Lessons Learned from Making Money as a Professional Blogger by Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit Headshot 2012

Unlike many of my fellow journalism-school graduates, I didn’t get a job at a newspaper or a magazine. I knew I wanted to work from home as a freelance writer. I wanted to stay home with my son, and have flexibility to enjoy travel and time with my husband. Without experience, however, it is difficult obtain gigs with magazines and newspapers.

So I looked online.

Online Writing

I began looking for online gigs. When I first started, I mainly wrote articles focused around keywords designed to draw traffic. However, blogging soon became a popular method of marketing, and I began providing content to blogs.

With search engines focusing on fresh content, more and more sites began looking for writers. I wrote for a physics web site, providing original reporting on breakthroughs. I began writing financial content a variety of web sites. I wrote on everything from weddings to investing to window treatments.

Everything was handled from my home office, including interviews with the subjects of my writing. Soon, I was the primary breadwinner – and I spent half the day in my pajamas!

Lessons Learned

While the Internet does provide opportunities to earn money, you do need to be careful. Here are some of the things I’ve learned during the my few years building my freelance business:

  • Create a business plan: When I first started, I didn’t think of my efforts as a business. However, after a couple of years, I realized that a business plan was in order. I had no direction, and things were haphazard. With the help of a CPA, I decided my business should be organized as a LLC, and I began creating a direction for my writing business. No matter what is your business, you will achieve more target growth and results, if you sit down and make a plan.
  • Get it in writing: Make sure that clients agree to your terms. Get it in writing, either via email or hardcopy. There are a number of resources that offer templates you can use as you create agreements. From agreements you make with clients, to agreements you make with employees and contractors, it helps to have something concrete to call on so that everyone is on the same page.
  • Make sure you’re paid: At one point, early in my career, a big client stopped paying. He assured me that the money was on the way, and that I would be paid at any time. $2,000 later, I finally stopped doing the work. I never did get paid. Now, I stop working much sooner. For large projects, I ask for half the money up front. This worked out well recently when a client ignored my final invoice after I finished the work. I’m considering turning the account over to collections, or pursuing it in small claims court. Take precautions, and be willing to stop working on a project when you aren’t compensated as agreed.
  • Networking is key: It really is, in some ways, about who you know. If you want to grow your business, get to know others. Network in person and online. Social media can be a great way to get to know people. I met my business partner through social media, and then we met in person. You can attend networking events and conferences, and connect with people who can help your business grow. Just remember that you need to help others, even as you receive help.

I’ve enjoyed carving out my niche as a personal finance blogger, and I love that I’ve been able to do it without sacrificing time with my family. Plus, it’s something I can do from anywhere – from my basement home office to the destination of my next road trip.


Miranda’s business is Miranda Marquit Freelancing, LLC. She specializes in providing blog content for a variety of financial web sites. In addition to blogging, Miranda has ghostwritten several books, and provides a number of other writing and editing services. She is the co-author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community, and her blog is www.PlantingMoneySeeds.com.

A For-Profit for Nonprofits: Can It Work? By Evelyn Horng

Evelyn Horng picI have always been interested in social causes.  In college, I majored in public policy, and I interned one summer for a nonprofit that organizes done-in-a-day projects for busy people who can’t commit to long term volunteer opportunities.  I also volunteered quite a bit myself – helping to build homes for low income people, pulling out non-native vegetation (aka weeding!), sorting food at a food bank.….

My senior year in college, the obvious set in.  You just don’t make as much money working in nonprofit as you do in the for-profit world.  I envisioned the kind of life I wanted for myself, and the type of funds that would be needed to support it.  And while I never imagined a lavish lifestyle, I just didn’t want to struggle to buy a home in Silicon Valley, or worry about covering all my expenses.

So I entered the corporate world, doing a two-year stint in strategy consulting and then moving on to high tech product management, and climbing the professional ladder.  By the time the kids came around, I started re-thinking how I wanted to spend my time.  I wasn’t quite satisfied in my last job, and I was looking for more….

More personal fulfillment,
More flexible work situation,
More control over what I was doing….

So a co-worker and I started a company called Roonga (www.roonga.com).  Its original goal was to encourage people to share things with their friends and trusted groups.  In doing so, we’d encourage reuse, reduce waste, and help our communities be more sustainable.  But smaller trusted circles made it harder to get rid of things you no longer need, and people didn’t always have the things that you need in these tighter networks.  So recently, we’ve redirected Roonga to work with nonprofits, providing a platform for nonprofits to communicate in-kind needs and building an audience of followers specifically interested in hearing about these.

With the latest turn that Roonga has taken, I feel like I’ve come full circle back to where I started.  We are working with nonprofits to improve the efficiency of their in-kind donations, and to support their causes by opening up their audience.  In the process, I am learning a lot about the local causes in Silicon Valley, and I am having a great time doing this!

However, it remains to be seen whether we can build a successful for-profit company working with nonprofits.  Roonga is a for-profit company – we like the potential of allowing employees to benefit from the company’s success, and we feel it is important to reward talent at competitive for-profit rates.  And for me, I like the self-fulfillment of working for a nonprofit cause, while also still retaining the for-profit mindset.  I’d like to think that we can take the best of both worlds and meld them into Roonga – but we are only at the beginning of our journey and still have a long way to go…..  The future is ahead of us, and we’ll have to see where we end up.

In the meantime, take a look at our nonprofit beta, follow one of our local nonprofits (http://www.roonga.com/nonprofit/#california), and let me know what you think!  Email me at ehorng@roonga.com with any thoughts, suggestions, or feedback.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Evelyn Horng is the co-founder of Roonga, a Silicon Valley startup.  She was previously VP, Product Management, at MLSListings, Inc., and held other product management positions in various high tech companies.  She has a B.A. in Public Policy from Stanford University.  She spends most of her spare time trying to keep up with her two young sons.