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Is Your Favorite Freelance Writing Blogger Everything They Say They Are?

Read Time: 3 min

If you read freelance writing blogs to help yourself create a better career then I've got news for you. Not every blogger out there (in any niche) is everything they say they are which means you could be using untested or bad advice. Consider those MLM bloggers who talk about how much money you can make with their awesome pyramid.. er... multi-level marketing schemes... er... strategies. You know without even venturing into their realm that they are full of it.

Hopefully, you realize that the same is true about many of the freelance writing, marketing, and social networking blogs out there. But which ones are full of it and which ones aren't? In fact, how do you even know that I am a real freelance writer with what you would consider a successful career versus someone who's just a poser? Would you want my advice if my career sucked? I hope not and sheesh, to some of you my career probably does, so maybe you should stop reading... but then you don't really know what camp you fall in, do you? Don’t you owe it to yourself to try to get to know your bloggers before you start taking their advice?

3 Easy Ways to Do Due Diligence Before Taking a Blogger's Advice (hahaha, I said doo-doo)

  1. Check out your advising bloggers’ portfolio sites, client lists and by-lined articles. Are they good? Are they professional? Do they have evidence of a career that you would like to emulate within your own specialty? For me, I want to take career advice from people whose careers are on par with mine or who are doing better. I did community theater for years. Do you think that means Sir Ian McKellen wants to read my acting advice blog post? Yeah, probably not, but someone new to community theater might.
  2. Look for bloggers who give examples with their advice. Do your favorite bloggers include personal anecdotes with their advice so you can see how they found out their advice worked or why they give it—or are they just parroting the same old tired advice given by everyone else? Personally, I want bloggers who talk from experience, not from reading other people’s blog posts. I want to know why something did or didn't work for them so I can get a better feel about how it will work for me. I'm a different person--maybe it will work better. Or, maybe I see enough similarities that I recognize how it won't work.
  3. Are they keeping it real? A “real” blogger is going to have ups and downs. Someone who is trying to be honest and not just paint a rosy picture is going to share their ups and downs with you—maybe not in specific detail but it will come out in their posts. Bloggers who are trying too hard to present a certain one-dimensional image are not being honest with you at least on a personality level, so what else are they not being honest about?  I always wonder if these bloggers are coming from a place of insecurity. If they are, I totally get it, but maybe I don't want to take my career advice from them. And if they are doing it so they can promote their product, well, then I certainly don't want their bias limiting my career.

So take a few minutes and think about all the traits you want in a blogger and then do some due diligence to make sure your favorite bloggers measure up. Or don't. Oh crap, I'm being wishy-washy... the number one trait I don't want in bloggers I get advice from.

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17 thoughts on “Is Your Favorite Freelance Writing Blogger Everything They Say They Are?”

  1. I think one of the worst industries for clueless bloggers giving bad advice is actually search engine optimization. It’s scary when clients come around asking you to keyword stuff at ridiculous levels, write content that doesn’t make sense for ranking purposes, etc. because they heard it from some wannabe SEO guru who has no long-term real world experience to back them up (or maybe they’re visiting us from the past).

    And absolutely right about where you get career advice — it’s always better to get advice from people who are where you want to be someday and not those who are doing the same work you are right now. If your goal is to be a $10k per year writer, a $40k per year freelancer is someone you might want to pull info from. If your goal is to be a $50k per year writer, that freelancer can’t give advice on something they can’t do themselves. The more you want, the narrower your target bloggers should be (when it comes to taking serious advice — there’s no harm in reading other blogs just for shits and giggles, and some of them are quite good for that).

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  2. This is really great advice, and not just for writers. Fitness advice from someone who isn’t in shape? Parenting advice about teens from someone who’s raising babies & toddlers? It’s definitely out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s useful!

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  3. Unfortunately some people are good at putting up false fronts, and they know a lot of readers will be too thrilled to hear whatever they wanted to hear to actually do any research (“Lose ten pounds in the next ten minutes???” Oh anonymous blogger with no credentials, I’ll follow you anywhere!). I think the overall “guru” phase has been called out enough these days that most people should know better. And in the long run the real subject matter experts usually come out on top and the rest expose themselves for the frauds they are. It’s just sad that people, their careers, their health, etc. get hurt in the meantime.

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  4. Very good post. I’d add one thing to the list–are they offering some sort of support for their claims (at least most of the time) or are they just asserting that they know THE way.

    I’ve found that the real experts in almost every field are also the ones most likely to entertain opposing arguments and to adjust their perspectives in the face of strong contrary evidence.

