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How I Built My Business with No Money to Spend

How I Built My Business with No Money to Spend

By Pat Flynn on

This is a guest post by Paul Cunningham of

In 2008 I was standing at a cross roads in my journey as an online entrepreneur. My wife and I had one child already and a second one on the way. We were also getting ready to sell our apartment and move into the new family home that we were building.

To say money was tight would be an understatement. We were literally counting our money to the last dollar and starting to make a list of people we could stay with if the new house wasn’t ready in time.

Meanwhile, I was working on my blogs outside of my day job hours and trying to build them into a viable online business. I knew I needed to do it without spending a single dollar of our savings, but my blogs weren’t making any money yet.

The Revenue Stream That Saved My Business

The solution to my problem came at just the right time, in a way that I totally was not expecting. I spotted an ad on the Problogger Job Board for a tech blog that wanted to hire freelance bloggers to write for them. I decided I had nothing to lose by applying, and so I sent them an email with a brief overview of my experience and some links to blog posts I had written recently.

I wound up getting the job and a week later I submitted my first post to their blog. I wrote one new post each week and at the end of the first month I sent them a PayPal invoice and they paid me. I still remember how excited I was when that first payment came in.

I went on to write two posts each week for different blogs. The pay rates varied from blog to blog and each month was a little different than the last, but most months I was getting paid at least $600.

In fact in the first year I made over $8000 for what amounted to just a few hours of work each week.

Getting Paid To Blog – Is That Passive Income?

You might be reading this and wondering why I am talking about getting paid to write blog posts.  After all, that doesn’t sound very “passive”, does it?

You’re right, it isn’t.

Freelance blogging is definitely an “active” income stream. But the point of my story isn’t about the freelance blogging income itself; rather it is what I was able to do with it.

If you’ve followed Pat’s blog for a while now you would have noticed that he mentions a variety of different products that he uses, such as:

(Full disclosure – Pat earns a commission if you purchase through a couple of these links)

Not to mention other costs of running his business, like:

All of that costs money, and for me that was money I simply didn’t have until I started freelance blogging. Once I started getting that freelance blogging income each month I was able to start growing my business the way I wanted to.

Freelance blogging paid for all of the products, tools and information I needed to get my business to the next level.

How Freelance Blogging Helped My Business

So how exactly did this money help my business? After all, you can get some pretty good WordPress themes for free and a lot of free information about blogging, marketing and SEO is available if you just know where to look.

That is true, but it wasn’t working fast enough for me. I was spending too much time finding reliable information and not enough time putting it into action. But once I could afford to invest in good tools and information things really started to accelerate for my business.

For example, I had always created my own blog designs. They were basic and did the job but they didn’t look amazing. So I invested in new logos and branding for my two main blogs and quickly saw a positive reaction from my visitors. One of my long-time readers even said that they saw my blog as more authoritative with the new branding.

I was also looking for ways to improve my blog’s ranking using SEO. I watched Pat’s Market Samurai webinar and was excited by how powerful the tool was.  The old, broke me would not have been able to afford to pay for Market Samurai, but instead I was able to buy it and start using it straight away (and start ranking immediately for quality keywords in my niche).

The Ups And Downs of Being a Freelance Blogger

I’ll be honest with you, being a freelance blogger is good money for the work involved. But, it has some bad bits too.

The best part of freelance blogging is simply that when you write a blog post you get paid. No waiting months or years for your blog to become successful before you see any revenue.  Freelance blogging is a nearly instant return for your efforts.

Another great thing is that your job is very simple. You write the blog posts, respond to some comments from readers, and that is pretty much it. Every other aspect of running the blog such as upgrades, comment spammers, link building, ad sales and promotion are someone else’s job.

But it isn’t all easy money either. Freelance bloggers work to deadlines, and that means you need to be disciplined and professional about it. Writer’s block can also be a problem from time to time, but once you set up the right systems to keep generating blog post ideas that becomes a very rare event.

How To Use Freelance Blogging To Finance Your Online Business

So you want to start freelance blogging, and earn some extra income to help build your business. Here is what you do.

First you should establish a portfolio that demonstrates your ability to write good quality blog posts of different styles, formats and topics. If you have your own blog already then all you need to do is make a list of your best blog posts. Otherwise, set up a small blog and write a few samples, it only takes a couple of hours.

Next, work out how much you want to charge. This is actually one of the hardest things for a lot of freelance bloggers to decide on. I like to recommend aiming for roughly the hourly rate of your day job if you have one. Otherwise just start at around $20-$25 for 500 word posts.  Once you get started it is a lot easier to work out where you draw the line between profitable and being too cheap.

Now you can start applying for jobs. There are blogging jobs advertised on sites such as the Problogger Job Board and Elance (now Upwork), but some of the best jobs come by searching for sites that accept direct submissions. Guest posting is another strategy that can land you paid blogging jobs, if you target your guest posts at larger blogs that use freelancers or staff writers already.

Once you have been accepted for a blogging job the only thing you need to do is write good quality blog posts and deliver them to your editor on time. Most blogs will provide you with guidelines for topics to write about and how they like the posts to be laid out. At first the editor might help you adjust your writing a little to suit the blog, but once you get going you should find your posts get accepted without any changes needed. You can even create your own cheat sheets and templates to streamline the process at your end which can really improve the return for your effort.

The last tip I will give you is to make sure freelance blogging doesn’t get in the way of your own business aspirations. There are two strategies you can use for this:

  • Don’t take on too much freelance work. If you have 5 nights each week to work on your business you should only give up one of those, or an hour each of two different nights, for freelance blogging and keep enough time free to keep building your business on the other nights.
  • Avoid creating a conflict of interest by targeting freelance blogging jobs that are in complimentary, rather than competitive niches. Better yet, if you can leverage skills or knowledge that you have that is completely unrelated to your online business, then try to do your freelance blogging on those topics so that you are completely clear of your online business niche.

Freelance blogging helped me build my business to where it is today. Can you think of any ways that a steady revenue stream could help your business grow?

Paul Cunningham is a blogger, internet marketer, and the author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger, the ebook that teaches you how to turn your knowledge and passion into a real income stream (full disclosure – Pat earns a commission if you purchase the book).

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