When it comes to freelance writing, it’s important to be specific about what types of work you’re looking for. One of the main pitfalls writers face is understanding the difference between copywriting and blogging. Both fall under the larger umbrella of “content marketing,” but that doesn’t mean they’re the same.
These terms are often used interchangeably by clients and in job postings, but they both require very different skill sets. You might be suited to one and not the other. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of freelance writing so you can find work that fits your skills.
Blogging is a type of long-form content marketing. While you might find some clients who request short blog posts, a typical blog will usually range from 500-2,000 words.
Blog posts can serve several purposes for a business. For one, if you optimize a blog post for search engines, it can help boost a website’s Google ranking and attract new potential customers to the business.
For another, providing helpful information in a blog post puts your client in a position of authority. This builds loyalty with their readers and can encourage conversions in the future. At the very least, an informative blog post can demonstrate that a business can keep up with, if not surpass, many competitors in their industry that might not have a blog at all.
In order to be a successful blog post writer, you should be able to conduct your own keyword research. Some clients will do that part for you, but it’s good to be prepared just in case you’re on your own. Use tools like Ubersuggest or Keywords Everywhere (both of which you can use for free, by the way) to determine your target keywords so you can incorporate them in your posts.
You should also be up-to-date on all of the latest search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. Your clients will appreciate a basic knowledge of how to make their blog posts successful.
While blog posts are an essential asset to any business with an online presence, they’re not typically the main source of conversions on a business’s website. That’s where copywriting comes in.
The word “copy” refers to writing with an advertising focus – that is, writing that encourages the reader to take an action. While blog posts mainly aim to educate, copy aims to sell. Copywriters use marketing techniques in order to infuse their writing with a sense of urgency, persuading the reader to, for example, sign up for a newsletter or click “add to cart” on an ecommerce website.
Copy can be seen all over the internet, from product descriptions to landing pages to ad text. That makes copywriting a lucrative industry with plenty of opportunities. Almost every business will have a need for copy at some point in their sales funnel and if you can provide it, you’ll always have a diverse pool of clients to choose from.
In order to be a successful copywriter, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, copy is persuasive. If your writing is too salesy or too forceful, it will drive customers away from your client’s business instead of encouraging them. You need to have a solid understanding of marketing and sales tactics in order to create compelling copy.
Much like blogging, it’s also a good idea to have a grasp of SEO best practices if you’re going to be a copywriter. While many copywriters aren’t responsible for optimizing the text they write, it helps to keep search engines in mind as you put your text together (although don’t forget, you’re primarily writing for human readers!).
While blog posts have some flexibility to be a little verbose, copy is concise and to the point. With every extraneous word, you risk losing your reader. Good copywriters can use every sentence to its maximum potential without getting too wordy.
Other Types of Freelance Writing
There are plenty of other types of freelance writing that don’t quite fall under the umbrellas of blogging or copywriting, so if neither of those seem like your style, don’t worry! Here are just a few of the other options you might want to consider:
Bio writing for authors or musicians
Social media posts and ad campaigns
How-to guides and tutorials
Scripts for videos or podcasts
At the end of the day, the type of writing you do doesn’t matter as much as how well you do it. If you know where your skills are strongest, you can carve out a niche for yourself and attract clients who want what you have to offer.
This article contains several affiliate links to brands I know, use, and trust. I receive a small commission when you purchase services through these links.
If you’ve spent any time reading blog articles for either entertainment or research, you’ve probably seen plenty of examples of affiliate marketing at work (though you may not even realize it!).
What is affiliate marketing?
“Affiliate marketing” is the process of linking out to certain products or services in exchange for a small commission. This happens when someone uses your special tracking link to make a purchase. The buyer doesn’t pay more for the product, but you do get a small kickback from the seller for “referring” a new customer to them through your link.
Although the commissions aren’t usually very sizable on their own, they can add up over time, especially as new readers click through your blog posts. It’s a great way to make passive income, or money that you keep earning without having to continue to work for it.
All you need to do is use an affiliate link when you mention a product or service (and disclose when affiliate links are used). When someone clicks on your link and buys the product or service, you earn a percentage of the price. Even smaller blogs can see a little additional income each month from affiliate links when done correctly. Here’s what you need to know.
Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers and Freelance Writers
To get the most out of your affiliate marketing, be sure not to overwhelm your readers. Even if it’s not your product you’re advertising, no one likes reading a “salesy” blog post. You should work to incorporate affiliate links naturally within your content when appropriate. Don’t force them in just for the sake of it – your readers will be able to tell!
That said, the best affiliate programs are ones that relate to your niche and work effortlessly within your content. Here are some examples:
Your website hosting service or domain provider. If you have your own website, you have a great opportunity to plug an affiliate link whenever you mention the service providers you use. SiteGround, WordPress (those are two of my affiliate links!), GoDaddy, DreamHost, and many of the big-name domain and hosting services offer affiliate programs that are easy to plug on your site or in a blog post.