    Jennifer is right about SEO blogs, btw. I don’t claim to be an SEO wizard, but I am constantly working to maintain and improve a knowledge base re: how it relates to the various things I do. I often encounter complete and utter nonsense from some of those folks–and the clients who “learned” from them.

    I think it’s natural for bloggers to emphasize their positives instead of their struggles–after all, the posts reach potential clients, too. However, one usually can conduct a “sniff test” that reveals the BS artists for what they are.

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  5. I’m a big fan of discussing struggles as well as successes when it comes to business. Without both sides, you present a flat, unattainable half-reality that people can’t really apply to their own situation.

    The “look how much I do for you, please love me” (constant need for validation) and “oh poor me, someone disagrees with me so they’re so mean” (self-proclaimed martyr) approaches disgust me. There are freelance writing bloggers who do it. There are a LOT of marketing folks who do it. And I’m sure it happens in other niches as well. Fortunately there are also straight-shooters in each niche, who present different sides to different issues. It’s fine to be firm in what you believe as long as you’re being honest about why you believe it (not deleting past posts to hide that you changed your mind for example). And there’s nothing wrong with opposing viewpoints as long as they’re based in reality. In fact, I love it when people change their mind about something (and love it even more when they’re able to make a smart case for something and change MY mind about something). I think what’s important when that happens is to let your readers know why you changed your opinion about something, especially if you were vocal about the issue in the past. You might just convince them too.

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  6. That’s really the hallmark of any good professional discussion, right? A willingness to entertain opposing points of view in an effort to reach the best conclusions.

    It’s unfortunate, but so many people get wrapped up being Absolutely Right that they’re unwilling to listen and/or to really respond to what others are saying. They’ve invested too much in Being Right than in Getting it Right.

    I’m with you… I like a good debate. I like winning them, but I like learning from them even more. And I actually enjoy it when someone presents an argument that really makes me think, reconsider my position, or that changes my outlook on things.

    I’ll be a kiss-ass here for a second and mention the position I’ve seen You and (I think) you, Jennifer, take on the issue of residual earnings and the time value of money. While well-acquainted with the idea, I never really applied it to that particular context before. Doing so led me to reconsider some of my perspective–particularly in how I might assess certain projects that have cumulative long-term earnings as opposed to more immediate front-end payouts, etc.

    In any case, there’s room to fight, room to learn, etc. I think the better bloggers do this. The weaker ones trumpet their talking points ad nauseum.

    Back to work!

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  7. On another note, there’s an easy way to weed out some of the phonies. Just follow the money. If their blog is monetized, take a look at where that money comes from and see if it corresponds to the editorial content. If all I did was push my e-book in every post then I’d like to think AFW readers would be quick to wise up and get the hell out of here. The same would be true if a blogger always sent people to a certain network or bidding site that they’re earning from, wrote about what sponsors told them to, or tried to constantly give “advice” just to push one affiliate product after another. Advice is a good thing when it’s valid to the target audience (and not every blog in a niche targets the same audience). Money is also good. But advertising has no place in determining editorial aspects of a blog, and it’s probably the biggest and most obvious warning sign that a blogger might not be that credible on the advice front.

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  8. “If your goal is to be a $10k per year writer, a $40k per year freelancer is someone you might want to pull info from. If your goal is to be a $50k per year writer, that freelancer can’t give advice on something they can’t do themselves.”

    I agree with this, but I think it’s important to point out that many, many writers are rather secretive about what they actually earn in a year. There isn’t a lot of transparency in the industry although I’ve seen a few brave souls come out and state publicly what they made so that others know who to follow.

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  9. @Rebecca you are totally right–and no one should feel obligated to post their income just to satisfy a reader’s curiosity. I just tend to look at the types of gigs they have and you can sometimes get an idea of whether they are on the high or low end of the payscale–but it’s not a perfect formula, obviously. I like to use LinkedIn as well. I wrote a different version of this article on my now defunct blog about 8 months ago and actually mentioned LinkedIn as one of the places to research a blogger. But it was pointed out to me that not everyone uses LinkedIn, so maybe it wasn’t quite as fair a barometer.

    Also, as far as income, there are people who I consider successful that have low incomes because they are in a dual income family and don’t NEED to earn much. They take on a few assignments that pay really well and they don’t seek more. Their blogs are great resources even if their income isn’t impressive.

