A few weeks ago, Mickey shared with us why every blogger should write at least a few guest blog articles. This week, I wanted to share the other side of it: how it is to work with other bloggers who will write an article for your website.
Blogging Apprentice is not some big news website with dozens of employees and bloggers who will produce and promote content at every hour of the day. Blogging Apprentice is just me, Sandrine, chipping time off my schedule to work on this project with the sole purpose of helping other bloggers get out there. Right now, Blogging Apprentice really is a work of love - it's making enough money to cover basic costs but in order to get more, I should put more time into it... which I might just start doing, some time soon.
Why and how Blogging Apprentice works with guest bloggers
Blogging Apprentice started as a side project to teach starting bloggers how to handle social media, email marketing, getting traffic and "al the things" that need doing when you have a blog. As a (former) virtual assistant and social media manager, I have so much experience to share, so why not create a website just for that?
Soon though, it became boring.
Although I love helping people, and I'm pretty passionate about online marketing, it became harder and harder to find new topics to write about. And as I was looking at the results, I didn't feel like it was covering enough. Starting a blog is very simple, but so incredibly complex at the same time; I wanted other writers to share their experiences as well.
How to reward guest bloggers for their efforts?
Payment (in money!)
Paying others to write an article for your blog is technically called copywriting. Personally, I don't see this as "guest" blogging; most guests wouldn't want money to come to your website, talk about a subject they're an expert in, and leave their contact details so readers can follow them to their own website.
Bartering - writing an article in return, or offering other services
99% of the guest articles I've written AND published have been part of a bartering deal.
When I just started out, I would offer others an article of mine in exchange for an article of theirs. I wrote about Instagram, working from home, Facebook, social media, living off the grid in Spain, chickens, and much more.
These cooperations were always very satisfying for me: it would get (some) extra traffic to my website, create new connections with other online entrepreneurs, and gain new experiences blogging. In short, I would definitely recommend this kind of barter deals.
These days, I have more services to offer than just writing - most guest bloggers for Blogging Apprentice get a coaching call to help them with Facebook, launching a course, promoting their blog and much more.
Publishing the article is the reward!
As a guest blogger, I've done this a few times - being able to publish an article on a (much) bigger website is the reward, as it will get you traffic + connections + experience.
Make sure the agreement is crystal clear though - once, for me, this turned into a bad experience when the website owner took all the pretty pictures I provided her with, turned them into promotional images and pins for her website, but never published my actual article (which meant I never got any traffic or other kind of positive outcome from this cooperation.
This one bad experience was just that, one bad experience - I've had so many good ones as well! Most recently, when I published a post about finding content for Facebook on TinyLoveBug.
Where and how to find guest bloggers?
You can find guest bloggers everywhere... from writing people a personal email to Facebook groups that have been created for the sole purpose of exchanging blog posts. You can also add a page to your website where readers can read all about
My favourite way to find guest bloggers on a certain topic, is by asking in a Facebook group that's specifically about that topic. When I was looking for virtual service providers to share their experience, I posted a call-up in my favourite group for VAs; and when I was curious to hear more from actual blogging apprentices, only one group came to mind - Blogging for New Bloggers.
How to work with guest bloggers - from first contact to finished article
Although I've been working with (fellow) guest bloggers for a few years now, the gist of what follows comes from a recent experience I've had.
The back story
I posted a call-up to find guest bloggers for Blogging Apprentice in a group, expecting 3-5 reactions as usual; instead, over a hundred enthusiastic starting bloggers offered their writing skills. Now THAT is when you really learn what works and what doesn't work... and make mistakes you probably wouldn't make another time.
It took me a bit of time, but I went through every website, read a few blog posts from every applicant, and sent every single one a message back after that. A few didn't seem to ever have heard of spelling or grammar, and got a nice but form "no thank you from me"... and I was left with 89 people who all had something of value to contribute to Blogging Apprentice.
How to agree on a topic & get started
The first and most important thing for me was to choose what the blogger would write about. I like to make sure it's something the other blogger is passionate about and / or that would appeal to their ideal audience; at the same time, it has to fit my own website.
I like to agree on a specific title for a blog post before the guest blogger starts writing. It seems simple enough if the blogger says they're going to write about "work-life balance"; however, they could come back to you with anything from fitting a blog around a large family, to blogging with a newborn, from tips and techniques to fight the overwhelm to productivity methods. Agreeing on a specific title is one way to know what the blog post will be about.
At Blogging Apprentice, we also have a document called "Guest Blogging Guidelines". They include something about our audience (you, dear blogging apprentices!), our style (it's all about the reader, not the writer), how we format the articles, the basics of search engine optimisation,... This saves me time explaining what it is I'm looking for in an article, and saves us both some heartbreak in case the article turns out to be not what I was looking for.
A third important aspect to agree on is a date by which the blog could be published. I'm rarely in a hurry - blogging should be FUN and not something you do on a deadline! However, since Blogging Apprentice's content plan is often set months in advance, knowing when a guest blogger will turn in their copy for review can help fit the article in the plan.
Communications with guest bloggers
This really shouldn't be hard - usually, my 3 golden rules are
- To reply to emails within 48 hours
- To let people know when I'm planning to publish the article
- To let the guest blogger know when the blog post is online.
However, imagine doing that when 89 people have questions, comments, changing deadlines etc... I failed big time. I'm not quite sure why I didn't see it coming. It didn't go any better when a client's launch went way better than expected (leaving me with lots more work), my own membership was launched, and more clients came knocking and asking for quick help... After all, actual clients bring in the actual money!
I ended up setting up a mailing list for the guest bloggers of Blogging Apprentice - and keeping them up to date (in broad lines) that way. That, and trying to catch up with dozens of extra emails every week...
The process: from draft to finished article
This is where it does get tricky.
Did you think guest blog posts are "the easy way out", as they cost less time than writing a blog post myself? Think again.
As soon as we agreed on a topic, I set up
When a guest blogger sends in a first draft, first I'll transfer it to a Google Doc, and have a quick look at it.
- Is it about the topic we agreed it'd be about? Sounds straightforward, it isn't always the case.
- Does it follow style & format guidelines? If not, I'll add in a few blank lines, turn the titles into H2 and put in a few comments about the style if necessary.
- Did the writer use keywords, have clear titles, not too many (but not too few!) links, etcetera?
If it looks good, I'll send it on to Sarah who will make sure it's all in correct English... either American, British or even Australian.
We make suggestions in the Google Doc. After that's done, I send the link to the writer - they can either accept or reject the suggestions... or make other suggestions instead. Most of the times, these are small grammar and spelling mistakes or typos, a bit of clarification here and there,... Nothing to fuss about, and usually quick to fix.
Uploading and scheduling
Then comes the last bit, which I personally enjoy the most: exporting the blog post to SquareSpace (no, we're not on Wordpress because yes, I just love SquareSpace), creating and inserting graphics, and put in the last bits which will make the article "perfect".
Full disclosure: I published this article because something went wrong with the original article that got posted this morning... and I decided to pull it and schedule it at a later date (and after I'd be able to make some extra changes to the website). I realised that instead of messing up the whole content calendar, hurrying to get another article ready to publish today, I actually really wanted to share the story of how Blogging Apprentice articles get made. Hopefully, it's something that you can appreciate - and use when you're working with guest bloggers yourself!