Your website elements. Did you have a graphic designer create your logo, or buy a custom theme to use for your website? Many of these businesses have their own affiliate programs! Even if you purchased from a smaller company, it’s worth asking to see if that’s something they offer. I create all of my website graphics and images myself with Canva and built my websites with the Divi Theme from Elegant Themes. (As you probably guessed, those are both affiliate links.)
Amazon. One of the most common affiliate programs to join is Amazon Associates. It’s easy to sign up for and super flexible: Not only do you make a commission when someone buys a product you linked to, but you also make a commission when a user purchases anything from Amazon after clicking to the site with your link, even if they don’t buy the original product.
Any websites whose products or services you use regularly. This will depend on your industry, but if there are any tools or products that are necessary in your niche, it’s worth checking to see if the store or platform you bought yours from offers an affiliate program. You can make money just by recommending products and services you already use and love!
Online classes or courses that you recommend. Many online learning platforms like Skillshare also have affiliate programs, which is great because you can appeal to a wide variety of audiences when you recommend online classes.
Words to the Wise
Affiliate marketing programs often have strict rules about how and where you can use their links. If you break those rules, you risk being banned from the affiliate program altogether. Make sure you understand the rules of any affiliate program you join and keep track of the regulations to stay in the green.
In addition, as I mentioned at the beginning, you need to disclose when you’re using affiliate links in order to abide by FTC regulations. Check out the FTC website to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
Although it can feel salesy to announce when an affiliate link is being used, a simple explanation of what those links are and why you’re using them can go a long way. After all, your readers don’t pay anything extra to use your affiliate link.
The key is to use affiliate links only for products or services you really, truly stand behind. The last thing you want to do is recommend things you’re not sold on in the name of making an extra buck. Your readers will appreciate your integrity, and they’ll be more likely to click when they see an affiliate link on your blog.
While it takes some time to make serious money from affiliate programs, it’s a low-effort, no-cost way to give yourself additional streams of passive income each month. Even if you don’t have a sizable following, affiliate programs are worth pursuing. After all, you never know how quickly your business will grow, and one day you’ll be grateful those links are there!
When you’re designing your website and writing blog posts to promote your business, there’s a term you need to keep in mind: search engine optimization, also known as SEO. Not sure where to start? Don't fret: Let's take a quick look at SEO for beginners.
There are entire books dedicated to mastering SEO, but the good news is you don’t need to be an expert to get started. Search engine optimization determines what page of Google or another search engine your website can be found on. A good SEO strategy can help your website get found by your ideal clients and customers. Here are 5 steps to set you on the right track.
1. Think like a client.
While optimizing your website and blog posts, it’s important to think like a client or whomever you’re trying to attract to your site. You might be familiar with some of the jargon of your industry (if you’re a freelance writer, for example, it’s common to see acronyms like SEO, B2B, CTR, etc.). However, your ideal customer might not be as familiar with the lingo that insiders use.
Let’s look at an example for a freelance writer: Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client. Would the average person know to search for those terms when looking to hire you? Chances are, while a small business owner might be familiar with those phrases, they would probably search for something much more simple when trying to find you, like “freelance ecommerce writers.”
If you’re a blogger, the same idea rings true. Think about how your ideal audience or followers might search for things related to your niche or blogging topic on Google. Whatever you come up with, see how much you can simplify it. That’s probably what people are most likely to search for.
Once you have a few terms in mind that your clients or readers might search for in order to find your site, we’re going to take them to the next level.
2. Do some keyword research.
When you have a good idea of what your clients are looking for, it’s time to get specific. Using tools like Ubersuggest, Google Analytics, Ahrefs, or Moz, you can see exactly what search terms you can use to maximize your optimization.
The exact process varies depending on which keyword tool you use, but essentially you’ll want to type a good, generic keyword into the tool to start. Any of the phrases you came up with in step 1 will work. If you make and sell crochet hats as a side hustle, it can be as simple as typing “crochet hats” into the search box.
Once you’ve done that, there should be a list of suggested keywords for you to view. The first thing you’ll notice is that the term “crochet hats” isn’t very specific, and a lot of people are using that term on their websites. It will be pretty difficult for a new business to swoop in and appear on the first page of Google for a term that broad.
However, you may also notice that it helps to be specific. A lot of the related search terms have to do with patterns for crochet hats and not hats for sale, so if you tweak your keyword to be “crochet hats for sale,” you won’t have to worry about the wrong people stumbling on your website.
The more specific you can get, the more likely you are to attract the right people to your website. Of course, it’s a good idea to sprinkle in some of the broader terms when they’re relevant, too. Make a good list of keywords to keep in mind as you write your web content, but don’t get started until you consider the next step…
3. Write with “user experience” in mind.
Throughout the years, companies have been using different strategies and techniques to improve their search engine ranking. But ultimately, Google’s algorithm boils down to this: What pages are going to be most relevant to a client’s search and what pages out of those are easiest to read, navigate, and use?
This means that although you have a list of keywords you want to target, you don’t want to force them into your text where they won’t make sense. The algorithm has gotten a lot smarter in recent years and it can tell when you’re trying underhanded tactics, also known as “black hat SEO” or “keyword stuffing.”
