If you have ever visited some of the larger blogs in the blogosphere, you have probably come across a post or two authored by today's interviewee, Skellie. She's a Melbourne native who's been creating web content for over seven years. Currently, Skellie is a staff writer at multiple blogs and still finds time for her own blog at Skelliewag.
How do you primarily generate your online income?
I'm a staff writer at Freelance Switch, Problogger.net, North x East, Daily Blog Tips and Daily Bits. I think we like to call ourselves 'freelance web writers' or 'ProBloggers' but others just call us 'paid bloggers.' It doesn't sound quite as cool though, I think.
I've also just launched a second blog, Anywired, about web freelancing and other routes to earning an income online. It focuses on different ways to make your work both flexible and mobile, so you can work when you want, from anywhere in the world. I'm monetizing that with ads but it's still in the early days yet.
I find it intriguing that although your web design and UI skills are strong, you've really focused just on writing. Why is that?
Web design and UI are things I'm keenly interested in, but I don't have the coding skills (or the patience to learn them) that I'd need to code something from scratch.
I tend to find good free themes with a core structure I like and customize them until they look unique. The code I use to do that is very rudimentary and something I learned from years of trial and error and changing variables at random. It certainly doesn't validate or anything like that-- so I wouldn't want to inflict it on a client. Let's just say, I still use font tags!
My web design is kind of like a nice-looking house that's infested with termites beneath the surface.
How much does reading other blogs come into play in your success?
Any success I've had has been dependent on it. I think you can learn a huge amount by observing blogs that you like and working out what it is that they do well, and then translating that to your own blog. You can also learn a lot by observing what your favorite blogs aren't doing.
I think it's also vital to subscribe to plenty of blogs outside your own niche. Translating ideas from other niches into your own can create something new and unique. It also helps prevent you from starting to sound like everybody else writing on the topics you cover.
Your name is probably familiar as a frequent writer at some of the "big blogs" like ProBlogger or Freelance Switch. How did you end up writing for these blogs?
One of the things I try to practice every day is audacity, and audacity is how I got all my jobs. I didn't ask for them, or apply for them, but my name only came up because I'd made a connection with the blogger previously-- usually by offering to guest-post. In Darren Rowse's case (of ProBlogger), I offered to guest-post when he was sick. In Collis Ta'eed's case (of Freelance Switch), I had guest-posted at another blog he edited for a while, called North x East.
I actually fell into freelance web writing by accident. I did a guest-post for Daily Blog Tips, then the blog's owner, Daniel Scocco, asked me to become a staff writer. I thought that would be it, but over time I got offered more good jobs for blogs I respected. I would never have thought six months ago that I would be a web-only worker now.
My advice to anyone wanting to become a freelance web writer is: guest-post, guest-post, guest-post -- and bring your A-game when you do so.
What are some common misconceptions when it comes to "blogging for money"?
I think the most common misconception is that paid blogging gigs are all paid badly. In reality, the spectrum is much broader. There are a lot of jobs going that are, to be honest, exploitative. At the other end of the spectrum, it's possible to earn $100 or more for a post at a really popular blog (if you've built a respected profile in the niche).
Another misconception is that paid bloggers approach the job in a chore-like way, pelting out the minimum required word limit as quickly as possible. That certainly seems to be the way Gawker thinks of their writers. I've never thought of my freelance work like this and I've never worked with anyone else who has. I actually get a little addicted to checking up on the comment count on posts I've written elsewhere!
What kind of advice would you give young writers who want to get started online?
Having an established blog is invaluable, because it will essentially function as your portfolio. Some of your blog readers will eventually go on to become clients, so an established blog can send you a relatively steady flow of job offers. It also shows that people respond well to your writing.
I'd also do guest-posts and let the blogger know that you're available as a paid writer. People might like the content you produce on your own blog, but they're most interested to see what you can bring them. Guest-posts are actually a really good advertisement for your skills.
So what's next for you and your online presence?
I think developing Anywired is going to present an interesting challenge because it's a return to the days of building something from nothing (though I do have an existing blog and some relationships that I can 'leverage,' though that's such a cold, market-ese term). Other than that, I'll keep freelancing, writing for Skelliewag, working on an eBook and am -- apparently -- going back to university in March, though I'm not quite sure how I'm going to keep all these plates spinning at once. Maybe I need to grow an extra arm or two?