It’s 4pm, and I’m settled on my chaise lounge by my open window overlooking the LA skyline dotted by palm trees, a fresh breeze blowing gently.
The warm sunlight streams in as I type away on my laptop, sipping an iced tea as I share a steady stream of thoughts on the internet about why your five waffle irons are cluttering your kitchen, or how authors can connect with their audiences by showing the #struggles of what it’s like behind-the-scenes as we spin words into fiction.
This is my job: I’m a full-time writer of both blog and non-blog content, and it’s pretty breezy.
It’s taken me quite a bit of time to get here: I’ve been building my freelance writing career for the past few years alongside my TV writing work. I started out writing for peanuts, and now I’m able to do this shindig and pay my bills and have enough left over to hire other creatives I collaborate with for other projects we’ve got in the works.
I never even thought “blogging” was a real job when I was a kid: I just thought that it was a make-believe thing TV characters did.
But in actuality, brands, companies, and talented individuals need content. A lot of it, actually! In order to rank on Google, your website has to have a whole lotta words. If you found this article on Google — it’s in part because I’ve written a decade’s worth of words here 🙂 (And also used SEO strategies, backlinks, etc. etc. etc…)
Anyways, if you want people to come to your website, you need to have plenty of entry points for customers and leads to land on. Thus… content about waffle irons.
Suffice to say, I’m savoring every moment of being able to work from a cozy corner of my apartment.
If you’re looking to get hired and make money as a blogger, let’s break it down in terms of tools you’ll need in your content creation toolkit and also how not to sound like a robot when you’re implementing SEO strategies. (It’s possible! I promise!)
How to Make Money Blogging (Kids These Days Just Call it “Content Writing”)
First of all, you need a website. Just… make one. Please. For the love of God. It’s one of the best investments you’ll make for yourself as a freelancer. Even if you just put up some pretty pictures and text who you are/where you’re from/your grandmother’s banana bread recipe — you need a website!
Preferably, said website also contains things on your portfolio you can point to and say — look! I wrote something cool for these people!
Even if you just offer to write things for free in the beginning to build up a body of work, do what you need to do.
Secondly, get on a freelance platform. As I’ve mentioned here on the past, I love Upwork, and have made ~$30,000 on there so far. While I don’t freelance exclusively on Upwork, I get a ton of leads on that platform, and that’s how I find most of my blogging work.
You can also approach brands and send cold emails pitching your services. I don’t have any experience doing that, but it’s an approach I’ve seen work for others. If you’re able to provide a PDF with samples of your work and numbers that show how you’re able to write blog posts that attract an audience, then you’re in a good place to pitch yourself.
You also need to price your services accurately. A 500 word post about why cats are better than dogs (because you have to earn their affection, duh) is going to take you way less time than a 2,000 word post about trading in cryptocurrency that requires a ton of research.
I usually prefer to work hourly for the longer, more complex posts, but for the 500 word cat pieces I tend to charge a flat rate.
I covered all of the ins and outs of how to set your rate as a freelancer and blogger in my freelancing book, but generally you want to have a weekly or monthly target you need to hit and then work backwards from there to set rates that allow you to reach your financial goals.
To make money as a blogger, you need to know your worth. You’ve hired to get people to click on your articles when they’re perusing social media or Google — and those clicks can turn into sales or other kinds of leads or revenue for the company you’re working for! Your work is valuable, so make sure to charge accordingly.
How Bloggers Use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in Their Work
To me, SEO work is the most boring aspect of blogging. Especially because I’ve found the blogs that I’ve written on here that bring me some of the most traffic were the ones I just wrote off-the-cuff and suddenly thousands of people found my website.
But, keyword research is important. Just like the way you put hashtags in an Instagram post to help people discover your feed, you need to implement some simple tips n’ tricks into your blogs in order to optimize your posts to get the most views from the World Wide Web.
SEO begins with keyword research: you can use a keyword planner like this free one from Google. Go click on “discover new keywords” and simply enter a keyword you’d like to target, and it’ll show you how competitive that keyword is, and other similar keywords you can target as well.
Because I’m boring myself to death even writing about SEO and keyword research, I’m going to recommend you go visit one of the zillion other websites that tells you how to use your chosen keywords in your section headings, blog post title, and alt text fields of images.
Before I invoke my rule of never boring myself on this blog, I’ll say one last thing about SEO: figure out what keywords the company who hired you is targeting to get leads.
For example, if they are trying to get leads for a moving service, the keywords they’re going to target are going to be related to moving.
If they don’t provide you keywords, just use common sense. If you were moving and wanted to find a moving company — or even if you were just perusing the internet to figure out how to pack up your apartment without breaking every wineglass you own (guilty) — what would you search?
Thinking, “what would I search for?” and then typing that into a keyword planner and then targeting one highly competitive and one not-so-competitive keyword in your article is a great beginner’s strategy to SEO.
Like I said, I don’t like this part, even though I know it’s necessary. I force myself to learn about things like optimizing your images so they’re not huge and keep your website running fast (which search engines like) and other SEO tips because I know it’s the “eating your vegetables” equivalent of blogging.
Plus, understanding SEO is a great selling point to whoever is hiring you. Also, most people think SEO is some kinda magic and don’t understand it, so it gives you an advantage.
Blogs and Backlinking: The “Popularity” Factor
I imagine search engines like Google as a clique of cool kids deciding who gets to sit at their “first page results” table in the cafeteria. You want your website to sit at that table, too? Awesome, time to show that you’re popular.
Basically, you want to get as many links that point back to your blog and website as possible to get search engines to think you’re All That.
That’s why, as a contributor to other websites, I always link to AmySuto.com and my other website, KingdomofPavement.com, in my little bio that goes at the bottom of every blog post I write.
Using Blogging to Build Your Own Businesses
While there’s a good amount of money to be made in blogging and content writing, your end goal shouldn’t be to necessarily be a blogger forever.
(Unless you’re like me and will run this website ’till you’re at death’s door at the nursing home, telling the other elderly folks to fight you on Twitter and dragging the cafeteria’s vegetarian stew of the night.)
BUT! What being a blogger can do is help you drive traffic to your own website, and build a body of work so you can do other jobs as well.
I used my early blogs as portfolio items to pitch on bigger jobs, which is how I have scaled up to my work ghostwriting memoirs for people all over the world.
So, blog away and allow yourself to enjoy how absurd this job is. If you ever get tired about writing about cookware or interior design or whatever, remind yourself of the jobs you used to have or could have right now.
Blog on, friend. Blog on.