Hello, I’m Lyn Wildwood. I’m a freelance WordPress blogger, and I’ve been commissioned by the folks at Weglot to discuss my writing journey in this niche. I’m a blogger by profession, which naturally means I primarily produce blog content, but I’ve also produced ghostwritten marketing material for a few companies here and there. My credited work can be seen on such sites as MH Themes, WPKube, WPLift, Design Bombs, WP Mayor and even Elegant Themes once upon a time.
This isn’t so much a post about my own writing career as it is an insight into the careers and behind the scene workings of the many bloggers working in the WordPress niche. With that said, I cannot speak for all bloggers, especially not when many of them are far more experienced than I am. I can only share my thoughts, opinions and personal experiences.
If you’re looking for a good guide to start your own blog, I highly recommend this How-to from Design Bombs.
Without further ado, I am Lyn Wildwood, and this is my story.
How I Became a Freelance Writer
Similar to most writers, I got into freelance writing for the money. Not “buy a Lamborghini” money, but enough to pay the bills (or a small fraction, at least). It wasn’t a new ambition. I don’t have any formal education or credentials, but I’ve been writing since I was a kid and have always received compliments on my work from friends, family, teachers and peers. So, as uncertain as I was to get into the world of freelancing over trying to find a “real job,” I didn’t feel as though I were treading through uncharted territory.
I got my start on a site called oDesk, which many of you probably now know as Upwork through oDesk’s merger with Elance. I also periodically wrote for a content mill known as CrowdSource (now called OneSpace) at the time. Both sites offered similar, one-off writing jobs that didn’t pay much, but they gave me and many other freelancers chances to get our feet wet in the pool of online employment.
My “big break,” if you could call it that, was working for a German company that owned a few coupon sites where I spent my working hours writing 750-word descriptions for the hundreds of shops these sites offered coupons for.
How I Got Into the WordPress Niche
The German coupon company brought steady work for two years, but naturally, they eventually ran out of shops to write descriptions for. Freelancing provides as much freedom as it does restrictions no matter what type of work you do. As amazing as setting your own hours and having a say in every aspect of your work are, it can be difficult to shake the feeling of being constantly unemployed at times.
That’s where I was when I allowed myself to be spoiled by the back-to-back years of steady work the coupon company provided. I was left scrambling trying to find new clients to replace the income I had lost. I also learned a hard lesson in the downsides of copywriting, which is essentially ghostwritten marketing content. I had written hundreds of posts on those sites but wasn’t credited for any of them due to the nature of copywriting. Basically, I had nothing to show potential clients when they asked for “at least three examples of my published work.”
So, how did I get to WordPress from there? Throughout my time writing for the coupon company, I was following a few experienced freelance writers trying to learn and soak up as much information about the industry as I could in hopes of finding a sliver of the success they had. One of these was a blogger I’m sure many of you have heard of—Tom Ewer. He even has a post published on this very blog. It was his story about going from working for his father to writing for some of the most popular blogs in the WordPress industry that inspired me to give this niche a try.
My First Article
Whether you’re out or inside the WordPress niche, one skill you’ll need to pick up as a freelance blogger is WordPress. Not PHP, HTML, CSS and all that jazz. You only need to learn it well enough to know how to publish a blog post with images and basic formatting. Aside from following a few tutorials to build a basic “Hello, world!”-styled website with HTML and CSS a few years back, this was as far as my experience with WordPress went at the time. However, of all of the niches I could have tried to enter, this one interested me most.
Following a few tips I picked up from my “mentors,” I sent pitches to a few WordPress blogs. Rejections and crickets came pouring in, but I was very fortunate when Oli Dale, founder of WPLift, decided to take a chance on me and allow me to publish my first piece of credited work on his site—The Best Free & Paid Social Sharing Plugins of 2016. That post was published in January 2016, and I’ve worked as a blogger in the WordPress niche ever since.
Freelance WordPress Blogging: Behind the Scenes
I said this post would shift its focus to the behind the scene workings of freelance WordPress bloggers, so I thought it’d be a good idea to take a deeper look at how I find new clients and why I choose to work with the companies I do. The purpose of this is to showcase how I (and other freelance writers) work to those of you who are developers and editors looking to hire writers.
