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Should Websites Pay Writers for Their Guest Posts?

Posted by on September 3rd, 2016

The blogging world is full of murky, behind-the-scenes motives that may be completely opaque to newcomers. Most of us get into this business to write to our heart’s desire and create something. Except we’re not welders, we’re wordsmiths, or at least passionate individuals that have a knack for writing and experience in a given niche.

We start our blog, we put our words and ideas and personality out there, and we see what bites.

Blogging is a bit like fishing — in time, with patience and dedication, you will eventually get a bite (or three).

As soon as you’re past the puppy-dog phase of blogging you’ll dip into the murky waters.

The first question that comes up is making money. How do you make money? It’s a good question, and one you should think about.

The second major curiosity is the guest post. What is it? Can you do it? Should you? Can this be a source of income?

Let me breaking each of those guest post questions down so that we’re on the same page.

Guest posting, as you probably know, is the process in which you write an article for another blog or website. Either you reach out to be featured as a guest post author, or they reach out to you (if you’re lucky). The article has your byline.

Can You Do It?

Certainly. You typically have to have a frequently updated blog with a few followers, a great idea, and the patience and dedication to reach out day after day to secure an acceptance.

Should You?

This is a frequently debated question. From my perspective, yes, you absolutely should guest post — if you do it correctly.

The correctness of this is an entire topic with its own article, but the key takeaway is that you need to remain spam-free, provide valuable content with your articles, and make sure you follow search engine guidelines.

Coffee Shop Blogging

The real “should” in the question comes down to the benefits of guest posting, which are numerous.

You can:

  • Expand your audience.
  • Increase your subscriber list.
  • Make powerful contacts in your industry.
  • Become a better writer.
  • Raise your search engine rankings.

All of these things, over time, lead to income. That is, if you’ve figured out how to turn your blog into a money-making venture, whether through advertising or sponsorships.

I’ll assume you’ve looked into that because you’re at an article wondering if you should make money off your guest posts, which means you’re money minded.

Should Guest Posting Be a Source of Income?

This is another big question and, again, it’s fiercely debated in the world of blogging.

It’s standard in the industry for blogs and websites to not pay for guest posts. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s how it currently is.

The general thrust of this article then, is to debate whether or not the industry should change its approach to guest posting.

Yes, It Should

Content Be King

In short, I believe they should. Content is content, and, if the old adage “content is king” means anything anymore, it should probably cost someone something to produce such content.

Think about how many people click on articles in today’s world — from Facebook, from Google Search, from emails friends and family send to each other, from newsletters and catalogues and every little thing we can access on our smart devices and computers.

Each of those articles took time, research, and skill to conceptualize, write, edit and then publish.

All for the consumer.

Why Do We Write Anything At All?

On the one hand — a hand that is philosophical and views humanity as a burning bolt toward greater knowledge — these articles are written to increase the collective’s understanding of the world. It’s information, and as a writer you are contributing to that mass of information.

On the other hand, articles are produced to turn the capitalistic wheel of industry.

Does BuzzFeed enlighten us, or just make us click? I don’t mean to badmouth a single publication — there are a ton out there. You could say the same thing about Huffington Post, and about all those hip pop-up publications in your city or country.

Clickbait Offices

We have created a system that rewards consumers’ desire to read and gain knowledge by selling them things. This process makes money for the company who produced the articles, and the whole thing goes round and round.

Most of the time the knowledge hand is as important as the money hand, which makes me wonder why it’s standard for guest posts, unlike all other posts, to have no monetary value attached.

How The Free Guest Post Tradition Started

With all that high-brow conceptualism above, it’s important to know that there are not, in my opinion, evil origins for the free guest post tradition.

It really is a simple concept, one that still functions on some level, which I’ll get into below.

Bloggers are self-starters. Entrepreneurs. They take a collective of skills — internet skills, writing skills, and marketing skills — and try their best to make a name in a crowded field.

Not just once, but continually, again and again to maintain their authority in their niche. Even the biggest bloggers are at constant risk of being outdone, so they must push themselves and the envelope of publications as much as they can in order to retain readership.

Most entrepreneurs start by giving everything they have to an idea while making very little money. No money, most of the time.

The same is true for bloggers. Heck, most bloggers still haven’t figured out how to make any money off their blog. By “make” I’m talking about profit — covering expenses is one thing, but turning a profit on your venture is when the getting gets good.

Most Blogs Are Like Yours

If you haven’t figured out how to turn a profit from your blog, it’s probably true that others haven’t either.

When you begin to consider guest posting and do your research on other blogs, the most likely ones to publish your work are the blogs that are like yours. Similar traffic, social shares, and standing in the industry.

