I’m sorry, but unless you have the blog launching power of Jon Morrow, going after passive income as your main way of earning money from a new blog is NOT the path you should choose.
Every (honest) experienced blogger out there will tell you that there’s no such thing as overnight success. All people who appear to have risen out of nowhere have actually been working hard day and night for months or years before the world has ever heard anything about them.
What is a better solution? Well, you already know that part – it’s freelancing.
Specifically, freelance writing.
What’s great about freelancing is that you indeed can get started today (provided you’re good at something people want to buy).
When I started offering my first gig – the one I mentioned above – I had very small online presence. I was recognizable literally nowhere. But the client still noticed my guest posts somewhere (can’t remember exactly) and offered me a gig after a short email conversation.
Just like that I was making money online. That’s why I believe in freelancing so much. And hey, everyone can do this too. Here’s how.
How to kick start your online income by blogging for clients
Note. This guide is divided into six sections. Each section talks about a different phase of client work/project, and hopefully, I will be able to cover the whole path – from nothing, to a piece of quality content delivered on time and in a way that the client expected.
1. Master the art of pitch
Feel free to disagree with my point of view, but I’m one of those people who believe that as a content creator, you make money not when you deliver your work, but when the client says yes to your initial proposal.
Whatever comes after that is just steps you need to take to complete the transaction.
I’m starting this guide with the art of pitch because pitching is crucially important for your ability to work with clients. It is when you get to address what your services are and how you’re delivering them. Also, a good pitch will prevent any misunderstandings later on.
The thing I’ve noticed is that clients don’t always know what they need when it comes to content.
I mean, everyone has a basic grasp on what a blog post is, or what a good infographic should look like. But not everyone knows what the true potential of content marketing is or how to pick the right content type for their specific situation and blog.
So if, by some turn of events, you end up delivering something that just doesn’t fit, even if it’s of high quality, the client won’t be happy. This makes it your job to build your pitch in a way that answers the three W’s: What? Why? What for?
Let’s break down the questions one by one:
- What? What is it that you’re delivering. What type of content you see fit with the client’s brand and the niche they’re in.
- Why? Why this content is right for them and why they need it. You should back the answer up with some research on the competition, audience, etc.
- What for? What the goal of the content you’re delivering is. What goals you’re aiming to achieve and why they’re important.
Listing these answers clearly should make the client eager to make the investment. In the end, they’re not paying for a piece of content, they’re paying for a specific solution to a specific challenge.
But how do you handle the pitching itself?
I use and recommend Bidsketch and their proposal templates for writers (not just because I’m part of the company but because it’s effective). Some things you’ll find there include templates, samples, even e-books.
The tool itself provides you with the building blocks of a nice looking and convincing client proposal. It also takes care of sending it out and then tracking if the client viewed it.
2. Start with a clever plan
Okay, the keyword here is clever.
In short, a good plan will help you get the project completed successfully if everything goes your way, without any obstacles, unfortunate fires you need to put out, or any other bumps in the road.
A clever plan, on the other hand, will let you complete the project even if things get tough at some point.
There’s a handful of elements to a clever plan, so let’s get started:
The thing with deadlines is that at the beginning stages of a project, clients are usually very flexible when it comes to setting specific deadlines. However, once a deadline is set, you really must deliver by that date no matter what.
As they say, “your work delivered too late is worse than your work delivered incomplete yet on time.”
So this is how I go about setting deadlines (feel free to adjust according to your own feeling):
- I check my schedule and estimate the amount of time it will take me to complete the work. Standard stuff, no tricks here.
- I add five days on top of the estimated timeframe.
It’s because of those additional five days that I have never missed a deadline (yet). I really encourage you to give yourself this sort of a safety net when it comes to deadlines too.
Splitting your writing process into two parts.
Creating content for clients requires you to spend a bit more time perfecting everything and making sure that there are no silly mistakes (like typos) and that your content has the best possible chance to achieve the main goal you’ve set for it.
The best approach I came across when it comes to writing/creating content is to split the process into two parts (unfortunately, I can’t recall the original source of this method):
- writing, and
The idea is simple, never write your content on the same day as you edit it. Always wait at least 24 hours. Those 24 hours will allow you to regain clarity of your thinking and make it possible to look at your piece with a fresh eye, fix everything that isn’t just right and also take care of the additional things like SEO.
In the end, it will help you deliver better work.
Spread out your writing in time.
Depending on your preferred way of handling the amount of writing you have to do for a client, you will need to arrange your workload in a specific way.
Instead of explaining what I mean here, I’m just going to send you over to the Pacemaker tool.