Every writer’s workflow is different from the next. Mine certainly have evolved since I sent my first pitches out in January 2016. I still do pitches and send out cold emails periodically, though the methods I use have become more strategic than times past, while more prolific bloggers, such as Tom, need only attach their bylines to articles.
I can’t emphasize the importance of including your writers’ bylines and links in author blurbs more. The byline allows us to take credit for our work when it comes time to pitch to new blogs as, in my experience, most editors want to see your most recent work as opposed to your best work. The author blurb is really only useful when it includes a link to the author’s portfolio site. This is where competitors who read your content can discover writers they may want to hire.
How I Choose Companies to Write for
I’m most likely to seek out companies who have blogs just active enough to post a few times a month. It’s even better when those posts are written by the owner or someone who works for the company fulltime as this lets me know this company is interested in blogging and could really use the help of a professional to take over their blog.
Here are a few red flags I look out for:
- No Blog – A company with no blog needs to be convinced of the benefits of content marketing and proceed with creating a blog for their website before you can begin working for them. This is sometimes worth it, but these negotiations never go anywhere most of the time. I’ll still send cold emails to these companies, but I won’t make sending pitches to them a priority.
- Byline & Link Offered in Lieu of Payment – I’m a freelance blogger fulltime and take care of most of the bills in the house. Because of this, I, as most freelancers should, steer clear of companies who want to offer “exposure” as payment, especially when most of the companies that offer it don’t have enough of an influence to justify this type of payment.
- Active Blog with Multiple Writers – This may seem like a gold mine, but in my experience, these blogs tend to turn most pitches down as they typically already have at least a month worth of blog posts ready to go. Again, I’ll still pitch to them, but I won’t make them priorities.
Sending a pitch or cold email takes more time than you probably think. I used to copy and paste a generic email to every potential client, but now I spend time researching the site and their blog before I send an email over. This allows me to ensure the pitches I come up with and the examples I send make sense for their blog. List posts are popular, but if they’ve never published them, would they be interested in one as a pitch or an example of my work? Probably not.
Due to the amount of time it takes to send a pitch or cold email, I do prioritize certain blogs over others. Along with considering the frequency at which they publish, figuring out if they pay writers and considering the number of writers they have, I choose blogs that produce high-quality content that engages readers and matches my skill level in WordPress.
Take Weglot, for example. The company works hard to produce a quality translation plugin and API for its customers all while providing amazing customer service. You can see how they extend this into their blog. When they’re not publishing story posts (like this one) that give you insight into one aspect of the web development industry, they’re helping customers use their product better by sharing multilingual and translation tips for multiple content management systems. This is what ultimately inspired me to reach out to their marketing team.
How Well Do I Know WordPress?
Speaking of looking for content that matches my skill level in WordPress, let’s talk about how well I know the CMS. Many bloggers in this niche, myself included, don’t know how to code. I know HTML, CSS, the ins and outs of the WordPress admin, how to use FTP, surface-level PHP, and all that jazz, but I don’t actually know the first thing about producing WordPress themes and plugins from scratch.
This doesn’t affect my ability to create WordPress content or engaging copy designed to convert, but I can understand why it’s a problem for some editors (who are developers by profession) and readers. If you’re targeting a niche audience of developers and want to produce technical content, I’m not the writer for you. Similarly, if you’re a reader only interested in technical content that can help you improve your skills and expertise as a working professional in the WordPress industry, I’m not the writer for you.
A wide variety of content is available in the WordPress niche. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to determine the type of content that’s going to help you achieve your goals with content marketing. It’s also up to you to determine the type of content you’d like to consume.
What Are My Goals with Freelance Blogging?
Ultimately, my goal is to take the skills I’ve acquired as a freelance blogger and use them to run my own blog. Currently, I work with editors and must have everything I write approved by them before it can be published. Before I branch out on my own, I’d like to advance enough in my career to become an editor on a WordPress company’s blog and be in complete control of their content marketing strategy.
Until I achieve these goals, you’ll find my work spread out across the WordPress niche. I hope to see you around sometime.