This Is How Much Bloggers Get Paid?

08.12.10


The question on everyone’s mind is How much does a blogger make? Folks ask me this all the time, not in so many words, but they ask with their awkward phrasing.

So, you’re a mommy blogger? Is that a hobby?

Or

When you say “work” what is it that you mean, exactly?

Every so often people will up and ask, “Can you make a living doing that?”

The answer is yes and no. Like any salary survey, bloggers will be deliberately vague. With most ad networks I’m seeing bloggers in my niche (parenting) making anywhere from $.20 to $20.00 CPM (CPM essentially means per 1,000 impressions). Now, if you factor in that a blog may have multiple ad spots on a page, this can be a nice living, or it can be crap. Assume that it’s crap.

The real money is made when a blogger partners with someone else. Sometimes they will be a brand spokesperson, sometimes they will have twitter parties, sometimes they will have live events, and there is absolutely no end to what brands and bloggers can concoct as revenue streams. If a blogger is talking sweetly about a brand, assume they are getting paid. These payments can range from $1 for a sponsored tweet to tens of thousands of dollars for events. Sadly, bloggers in my niche can be found tweeting for a branded hackeysac. I like to hold out for cupcakes.

If you’ve made it this far, you realize that I’m being vague. It’s deliberate, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever tell you about my paycheck for a job I’ve taken. However, I had a job offer so fantastic that I absolutely must share it with you, this way you’ll get a sense of just how much money a blogger makes.

Before I begin this story I want to make two things perfectly clear. Firstly, before you have a conversation with me, or with anyone like me fax over an NDA. At a minimum send an email saying you want to have a confidential conversation. Posts like this do not happen with an NDA (or anything written) in place. Secondly, I will never tell you which television network this is. I will neither confirm, nor deny. If they don’t self identify in the comments no one will ever know.

Last week I got a phone call from a television network asking me if I was available to help them with their site. Blogging for a TV network? Sure. I had a nice conversation with the guy, who had clearly read at least one of my most recent posts, but likely no more than that (which is totally okay, just don’t lie and say you did) one. When he said, “how’s that arthritis going?” I knew I was in TV land.

He told me that their network had streamlined, they no longer have multiple weathermen in the same region, but that they wanted to launch a group of local sites, and they needed help launching their Los Angeles family site.

Perfect. This is my perfect job.

Then they showed me what they’d already done in another metropolis. Crap. Absolute crap. There was no thought given to SEO to SEM , and the writing was an affront to anyone who loves language. I knew I could do better. Had I used a little foresight, I’d have known to hop off the call immediately.

The TV caller had asked me if I could preload a site with about thirty posts, they would supply a few broad topics, and someone else would provide the clipart and upload to wordpress. I said I’d need about a half dozen women to do that well, and I’m pretty sure I could do it within a week.

I contacted a half dozen women in LA and asked them if they were available for a short turnaround post (or five), all of them said yes. I was ready for phone call number two.

Phone call number two came from a more executivey executive, who blew less sunshine up my ass, but was much more clear on what he needed. I explained to him how I could do the job, how I could do the job well, and I let him know loud and clear that I brought expertise to the job that few others would share.

So he offered me the job.

I was offered $1,000 to get a site loaded in twenty days. I was also supposed to be in charge of payroll for the six women who would get $50 a post (not part of my $1,000).

To be very clear, they were prepared to spend $50 a post, and buy thirty posts for a total of $1,500. Then they wanted to pay someone $1,000 to edit the posts, optimize them for SEO and administer a payroll system to the writers.

If I lived in a part of the country where a mortgage was $300 this might be appealing, but this is Los Angeles.

Here’s the kicker. I told the second (less Hollywood-y) executive that I’d need at least three times that amount to get the work done right, and he said they’d let me know pretty quickly. Within 24 hours.

Six hours later they emailed my friend. One of my friends who I’d asked to write for this project.

24 hours later they emailed another friend. She got them up a few dollars, but only a few.

So, if you’re looking for very real numbers about what bloggers make I can tell you this. Someone will work for $1,000 a month, lend their name to a project, run a payroll system, attempt basic SEO and SEM. Bloggers will write for the right sites at the rate of $50 a post (and frankly I think that’s just fine if it’s a no-research post), and television networks should really think about hiring someone within the space before launching a local site.

I absolutely would be delighted to be that person, but not at $1,000 a month.

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26 responses to “This Is How Much Bloggers Get Paid?”

  1. In an industry used to shelling out the hard labor to interns (read that pimply faced kids excited to be “on the set”), and reinforced by a world where “articles” can be had for 50 cents if one doesn’t care about quality, Mr. Hollywood probably thinks he’s paying too much.

    Yet ultimately someone may come along and take it thinking there’d be a lot of cache’ in the way they could put that on their list of accomplishments. Which is sad.