It’s a very handy tool that turns planning your writing into an art form. In short, after going through some settings, the tool gives you the exact number of words you need to write every day in order to complete a given project.
You can pick from several different approaches (writing the same amount of words every day, doing bulk of the work up front, doing a speed run at the end, etc.).
3. Manage your communications
Most client-related problems aren’t an outcome of lack of skill or poor quality of the final product. The thing to blame is poor (or lack of) communication.
And you might be thinking that Gmail works just fine for communicating, doesn’t it?
Well, I have to give it to you, to some degree it does, but only as long as you’re working with just a handful of clients (probably not more than five). However, once your business starts to grow, you will lose your grasp on ongoing communications at some point.
That’s why I recommend using a CRM system (Customer Relationship Management). CRM sounds very corporate, I know, but using such a tool is actually a great way to stay on top of your communications and never again miss an important message or task.
The best thing about these tools is that they can integrate with email, so your client doesn’t even have to know that you’re using a CRM. It’s a totally transparent solution.
4. Be careful with project management software
I can’t lie to you, so I’m going to admit right up front that I love project management tools in general, and Trello in particular (since it’s free).
That being said, I never try to force my clients to use it by creating accounts for them and then expecting that they will track what’s going on with their projects inside the tool.
Although the idea of working with a client via a project management tool sounds great on paper, it just doesn’t pan out equally well in practice.
Clients are usually way too busy running their business, doing other things, or they simply can’t be bothered to learn a new tool that they will probably use only once.
So my advice is this, use a project management tool internally (to manage your own tasks or to talk with your team), but don’t invite your clients to take part. Stick with your CRM and use it to send standard progress reports every X weeks/days.
5. Write like you care
There’s more than enough writing advice on the web as it is, so I’m not going to pretend that I know what the perfect writing method is or how to be productive at what you do. Nevertheless, I do have four specific pieces of advice that can help you deliver good client work:
- Use different types of images to illustrate what you’re talking about. Even if you’re just writing simple articles for a client, it’s always a good idea to deliver a custom made header image and also intersperse additional images throughout the article. Images are a great way to give your articles this unique feel and make them look visually attractive. Neil Patel wrote a great piece on what kinds of images you can use. Need an example of a header image? Just scroll up to the top of this guide.
- Throw in some infographics or data chart images. This does depend on the niche the client is in, but for the B2B audience in general, this tends to work really well. Whenever you’re talking about any sort of data, you can add in a quick chart to illustrate it. Such charts have a great shareability aspect to them and can have a life of their own on social media. The same goes for simple infographics. If you use a good tool, such as Visme (free), you can create infographics based on pre-defined templates and then include them in your blog posts just like any other image. For charts and graphs, you can either use Google Charts or Visme can handle this as well.
- Link to other content on the client’s site. Something you will likely find among your client’s goals is growing the visitor engagement on their site. One thing that can help this purpose significantly is placing links to other pieces of content on the client’s site throughout each of your articles. There’s no upper limit here when it comes to the number of links, as long as they are thematically related and bring value.
- Check your work with the Hemingway app. The Hemingway app highlights long, complex sentences and common errors, and gives you the possibility to fix them on the spot. This simple tool is a great helper and a superb way to find some hidden issues with your writing.
6. Make an impression when delivering your work
Well, you can always just send a Word doc as an email attachment, but there are better ways. I mean, Word is great, I use it all the time, but the problem with it is that people have different versions of it on their computers, and Mac users tend to not use it at all (they mostly use Pages).
What it all comes down to is that the client can encounter some issues when viewing the files you’ve sent them, which will surely have an impact on their impression of your work.
A much safer way to do things is via Google Docs. Here’s why:
- Instead of an email attachment, which can cause your whole email to get caught in the spam folder, you’re just sending a simple link.
- You have full control over what your content looks like on all devices – everyone has the same version of Google Docs.
- You can allow the client to comment on specific parts of your work.
- If you just want to give them a preview, but not any editing rights, you can do so.
- You get your own online backup of everything you send out.
(I’ve been using Google Docs as the main method of delivering my work for over a year and I really see no downsides.)
Another alternative would be to directly submit your posts to the clients content management system (CMS), most sites run on WordPress which makes the process very straight forward.
Your client can then check over your content and schedule it.
In the end, the level to which your client will be happy with the freelance blogging service you’ve provided them depends just as much on the quality of the product itself as it does on the quality of the process/communication.
More than that, even if the content you’ve delivered is lacking in any way, you can still make your client happy through good communication – by listening carefully and fixing the issues.
At the end of the day, as freelance bloggers, we should focus not only on what we deliver (or how good our skills are), but also on how we deliver it.