Of course you want to always try to write for publications that are higher up the food chain than you, but that’s hard to do. Most bloggers that use guest posting do it frequently enough that managing to get a higher-level blog or website to publish them every single time is not realistic.

So, the question becomes, would you pay someone to guest post your site?

Sites Paying for Guest Posts

You have to remember your situation, and then put on the same exact shoes for the person you’re emailing. They probably haven’t managed to turn much of a profit yet either, and therefore don’t really have a budget to pay you.

The beginnings of blogging, even when your blog gets popular and well-read, is one of building a community. Money is the last step, and though its on everyone’s mind, most people just don’t have any of it to pay for a guest post.

Bartering Your Blog

With the above scenario in mind you’ll also see the origins of bartering your blog and guest posts for what other blogs can offer — namely, those benefits I mentioned at the beginning of the article.

You need to be compensated for your hard work.

It’s fairly easy, and costs no money, for another blog to help you grow as a writer and authority. They do this just by accepting and publishing your guest post, but it’s more than that.

Establishing a connection with another blogger should be about making the best kind of connection in your industry. Someone who will stick up for you, socialize all of your posts, and work collaboratively in the future.

A great example of this is the online relationship between Neil Patel and Brian Dean. Both are inherent marketers, both started with their own blogs, and technically they are in competition with each other. Instead of bickering, refuting the others’ work, or forcing readers to follow one or the other, they work collaboratively.

Of course they are incredibly good at blogging and internet marketing, so they’re both making heaps of cash.

The point is that the bartering of your guest posts for something other than money is a very powerful tool, one I find totally appropriate if you’re guest posting on a website that is of equal status to yours.

For Blogs and Websites That Make a Profit

I’m a fan of what Carol Tice, the creator of Make a Living Writing, says about this subject:

“I believe if a blog makes money for its owner, guest posters should be paid.”

This is exactly how I feel, and has to do with that “profit” idea explored above.

But, as I also said above, this is not the industry standard. Tice is unique in her opinion — an opinion that has garnered steam and been one of many factors that’s lead to many websites paying for guest posts. I’ll outline those below.

First, we need to address the two types of websites that, I believe, should be paying you to write guest posts for them.

Really Successful Blogs

“Really” is a subjective term, and it’s going to have to be, because most blogs don’t publicly display how much money they make.

You can tell how successful a blog is from the level of traffic it receives, how many social shares it gets, how many comments articles have, and how frequently it ranks on page one of Google. None of these assure that a blog has enough dough to pay for guest posts, but it’s a good start.

Tice, of Make a Living Writing, puts cash behind her words. Her blog, and many others like it in every niche imaginable, make enough money to pay writers.

Make a Living Blogging

You should be looking to make around $50 to $100 per article, or more (depending on the length).

There is nothing more frustrating to me than a very successful blog with obvious cash flow and influencing power that pays nothing for its guest posts. It’s a bit backwards, too, because at one point the heads of those blogs were measly writers who had to struggle, just like you. Maybe they were never paid for their work, so they don’t plan on paying whoever writes guest posts for them.

If you’re serious about making money for guest posting (you don’t have to be), steer clear of these sites.

Often a successful blog will have very specific guidelines about its guest posting policy, including if they pay, how much, how you should pitch them, and about a hundred other stylistic things.

If they don’t say a word about payment, there probably won’t ever be one.

Major News Publications

The second culprit in this cycle are major news publications.

At the beginning of this article I went on a small rant about how knowledge and articles combine to elevate human consciousness. Major news publications are the main arm of this idea, and have been for a long time.

In the digital, blog-heavy age, there are plenty of “major” publications that are considered news, like Huffington Post, but not full-fledged newspapers. This has more weight than a blog because it is mainstream on a different level. It’s not a niche but covers a huge range of topics. It is respected and believed to be accurate in its written word.

However, most of these major news publications don’t pay squat for guest posts. They might call this type of writer “contributing author”, or some other term that is relegated to a less important section of the website.

Regardless of the label, these organizations know they need to churn out content and they use their big name brand to make you do it for free.

The exchange here is that you get a byline at a major news publication and can put “have written for major news publication” on your resume. While that’s great, it’s not enough.

These are massive corporations that have CEOs, staff writers, media relations departments, and huge incomes through advertising. You deserve to be paid, even if it’s a small amount.

Get a Leg Up

I’ve made my case, and my thoughts, pretty well known here. You can take either side of the equation, and you can poke holes in my theories when it comes to paid guest posting. My position on the subject is not full-proof, as a lot of this is subjective.

You will always get something for your guest post, but if you want money, you’ve got to be selective and intentional to get that money.

There are a ton of lists of paying websites out there — just search for them. Good luck, and know that you’ll find paying guest post gigs if you try hard enough.

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