  2. The market has changed dramatically since I began doing this in 2005. The pay to bloggers now is three times what it was when I began. Is it better? Yes. Is it good. No. I think you have championed this for a while now about making money online. If you are competing with people writing for coupons, the market is not going to grow much. I can assure you that anyone working for me is not happy with the amount of work they do for the pay they get. I could talk about this a long time but I push for better pay based on hours and benefits and ROI and all that jargon we talk about. Until bloggers realize that their time and effort have value, I will struggle to continue raise the rates at Bloggers For Hire and pay those bloggers what they are entitled to receive.

    • DaDa Rocks! says:

      I agree here with Jim – is it better Yes, is it good NO we still have more work to be done – and most of that is about showing the ROI because in the end the brand cares only about the I = Investment … they want to know the money they put in and what they’ll get out of it!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jill Hanner, Jessica Wakeman, GuruCorey, GuruCorey, Liza M Weiner and others. Liza M Weiner said: Important read from one smart lady. RT @JessicaGottlieb: This Is How Much Bloggers Get Paid http://bit.ly/aAxBPQ […]

  4. Cathy says:

    I love this post Jessica. Honestly, $1000 dollars a month sounds great to me, but I also don’t feel like I’m at the level you are and have the right(so to speak) to ask for huge, or even big numbers). That said, you have definitely made me think in the past and I refuse to be a giveaway whore. Review/giveaway posts are a lot of work and I realize they aren’t worth mine time to virtually advertise for a brand for a simple free product. I do, however, choose some that pertain to my blog and things I hope my readers will like. I hate hearing people say that you can’t make money as a blogger. I don’t think it’s easy, but I think it’s possible. Someday I will make that reality for myself.

  5. I completely agree with you. I learned a long time ago to be vague because when I was specific, newer kids on the block would come in and quote a far less price and then I would usually lose the bid to someone who I knew had less experience than myself. It was frustrating.

    Not long ago someone told me to know my worth and not be afraid to stand firm on my rates, not to waiver because a big (or small) company may balk at it. And so I did, and stopped taking it personally when I wouldn’t win the work…but knew that a company would come along that could appreciate my experience and abilities. And that has happened time and again.

    So you’re right, for all of the work the network wanted you to do, $1000 a month definitely was devaluing your experience and abilities. You have a reputation that proceeds itself, and that alone should’ve told them that you were worth more than that.

  6. Ugh. Really?
    Because that’s horrid. I get that someone might look at that and think “wow! $1000 just to herd bloggers?” to which I’d say a) you’ve never tried to herd bloggers, and b) we’re talking about a television network, not a small business without a budget.
    Blogger herding is different than blogging. $50 a post for the bloggers? That’s not necessarily a bad deal depending on what kind of content their talking and how aligned with the objective the bloggers are.
    But I am constantly advising people who find themselves in the situation of being approached to herd bloggers to learn about the concept of retainers. As in “estimate the amount of time it will take on a weekly/monthly basis, figure out what that would be based on your hourly rate, and then offer a discounted retainer based on the length of project, with the understanding that any time required above that will be billed at the hourly rate but only completed upon receiving approval beforehand by client.”

    For instance – let’s play with round numbers. Let’s say you, Jessica, bill at $100/hr (a good round number) and you estimate that the required work will take you 10 hours between now and launch and only 2.5 hrs a week for each month after that. So we’re talking $1,000 estimate to launch ($100/hr at 10 hrs) and $1,000/mo ($100/hr at 2.5 hrs x 4 wks). I’d tell them that you’d be willing to work with a retainer of $2,550 for 3 months or $ 4,800 for 6 months (based on 15% discount for 3 months 20% discount on 6 months) and anything above and beyond the hours listed will be billed at the hourly rate of $100/hr with pre-authorization for further work. Or $1,000 up front and $100/hr billed for anything above 10 hrs. The reason that it’s a good idea for the client? They’re going to estimate well for the retainer – they use you too little? They’re paying you more. They use you too much? They’re paying a higher hourly rate.
    It’s really common in the legal field and in IT consulting — it’s time it got more common in our field.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I turned down a blogging opportunity yesterday and have been wondering if it was the right choice. It paid squat. I know my worth. Your post just helped me validate that. So, again, thank you.

  8. Jack says:

    Hah, I was offered a ton of stock, a thanksgiving turkey and Madden 2011 plus the option to be paid in Rupees or Rubles. I of course turned that down and told them that I will gladly work for Shekels, they just have to pay me by the letter.

  9. Jaclyn Rubly says:

    In any stay at home mom’s eyes, that may be appealing. However, with how much work you’d have to put into it, it doesn’t sound like a whole lot to me.

  10. Jessica, I can’t thank you enough for this post. I have been reading your site loyally for a couple of months and I’m finally getting around to leaving a comment.

    I was also approached by the same studio last week. Thank you for opening my eyes and reminding me of my worth.

  11. Lisa says:

    Great post! I don’t charge anywhere near what you do and I think $1,000 was way too low for what they wanted. Like everything else, they want the lowest bidder and then wonder why it looks like crap.

