Behind the Blog: On Blog Contributors
I’m back again with my Behind the Blog series. I’m really loving sharing with you some of the things that happen behind the scenes with blogging! It’s very therapeutic. I get asked a lot of questions about blogging, so maybe this series will help?
So far I’ve shared with you my answer to the question I get asked all the time: How do I do it all?. Then I wrote a post on How to start your own blog, and today, I’m going a bit more into the nitty gritty of blogging: the world of blog contributors. I have sat and worried about hitting publish on this post…but I’m doing it anyway in hopes that it could help someone.
Let me just preface this by saying, I’m not telling you not to be a blog contributor, or not to have your own contributor team. Or that either is a bad thing. I truly think we all just need to do what we have to do. Without judgment. But I wanted to share some things I’ve learned with you. This is just a cautionary tale from the limited experience I have had with being a blog contributor on several different blogs over the years.
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Here are some tips if you are going to be a blog contributor on some one else’s blog:
First ask yourself, how does this benefit you? Before you commit to being a blog contributor, you need to ask yourself what you are hoping to get out of being a contributor? Money? Exposure? A learning experience?
Do you want to be paid?
- In my opinion, if this is a regular contribution, the answer should be yes.
- How much? Well that’s really up to you. I have big opinions on this, but I will keep them to myself. Big sites, like businesses and big blogs promise you exposure in return for free posts. You won’t get much (if any) exposure in terms of traffic to your blog, if that’s what you are looking for.
- BUT. Yes there’s a but. If you think an unpaid blog contributor opportunity is a good one, and you think it could lead to other amazing opportunities down the road, you have to consider this too. Just know your options, is all.
- And most of all, remember this is your blogging journey, and only you know what is right for you and your blog.
Make sure the terms are clear.
- How long is this arrangement? 6 months? 1 year? Month by month?
- How many times a month are you posting?
- What day/days are you posting?
- What are the terms for termination? 30 days notice?
How will you be promoted?
- Will your post be promoted on all social media outlets: Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter…?
- Outside of your post, will you and your blog be promoted?
Are you able to repost your contributor post on to your blog?
- In my opinion, if you are asked not to do this, it’s not a good thing. I will not do contributor posts where I can’t repost them on my blog at some point in time.
- What are the terms for this? 30 days after the original post? 3 months? Make sure that is clear.
If your time as a contributor comes to an end, you don’t necessarily have to take it personal. Sometimes things just don’t work out. Maybe it wasn’t a good fit for either of you, or the blog is going in a different direction. This happens, and it’s ok.
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Here are some tips if you are going have a contributor team on your blog:
I’ve thought long and hard about this part of the equation, because at one time I did consider having a contributor team here on my blog, but in the end I decided it just wasn’t the right thing for me or my blog. It’s not for everyone, and that’s ok.
- Before you build a contributor team, you need to ask yourself if this is what your readers really want. It’s true. Your readers come to read your voice, read about what you are doing. Do they want to read someone else’s work?
- Before you build a contributor team, find one that mirrors your blog and niche. Make sure the bloggers on your team mesh well with your blog tone, and the type of work you do.
- Do what you say and say what you mean. This is just a respectable thing to do.
- Keep the lines of communication open with your team. Be available for questions, concerns or comments. Don’t run away from problems. Address issues right away, so your team doesn’t get frustrated and/or quit.
- Consider setting a term arrangement for your team. How long do you want your team to work for you for? 1 year? 6 months? Make the terms clear.
- Pay your team. If you have a regular contributing team, you should pay them. If you don’t work for free, how can you expect others to. Again, just make sure to keep the lines of communication open should a situation arise.
- Have a schedule. Give specific days of the month to your team, so that they have adequate time to prepare their posts for you. Don’t leave them scrambling, they’re just as busy as you are.
- Give writing prompts to your team for inspiration, and to prevent overlap. Things like, let’s do a summer theme for the Month of June. Or a series on Christmas ornaments. I know I love this!
- Promote your team. Not just the blog post they have written, promote their blogs. Tag them in Facebook and Twitter posts. The more you promote their blogs, the more likely they are to promote yours too!
- Make sure your contributor team promotes each other. That’s how a team works…it’s all about promoting each other. If your team isn’t doing that, then what’s the point? This has to be monitored too, because you can’t just have 1 or 2 members doing all the promoting. Having a graphic with all of your team members is a great way to promote, or set a schedule for cross promotion.
- If you decide that a member of your team, or the team as a whole isn’t working out, just be open. Give at least 1 month notice if you decide to terminate the agreement. And send a personal message explaining what you are doing.
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Words of advice from my own personal experience:
- Don’t just trust an arrangement because a blogger you are working with has a ‘reputable’ reputation. You have to view the contributor arrangement as a business arrangement. If the terms are clear, then everyone is happy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need or want. Blog contribution has to be mutually beneficial. Bloggers are just people. Even the ‘big’ ones.
- Take warning signs very seriously. See below.
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Warning signs that things might not be working out:
- You don’t get paid. Even once is a big red flag.
- All communication with the blogger you are working for ceases. This is not a good sign.
- You are not being promoted. The blog you are working for should promote you, your blog and your contributor posts.
- If your posts are not getting shared, or pinned or commented on, you may need to change your topics.
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My honest opinion on blog contributors. Again, this is just my opinion.
- Being a blog contributor is a lot of work. Running your own blog is a lot of work. Writing for another blog on a regular basis, unless you are getting paid, and getting paid well, is not really worth all the effort, in my opinion. This is just my opinion…not everyone will agree with me here.
- You will not see a lot of traffic to your blog from being a contributor. You just won’t. The blog you are contributing to gets your traffic. Even if you put links in your post to your blog, the traffic to your own blog is low, if you get any at all. Unless, the blog you are contributing to does a stand up job promoting you.
