Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’ve been thinking about starting a side hustle, or you’re at home with your kids, and you’re looking for a way to make money. Online. From home.
You’re not interested in trying to sell makeup or juice or bags or essential oils to all your friends, because that would involve, like, interacting with people.
Writing sounds good. So you figure you’ll be a freelance writer.
You start doing your research, and you quickly figure out that you need a website, which is basically the same as a blog, right? So… are you a blogger?
Is there actually a difference between freelance writing and blogging? Are they basically two different ways of saying the same thing? And if they are different things, then which one should you be?
As it turns out, bloggers and freelance writers do have quite a bit in common, but they’re not exactly the same. Let’s take a closer look.
What Bloggers and Freelance Writers Have in Common
Freelance writers and bloggers both write — and they both write with the goal of earning money. That money bit is super-important, because money is a good thing. With money, you can buy food and shelter and iPads and other things.
Blogging is a job, and freelance writing is a job, but they aren’t the kind of J-O-B where you go to an office and have a boss. Instead, they work as independent contractors. This is a fancy way of saying, “You’re on your own, baby!”
As in, you have to find your own work, find the place to do that work, and get the equipment you need to do that work.
You can probably get by with a laptop, an internet connection, and a comfortable place to sit. (The seat is optional. I actually work on a treadmill desk. Really!)
Freelance writers and bloggers also have to handle all the administrative work that goes along with being in business — for example, paying taxes, sending invoices to clients, and then following up to be sure the client actually sends the check.
Broadly speaking, those are the major similarities between bloggers and freelance writers. Now let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
What Is A Blogger?
A blogger is someone who writes online, either for her own blog or for someone else’s. Typically, she writes about one specific topic, which could be absolutely anything: knitting, pet care, food, digital marketing, organizing, science — seriously, anything. Name a topic, no matter how specific, and you can find at least one blog about it.
A blogger is an expert in her niche. Whatever it is that she writes about, she knows that topic as well as she knows which of her children will eat Honey Nut Cheerios and which will ONLY eat fish sticks that have been toasted at precisely 200 degrees for 4.8 minutes and then de-breaded, dipped in ketchup AND milk, and served on the Bob the Builder plate.
My point is, girlfriend knows her stuff.
How Do Bloggers Make Money?
How exactly does writing about knitting or pet car or whatever translate into dollars? For our purposes, let’s consider the blogger who has her own blog, rather than one who writes for someone else’s site. Generally speaking, bloggers create multiple revenue streams — which is a fancy way of saying they bring in money through different sources.
What might those various revenue streams include?
- Ads. When bloggers hone in on a specific niche, they can attract people who are extremely interested in the content they create. So they draw in traffic that really cares about, say, knitting, which means that companies that make products or offer services for knitters may be interested in advertising on the blog.
- Sponsored posts. Bloggers might also be asked to write about a specific product or service in a sponsored post. The blogger is paid to write about her experience with the product or service.
- Selling products and services. Many bloggers also sell their own related products and services — for example, our knitting blogger might offer some of her hand-knit products for sale. She might also offer patters for sale. Or, she might create a course on how to sell hand-knit items on Etsy.
- Affiliate sales. In addition to selling their own products and services, bloggers might also offer products and services created by other people, in exchange for a commission on each sale. Large sites such as Amazon pay a small commission on items purchased through a blogger’s links, and other bloggers might also have courses, products, and services they want to sell — again, in exchange for a commission.
What Is A Freelance Writer?
A freelance writer is someone who writes for others — companies or individuals — on a per-project basis, for money.
Freelance writers do a lot of different things, depending on their interest and abilities. Some freelance writers write blog posts — for their own blogs, and for other blogs. Some freelance writers specialize in blog posts for businesses.
Some writers focus on articles for print and online magazines, and others write technical manuals and software user guides.
You can find writers in almost any area you can imagine: corporate marketing materials, ebooks, white papers, press releases, and so on.
How Do Freelance Writers Make Money?
The primary difference between freelance writers and bloggers is apparent in how they make money. Like bloggers, freelance writers can have multiple streams of income, but typically, those “streams” come in the form of different clients.
For example, in the past year, I’ve written an ebook for an Australian Agile consultant, technical white papers for a US managed services provider, blog posts for a tech startup, and a software user guide for an app developer. Each client contracted with me for a specific project, and each project was its own, independent income stream. (By the way, I got a lot of these projects by pitching clients on Upwork, which is a super-easy way to get started.)
Which Path Is Right For You?
The best part about building your own business is that you get to make all the decisions. You get to decide if you want to be a freelance writer, a blogger, or both!
But how do you know which path is right for you?
Well, you need to think about how you want to spend your time. Do you want to work with clients, writing the things that they specifically need (those press releases, ebooks, articles, and so on) about the topics they are interested in? If the idea of writing a lot of different kinds of material and learning a lot about different topics appeals to you, then freelance writing could be an excellent choice.
If you know that the ONLY thing you want to write about is knitting, on the other hand, then blogging is probably the route you want to take. If you want to be the one who decides exactly what you’re writing and when you’re writing it, then you’re more suited for blogging than you are for freelance writing.
I Want It All!
Look, the tagline at Successful Freelance Mom is “Because we can have it all.” So if you want to be a blogger AND a freelance writer, I am totally in favor of that decision. Remember, it’s YOUR business, and you get to do WHATEVER YOU WANT.
If you’re doing this in order to make money, however, it’s important to have a clear plan, and to be strategic with your choices.
For example, let’s say that you’re interested in writing for health coaches. It might make sense for you to blog about the issues health coaches face when building a business, getting clients, and so on. And you might offer some related products — templates that health coaches could purchase and personalize, for example.
Or, if you’re interested in writing for tech startups, you could blog about effective workflows, evaluating user experience in app development, and other topics that would be highly relevant to tech startups.
You probably wouldn’t want to blog about localization of apps if your market is new health coaches who work with pregnant women.
For close to 15 years, I worked exclusively as a freelance writer doing the kind of work I mentioned above — ebooks, white papers, user guides, and other materials for businesses, mostly in technical fields. During that time, I had a personal blog that was completely disconnected from my business. I wrote about my kids, particularly about the experience of rearing my special needs son.
My blog and my business were not even remotely related; I never thought of my blog as anything other than an online journal, and it was never designed to make any money. If you want that kind of blog, that’s totally okay — mine was an important part of my life and my mental health for many years.
If you don’t know my story, you might not know that in 2013, I had to shut down my business when my son was diagnosed with leukemia. When I started working again in late 2016, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do, and I decided to start working with moms who wanted to get started in freelance writing but didn’t know how.
(That sentence makes it sound like there was a very organized thought process. The reality was a lot of crying on my kitchen floor, but hey! Details!)
Successful Freelance Mom is about supporting moms who are just learning about freelance writing. The content here is designed to support you as you learn about the different types of writing you can do — and get paid for. I don’t use ads on my site, and so far I don’t sell other people’s products for commissions. I do offer limited coaching spots, and several times a year, I offer my own course. You can build a model just like this.
In the meantime, what are your biggest questions about freelance writing and blogging?