Financial Travel Tip #102: Blogging vs Freelance Writing, and Finding Gigs

by Nora on December 13, 2013

 

Although I’ve written about earning money as a travel writer, I haven’t taken the time to differentiate between blogging vs freelance writing. In some cases, there’s no difference. In other cases, the way you structure your business will put you in one camp or the other.

 

Earning Money Blogging

As a blogger, you probably have your own blog, and monetize it in a variety of ways. In so doing, as a blogger you’re not only a writer, but also an editor, publisher, designer, marketer, and entrepreneur.

If you want to learn the ropes of blogging from the ground up (and beyond), check out this post

You might also be paid to write for other blogs.

 

Earning Money Freelance Writing

If you’re a freelance writer, you write for a variety of publications, and often different mediums (ie: print and online; this can include blogging).

 

Blogging is Writing

Let’s get something right, before a hierarchical debate begins: blogging is writing. Blogging is simply a medium for writing, and one that commands its own style and voice. Writers who say there’s a difference between blogging and writing tend to harp on the quality of online writing (blogging) – which admittedly is often substandard to print publications. But not all of it is. Different mediums use different styles of writing, and the budding freelance writer needs to compensate for this.

 

Where to Find Freelance Gigs

I was recently asked about this; I believe the reader was hoping for a website that lists places to get published. Although such lists exist, it’s not quite that simple.

You need to develop a portfolio of writing samples and bylines (articles that you’ve written for other publications). It’s relatively easy to get published online (in comparison to print); the money may not initially be grand, but at least you’ll get something under your belt to pitch bigger publishers with.

This is how I started – but it was also at a time when getting paid (well) for online writing was almost unheard of.

 

In order to find freelance writing gigs themselves, I’ll assume you know what you want to write about (ie: genre and topic ranges that you can write with expertise on). From there, find the publication(s) you want to write for, look for their writers guidelines, and present a well-composed pitch that reflects your writing style, the fact that you’ve read the guidelines and the publication, and are pitching something complementary. You’ve only got a few sentences to wow an editor; a well-written pitch should take about as long to compose as the article you’re hoping to get hired for. 

I found most of my initial freelance gigs by surfing around and hand-picking publications I wanted to pitch to. Remember: hand-picking doesn’t mean being ultra-choosy – it’s a numbers game. Ernest Hemmingway plastered his bedroom with rejection slips before he ever got published. Chances of being published are higher since Hemmingway’s days, but the principle still applies; cast the net wide and expect rejections.

For the ins and outs of travel writing, pitching, and getting gigs, check out How to Become a Travel Writer.

 

Regular Columns vs One-Off Articles

Regular writing gigs are always the way to go if you can get them. You spend less time researching and pitching to editors, and more time getting published (and paid).

Don’t be afraid to try and convert one-off articles into regular gigs; as your first article is being published, pitch another idea to the editor. If you work together well, the editor would rather hire writers they know and can set expectations for.

 

Setting Rates

Three factors influence what you can charge: industry trends, medium, and experience.

Industry Trends: Going-rates are always changing; especially online rates, which have risen dramatically over the last few years. Concurrently, the print industry hasn’t done as well, and in some cases has reduced pay and slashed staff.

Medium: Despite recent trends, print as a medium generally pays more than internet; however this gap appears to be narrowing.

Experience: As you establish credibility in your niche, you can charge rates accordingly. (Note: editors will pay extra for articles from experienced writers).

 

In approximate terms, a lucrative gig in print pays $1/word, and a lucrative blogging gig pays about half that. (These are very general ranges, based on my experience and research; compensation schemes and structures vary dramatically. If anybody has something different to contribute, please respond in the comments).

The above are rates to shoot for, rather than to expect. When you’re getting started, go for gigs that you feel will give you value – if not monetary, then a valuable credit to your portfolio and exposure to new readers.

 

Developing a freelance writing/blogging career takes time; don’t get into it for the fame and fortune!

 

Blogging vs Freelance Writing

Once you remove the “is blogging considered writing” debate, it’s no longer a matter of blogging vs freelance writing; it’s a matter of making them work together. You can be a freelance blogger or a freelance writer or a blogger (for your own blog) or a writer (of your own book). Chances are, you’re a bit of everything.

 

Your freelance writing is great cross-promotion for your blog/website, and vice versa.

If your site is well-trafficked and you have a strong social media presence, editors will favour you for your ability to promote the article to your followings and feature a link to the article on your site. (These are actual points of negotiation with online publishers and sponsors).

Likewise, articles you write for online publications often feature valuable links to your site, allowing you to tap into new and wide audiences.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about getting into freelance writing, I recommend the e-guide Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing to give you ideas, inspiration, and get you started.

Any questions?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kenin Bassart December 13, 2013 at 11:23 am

Great stuff Nora! We’ve been looking into expanding our writing beyond our own blogs and this helps. 🙂

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2 theprofessionalhobo December 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Awesome, Kenin! Happy freelancing! 🙂

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3 Sofie December 13, 2013 at 8:34 pm

So timely;-)

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4 theprofessionalhobo December 14, 2013 at 8:58 am

I aim to please! 😉

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5 Steve December 14, 2013 at 3:00 am

Thank you Nora. I have found this post useful and has given me food for thought.