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Some positive things about being a contributor or having a team:
- You have an opportunity to widen your audience!
- You are part of a bigger community, and the support can be amazing!
- You open yourself up to new possibilities. I always say, you never know who’s reading…your door may open to amazing new experiences.
- Sometimes it’s great to help out a friend in a guest post series. I love to do this! It’s a great way to spread bloggy love.
- You get to meet new people, and build new relationships…because after all isn’t this a big part of why we love blogs so much!
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Again, please know I’m not saying being a contributor, or having contributors is a bad thing, this is all just my opinion. I just think if you are considering doing either, you should be aware of some of the issues that may arise in this type of situation. These are tips so that you can go into these types of arrangements with your eyes open, and be aware of maybe what to ask for, and from both angles.
And again, this is your blogging journey, and only you know what is good for you and your blog!
Questions, comments, anything? Love it. Just please keep it nice. 😉
This is a great post and it’s almost like every new blogger learns this lesson at some point. I don’t think they realize how much extra work goes into writing extra posts for someone else’s blog on top of maintaining your own. We think it’s a way of increasing our traffic and gaining new followers but the reality is, I have had better luck having Pinterest or Stumble Upon do that for me via my own page. I will never contribute again for free. I also agree with you that most people will tell you they come to your blog to hear and read your voice and your projects. That’s another reason guest posts don’t work for both the contributors (i.e. lack of traffic and growth) and the hosting blogger.
Thanks Alex! I completely agree. The more I think about it, the more strongly I feel against contributing to other blogs, for myself anyway. Blogging is a lot of work and I only have enough time and inspiration for my own content!
Great post! I always ask if I will be compensated, I work really hard on all my posts and if I don’t get paid, depending on the site…I won’t write. I wrote on What To Expect and Genetic Literacy Project for the exposure, but those are one-time deals. They benefit (stats wise) from my guest posts, and like you say—it does NOT drive traffic to my blog at all. I am a PTPA member and do my 2 posts per month contributions and I just syndicate my own content so I don’t mind. I’m very grateful for your blogging advice—thank you!
Thank you Sarah! I’ve learned so much on this blogging journey, as I’m sure you have! It feels good to spread the love and tips on what I’ve learned over the years. This topic has been on my mind for a while, after a recent contributor gig I had, so I decided to just blog it out!
Sarah & Jo-Anna, do you have strong opinions on syndication? I’d love to do it on one large blog site, but the other half of our blog (my husband!) says it’s bad for our SEO. I’m rather torn! What are your thoughts?
You are right on the money Jo-Anna! No pun intended. Contributing is a lot of work. And I rarely take on that work now. And in the case where I did not get paid for my work, I quit. IMMEDIATELY.
This is the first time I’ve written a comment anonymously, but I figured I’d do so to avoid causing friction with the person the comment is about!
I started blogging for someone about a year ago who promised payment. Over the course of a year it’s gone from payment, to no payment, to payment only if you can get 50 or so comments, plus a certain amount of views on your blog post.
I think the thing bothered me, rather than the changing payment circumstances, was when I saw the blog owner comment on a LinkedIn group that the blog existed solely as a means to sell their existing novels. Given they had plugged the blog to potential contributors as a travel blog (which has nothing to do with said novels – they are an entirely different fiction genre), I feel irksome about the entire thing now.
Prior to this, I didn’t have a problem with unpaid guest posts. But now with this connection in my mind about being lied to about the blog and the payment, I don’t feel so good about it. I think I’m just a bit tainted by the experience right now.
Thanks for all the great info and advice! Love this blogger series!
Thank you for this series. I enjoy reading blogs and connecting with people on social media. I don’t have my own blog as I don’t really have the interest to start my own. I did write a guest post for a friend’s blog but being paid for it didn’t even occur to me. I just thought it would be fun to share the cake I made for my son’s birthday.
I’m glad you are enjoying it Kirsten! I think in your case sharing a cake with your friend and her readers is awesome! Sometimes it’s just nice to do these types of things for fun and because you enjoy it! I think the difference lies when a blogger is expected to give content on a weekly or monthly basis for another blog, it’s more like a business arrangement and should require payment. But doing something for a friend I’m all for…it’s great to support friends! 🙂
Hi Jo-Anna! I’ve been following you on IG and Facebook for a little while now so I thought it was time to chime in with a comment.
I’ve only contributed twice on other blogs and although I found it to be a fun experience, it was a lot of extra work. Until I read your post, I didn’t even know people got paid to contribute. I’m so naive.
Love this post! I always look at it by asking myself this question: If I put the same time and effort into my own blog what might I accomplish? It’s always been far more valuable to put the work in on my own existing blog than to spend that effort elsewhere. I am a contributor on one site and it’s a paid arrangement that works out very well (is a great compliment to my blog and brand too) and I adore that. It is unlikely that I would ever take on a ‘contribute for exposure’ relationship ever again.
Thank you so much for this post. I feel like you’ve brought forth many points that I wouldn’t have thought of. I just recently decided to contribute to a blog, and have yet to start. But I think you’ve made really good points about what to consider before you make a commitment especially since each post requires a lot of dedication. Thanks again!
Great post, Jo-Anna! I agree – you have to feel like your arrangement is fulfilling for you, or else you should jump ship. In many “How to start a blog” posts out there on the internet, people recommend that you guest blog or contribute to other sites. I think that there can be a place for blog contributorships, but even the newbie blogger should tread carefully and really understand the expectations and “payment” (even if it’s social media promotion) that they will get for creating content.
So glad you’re writing this series. It’s a great (and honest) resource!
I have been looking at assembling a team of contributors for our website and this article was extremely helpful in how to manage this team. Now I just need to find some people interested in writing about floor care.