  12. Annika says:

    I think you were absolutely right to turn them down (they sound incredibly unprofessional, for starters), but I also think that the $50/post is higher than 99% of blogging jobs. It was the fee they were offering you that was low, and honestly not *that* low.

  13. Great post (as always). I think this really encapsulates what many bloggers need to understand – know your worth. Making any money is not necessarily better than no money.

  14. erin says:

    Very insightful, loved reading this. I’ve always wondered….but yes—we have to know our worth. Not be taken advantage of. Recognize that we’re a force to be reckoned with. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  15. Could you hear me laughing out loud when I read the rate you were quoted? Good for you.

    And fwiw, they weren’t talking about a “blogging job.” They were talking “Digital Strategy and Execution.”

    Really missed your PoV at BlogHer. Next year?

  16. This has opened my eyes a bit more. That pay certainly was crap for all of the time that you would have put into it. I have a lot of changing to do on my blog, but when I do, I know I can be successful in making some money off of it, if I stick to my guns!

  17. Heather says:

    This is why I read blogs instead of our local ‘news’ network sites. I’d much rather spend my time here reading you, or browsing my rss reader than there reading crap. Cause that’s what they’re paying for and that’s certainly what they get.

  18. Keisha says:

    I’m just starting to test the waters for paid blogging assignments. Your post opened my eyes to the possibilities and the downfalls of blogging for pay. It helps to get insight on how to negotiate. Actually, getting paid $50 per post is very appealing to me. Even so, I agree that you have to know what you’re bringing to the table so you don’t leave with crumbs.

  19. Bummer – but good for you for sticking to your guns. As an interior designer, I have learned over the years that a bad client is worse than no client at all. I have a rate, and that rate does not waver, I simply am not willing to leave the toddler with a nanny for people who don’t respect my expertise. I have a great portfolio, happy clients who pay, and if someone is going to downplay that experience by a low ball offer, then I know they don’t really “get” it. I don’t need that s*@t.

    I will tell you that the biggest fish I ever lost called me back later and begged me to help fix the mess the lower cost designer made. As a blogger, I really appreciate your generosity by sharing this with us – I have no doubt there will be other great stuff happening – you know, for every door that closes, another door opens. mwah xoxo

  20. Jamie says:

    That is a LOT of damn work for just $1,000 and insulting to your value as a professional. I think bloggers must be careful and calculate the actual hours of work that will be expected of them. $1,000 for a day-long event would be fine, but not to launch a website! That is crazy.

    I work 30 hours a week for a publishing company. I do have people ask me if I could quit my job and “just do the blog thing” and right now the answer is no. My husband is a small business owner and our health insurance benefits are through my company. I consider blogging side income and I’m thankful for the opportunities I have had come my way via blogging, but it’s really the whole package that makes it worthwhile…the networking, connections, etc. I would love to get paid big bucks all the time for my social media weigh-in but across the board that is not the norm. (Or at least I haven’t found it to be.)

    Great post!

  21. Jenni Chiu says:

    I’m sorry… did you say “cupcakes”?
    I’ll always write for cupcakes.

  22. Good for you for sticking to your worth! I’m in marketing communications but also have a “mom blog.” I’m appalled at what people will do for a quick buck and what companies will try to get away with. If we stick to our guns, sure they can get someone “cheaper” to do it, but I guarantee they won’t get the quality you would have brought.

  23. Charlene says:

    My favorite conversation with people…
    Them: So what do you do?
    Me: I’m a writer.
    Them: What do you write?
    Me: I write for a couple of different websites. I write a blog for an online women’s magazine and a parenting column among other things for a site owned by AOL.
    Them: Do you get paid?
    Me: Well, yes, don’t you get paid at your job?

    Stupid idiot – do you get paid?!? You didn’t ask me what my hobby was. You didn’t ask me what I aspire to do. You just asked me what I DO.

    It’s amazing that people assume everyone who blogs doesn’t get paid and companies assume that anyone who writes will do it for cheap. Trust me, I’m not making the big bucks, but like you I won’t sell myself short. (At least not too short.) I find myself turning my editor down more and more because of what is expected of an assignment and what they are willing to pay for it.

    I just saw an ad on Craigslist that was looking for 500 word articles for its site and was paying $7 per article. $7 for 500 words are you effing kidding me. It’s beyond insulting. That is why the Internet is filled with such crap.

    $1,000 for that assignment was crap. Good for you for turning it down.

    • ekaba says:

      In defense of the people asking you these questions: They obviously don’t know you too well if they are asking what your occupation is. So, they probably asked if you get paid because there are many many many people who front about their jobs. They use vague terminology and jargon to describe a simple and possibly lowly job, and others tend to call everything that they put work into a job. There are people who volunteer at schools, hospitals, community centers, but call it a job though they don’t get paid. Granted, if they were going to lie about the nature of their “job” then they would also probably lie about whether they get paid or not, but still you see where they may be coming from in asking you that. It is a rude follow question never the less. You should ask them back “why? do you need some money?”

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