There's been a shift in my professional blogging strategy. I've been moving back toward corporate clients.
When I first started my professional blogging journey in 2005 (yes, this is my 10th year as a blogger), I worked with corporate clients. Blogging was just emerging as a potential way to reach online audiences, and companies were paying very small amounts of money for writers willing to churn out content designed to encourage better Google rankings.
After a few years, though, things started changing. I found myself writing more and more for non-corporate bloggers. In the heyday of financial blogging, from about 2008 to 2012, it seemed like everyone was hiring staff writers. Affiliate programs were providing income to “regular” people and personal finance blogs were so lucrative that big companies were offering seven figures for the top blogs. Not only that, but high authority for some of these sites resulted in the selling of text links, which could also be quite lucrative.
My business model shifted away from low-paying corporate clients to independent bloggers who would pay more because they could.
The Professional Blogging Writing on the Wall
In the personal finance world, things started changing with Google's zoo animal algorithm updates. Additionally, there were rumors that Google was busting linking rings and sites selling text links. PageRank was dropping all over the place, and with it search traffic. I paid attention to my SEO-savvy clients and friends. They were struggling, trying to keep up with the changes.
I had been steadily raising my rates through these years, but I began to worry that some bloggers wouldn't be able to keep up. After all some were asking me to do more in order to look more attractive to Google, but they were reluctant to pay more. Others were willing to pay more for the articles, but cut the number of articles ordered for the month so they wouldn't have to pay me more total.
At this point, in late 2012, I realized that things weren't going to be the same in the world of professional blogging — at least for the personal finance niche. I started shifting back to corporate clients.
Selling Out to Corporate Clients
Since I had built up a reputation in the world of personal finance, and developed a good network, there were a few companies that came calling. Some of them didn't even ask me about my rate; they just told me what they would pay. Often, they offered me four or five times what I was asking from “regular” bloggers — and this was after I'd been raising my rates for several years.
Slowly, I started gravitating more toward the corporate clients. Now, I'm back to writing for mostly corporate clients. I still write for some independent bloggers, but they are mostly long-time friends that I've been writing for years. Here are some of the reasons that professional blogging for corporate clients has been so attractive:
- The pay: When I first started professional blogging, good rates were few and far between, no matter who was offering. However, now that companies see blogging as part of online marketing, the pay is better.
- Ability to pay: It became fairly obvious a couple of years ago that, as long as Google was shifting its focus to favor bigger brands, and as search traffic dropped, fewer bloggers would be able to afford me. Companies don't have that problem for the most part. Corporate clients can afford to pay the rates I currently charge.
- It's in the budget: With a corporate client, the professional blogging is in the online marketing budget. Major companies aren't relying on AdSense and affiliate income to pay me. They know that fresh online content is needed to stay in the game, build community, and attract visitors, and they don't sell ads. I'm part of the annual budget, and I don't usually have to worry about suddenly being cut because search traffic has plummeted or because a credit card dropped my client from the affiliate program.
- Working with editors: I'm working with “real” editors again. With the line between content marketing and journalism rapidly disappearing, more companies are hiring old-school editors to manage their content. This means that many of clients want me to interview expert sources and write in a style that mimics news stories. Thanks to my journalism degree, I can do this. It also means that I work with editors who understand how to edit, help me improve my writing, and value my work (and go to bat with their bosses for decent rates).
I love working with my independent blogger clients. There's a reason I've stuck with them for all these years. However, my professional blogging career seems to be swinging a bit back toward corporate clients, and it's not a bad thing. My pay is higher, so that I've been able to work less while making more.
Do I still miss the heyday of personal finance blogging? Sure I do. But you have to be flexible if you're going to be an online freelancer, and right now, my journey is bringing me back to corporate clients.