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6 theprofessionalhobo December 14, 2013 at 8:59 am

Brilliant, Steve! Happy writing…

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7 Lisa Bonnice December 14, 2013 at 10:27 am

Thanks, Nora! I’m still trying to figure out how to pull off what I’m trying to do, a one-time, three-month trip to the UK. I’m not looking to make a career out of travel writing, but I’d sure like to find a way to pay for the trip that I’ll be writing about. Your blogs are really helpful. Thanks for sharing your expertise. 😀

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8 theprofessionalhobo December 15, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hi Lisa – Glad you found this helpful! For a trip as short as three months, building up a writing career is TOTALLY not worth it in my opinion. (My writing business took about two years to build to the point where it could support three months of travel).
Then again, far be it for me to say it’s a bad idea, especially if you are passionate about writing and prepared to apply yourself to it as a business.

Personally, for a trip as short as three months (and I know it might sound long, but it will FLY), I would simply save up for it and enjoy your time on the road. If you have to spend half that time (or more) working, your one-time once-in-a-lifetime trip might not be so magical.

Just my humble two cents….

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9 eemusings December 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Agreed! For such a short trip you will want to spend your time travekling not working, marketing and wondering where your next gig will come from.

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10 Explorista December 16, 2013 at 11:28 am

This is a nice balanced piece, thank you. I’ve been a freelance journalist in my native language for two years now, and am definitely thinking about how I can expand my career (across borders?). I would like sustain myself while traveling (thinking at least 6-8 months and possibly indefinitely), a professional hobo if you will ;-), so today I’ve spent my time figuring out what I want my life and career to look like in a couple of years time. I’m blessed to have a job that could be done anywhere in the world (not the way it is now, but if I change my focus, it will be), it would be a shame to not take advantage of that ;-)!

Am definitely checking out the rest of your blog, I think I’m going to like it a LOT.

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11 theprofessionalhobo December 17, 2013 at 9:11 am

Hi Explorista – Great! If you want a great introduction to my content as well as some great travel ideas, you may want to check out my free e-course: http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/how-to-travel-full-time-in-a-financially-sustainable-way/
Happy travels!

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12 Anna January 2, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Excellent post, very helpful. I am mulling over turning my expat-ish blog into more of a backyard travel blog, and possibly partnering up with Russia’s/Moscow’s Travel Ministry to help promote travel here, plus finding various travel and general-interest publications. Of course it would only be a part-time thing for me – I love my job, plus I can leverage it for this semi-pro-blogging endeavor, if I do follow through on it.

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13 theprofessionalhobo January 2, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Hi Anna,
I think that’s a great idea! You already have access to a market the Russian Tourist Boards want to reach, which means you can continue to provide valuable content – on your blog and in freelance publications, that benefits them too (and your pocket book as well)!

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14 Leann October 16, 2014 at 1:16 am

Thanks Nora, A very helpful article with practical advice (as usual)! Just a question regarding the ‘ownership’ of an article. In your experience, if you write and are paid for an article, does this mean that you cannot also include the article on your own blog? Perhaps there are no specific rules about this and it is something that is negotiated with prior to an agreement being reached, I don’t know. I understanding the linking to each others’ pages/publications but not sure about how exclusive an article is to be. Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom 🙂

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15 Nora Dunn October 16, 2014 at 10:31 am

Hi Leann,
Great question! It depends on the arrangement you have with the publisher. In most cases online publications require the sole rights to the article, at least for a certain period of time. Sometimes you can reprint/resell the article to other mediums (such as print or digital magazines).
From what I understand, having duplicate content online doesn’t do either site any favours, and in some cases can lead to penalties. For example on my own site if another publication wants to reprint an article I’ve published, I only allow syndication: a reprint of up to 200 words from the article with a link to the original.
Many online publishers won’t make their terms and conditions clear unless you clarify specifically with them – which is always a good thing to do.
Hope this helps!

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16 Leann October 17, 2014 at 1:03 am

Thanks for the reply Nora. Some good points clarified for me that I hadn’t even thought of. Much appreciated and keep up the so very detailed posts; I feel I am learning so much from the specifics that you include in your articles. 🙂

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17 Yogesh Shinde March 20, 2017 at 11:51 am

Hey Nara,

I think blogging is a long-term journey and freelancing is a short-term. If you want to build a long-term earning resource then you should be blogging and if you want to short-term earning sources you should freelance.

Blogging is very though because you have to wear many hats on the other hand freelancing gives you freedom to earn from what you are master at.

Thanks for this wonderful article Nara.

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18 Nora March 22, 2017 at 6:49 pm

Hi Yogesh,
Very interesting analysis. And it’s true – blogging involves many different tasks and skill sets, but it can also give you multiple streams of income, including more passive income streams – once you’ve established the blog, which can take some time.
Whereas freelancing is more like trading time for money – and depending on your freelancing skills, you can get paid well right off the bat (as opposed to as a writer, where it takes time to land gigs and develop enough experience/skill to get paid well).

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