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  10. @Yo – If you’re referring to my snippy LI comment, it was more that not everyone uses them for recommendations, so not having any up there doesn’t mean they’re not recommended. You have to look at their professional site too (the most natural place to keep them). 😛

    @Rebecca – I know I never give out total yearly earnings, and I don’t know many freelancers who do. A lot of them do publish their rates, discuss things in terms of hourly earnings, and some share monthly earnings (our contributor Chris Bibey used to do a great series on that which I know new writers found really inspiring). At the same time, you can look at some of their past gigs if they do bylined work. Someone writing for a content mill obviously isn’t getting paid as much as someone managing a corporate blog or blogging for a major niche outlet. So there’s enough information to get a feel for most folks. The exception would be the commercial writers (and others who ghostwrite) unless they have the portfolio and testimonials up to verify what they’ve done.

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  11. Small tangent before I make my comment – there is something wrong with the format of the comments now that the 2 websites have merged, so if my reply looks odd…

    Thanks for addressing this topic. Believe me, I think a lot of us have realized that sometimes we are taking advice from a moron and decide to stop following a blog or blogs, and it is for the exact reasons that you list. Here are a few reasons that I have dropped or stopped following a blog (after it happens a few times) – apologize if I get off track, these things make me angry/also I am using real life examples from a blog that I dropped:
    • Not only the advertising on a website, but endorsing a product that you know can and will exploit beginning freelancers (My favorite? Demand Studio advertisements AND then the bloggers tell the readers that it is a great way to make a living – maybe as the advertiser they will make money, but not doing the actual writing or editing. When I see bloggers doing that I know the person is out to exploit the readers. I could tolerate the advertisement, but then pushing it on someone in every other post? Come on.
    • Telling your readers something like this: “I am a “business” expert, but whoa is me! The average freelancer and I are destined to make $5/ hour (now insert plug as to why Demand studios is great to earn $5/hour” I scratch my head and think, um, is the blogger an expert in flipping burgers?
    • A blogger on the same website with the above two examples interviewed her top client. The client then went on about how he would never hire writers who charge X per hour…and those types of writers have big fat heads or something along those lines. (Here is the kicker, though, I earned the amount per hour that the so-called client said was too high…and this is within 1 year of freelancing….so I doubt anyone on that website was going to teach me anything). God help the new freelancer who decides that it is a good model to follow, though.

    I’ve also wondered how those websites keep readers…wouldn’t the average person move on after a few months?

    To be honest, I think it was the first thing that ticked me off: exploiting and profitting from the readers. Point #2 and #3 just demonstrated that they had a hard time in their so-called writing business.

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  12. And out of curiosity, what’s wrong with comments since the merge? Most seem to come through fine, so I haven’t noticed. I’ll be working on the back-end later, so if I know what’s wrong I’ll try to take a look and see if I can fix it.

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  13. Re: comments since the merge

    Feel free to delete this if it gets fixed, or if it is a problem perhaps just with me and not others.

    I’m not sure if this is the best way to explain it or not. First, everything else on the blog looks normal (eg articles….article is only on the white, with the article not appearing on the blue section on the right).

    The comments, however, go further beyond and appear in part of the region in the blue.

    In addition I don’t see the name of the poster’s anymore (not that I needed to see that). I am pretty sure tat you are, though because you are responding to posters by name.

    Other than reading, I often can’t tell where one person’s comments versus another person

    This may just be one problem relating to formating.

    Also it could just be me.

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  14. @Wolfster Well, a writer who thinks that $5 or even $25 per hour is the most a writer can make and has a client who thinks that writers with an expertise who charge what they are worth have “big heads” is probably on the wrong track career-wise. Hopefully they’ll wise up–after all I remember my first writing blog and how excited I was to be writing for sites like Associated Content and Demand Studios. It wasn’t THAT long ago (a little over a year) and I realized how wrong I was–and I’m not even that sharp so there’s hope for everyone!

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  15. @Wolfster — I can’t replicate the problems. The comments display fine for me. Try to clear your cache in your Web browser and then load a post page. You might have a cached version with formatting issues if you visited it while I was making changes to template files or something. If that doesn’t work, let me know what browser you’re using (and what version of it) so I can try to test the site on the same version of that browser and see if it’s a browser issue I can fix in the stylesheet or if it seems to only be happening on your machine for some reason.

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  16. Sound advice. I made a lot of referral money last year from Examiner, but was terribly up front about how little I made (at least, at that point in time) with my Examiner pages versus the referral income. I think the honesty got others to sign up under me. Bottom line, it’s not half as rewarding to get a referral as it is to write an article.

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