Use your keywords where they naturally fit but don’t overdo it. You want your content to be accessible and make sense to the humans that are reading it. Keep in mind that you’re writing for a person, not a robot.
Take this article for example. The keywords I'm hoping to rank for in Google search results are “SEO for beginners.” You might notice that if you do a page search for this (go ahead and try it if you're reading from a computer – click “ctrl + f” on a Windows computer or “command + f” on an Apple computer), you won't find that specific phrase more than once in the body of this text. That's because it doesn't really fit naturally.
The point here is to not force things, even if you're tempted to. Stick with a conversational tone and easy content. The Google algorithm will see right through any “old school” tactics.
4. Format correctly.
There’s more to SEO than just what you write. It turns out that your formatting matters, too. Using proper headings, breaking up big chunks of text with paragraph breaks and bullet points, including images and videos, and adding images and graphics where relevant can all make the page more visually interesting and appealing to readers.
In addition to the formatting of the page itself, you’ll need to make sure any images you use are optimized as well. Each image needs an alt tag, which should be a brief description of the image that helps search engine crawlers know what the image is. While this won’t be seen by your readers, it’s an important step to remember.
5. Update old content.
The best part about SEO is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you want to boost your site traffic. Search engines like to see that content is timely and relevant, so if you’re stuck for new ideas, why not give some of your older content a refresh?
Adding new links, updating outdated information, including more images, and sprucing up the text are all things that show search engines your website is up-to-date. It’s a good idea to go back through your old content at least once per year to keep it fresh, but you can update it more frequently if your analytics show your page views dropping.
Although there’s always more to learn about SEO, the basics are more than enough to help you build your website and write killer blog posts that will help your business or website get noticed. With a little research and some strategy, you can put yourself lightyears ahead of your competition.
Whether you realize it or not, having a blog content strategy is the key to being found online.
And by now, you likely know how important it is to start a blog or website for your side hustle or small business – but setting one up is the easiest part. The hard part is what comes next: What do you write about?
If you don’t make a plan for your blog, you’ll just be sending your posts out into the ether with no way of knowing whether they’re worth the time you spend writing them.
Here’s how you can build a blog content strategy that will help you achieve your business goals and maximize the value of every blog post.
1. Clarify your intent.
Before you write a single post, you need to think about your “why.”
What are you hoping your blog will accomplish for you? Do you want it to educate your customers on how to use your product or service? Sell your products or services? Show your clients the behind-the-scenes of running your business?
The big thing here is to give value. While it’s okay to use your blog for whatever you want to share, you should think about how your readers and clients can get the most value out of your blog content.
Here’s what I mean by this: Focus on writing about topics that will help your audience – answer frequently asked questions, explain important topics or ideas within your industry, teach what or how to do things, and share how your industry is changing.
If you want your posts to help grow your business (as you should!), you need to do a little research into what your ideal customer is looking for. What are businesses similar to yours blogging about? How can you take those ideas and make them better, customizing them to suit your audience?
Make a list of the types of posts you think your ideal client would want to see. It helps to have a variety, so the more the merrier, especially when you’re first starting out.
All in all, your blog should be an information hub and a way to connect with your potential clients and customers. Don’t write about yourself all the time – it’s okay to do occasionally but be careful about doing it too often.
2. Create an editorial calendar.
Once you’re clear on the types of posts you want to write, it’s time to get planning. First of all, you’ll need to decide how often you want to post. When you’re first starting out, you can play around with posting on different days of the week and at different times to see when your audience is most likely to interact with them.
For the most part, though, it won’t matter when you post, as most people will be finding each post some time after the fact (more on that in step 4!). Once you know how often and when you plan to post to your blog, the next step is to establish an editorial calendar.
Your editorial calendar can take many forms: You can use a spreadsheet, a Google doc, an actual calendar, or a program like Trello or Asana to help create your process. The idea is that you want to keep track of post titles and when each one will go live. If it helps, you can set other deadlines for yourself as well, such as when you want to have the first draft done, when edits will be complete, etc.
I use my Google calendar to keep track of my content.
This “calendar” will help you see what topics you’re posting about so you can make sure you’re not publishing too many similar blogs in a row. It can also help you keep track of ideas for the future, such as seasonal posts around the holidays or yearly events you want to cover.
Even if you’re in a competitive industry and don’t have much of a chance to rank on the first page of Google, SEO will help search engines determine that your website is credible and can put your posts in front of fresh eyes.
4. Schedule and promote.
In order to stay on top of your blog and make sure you post consistently, it’s a good idea to work a little ways ahead so you’re never scrambling to throw a post together at the last minute. Most blogging platforms will let you schedule your posts ahead of time, so once you’re done, you can set a publish date and then forget it.
But you don’t want to let publication be the last step of your blogging process. When a new post goes live, you have an opportunity to promote it across your social media channels! Programs like Buffer, Sprout, and Hootsuite allow you to schedule social media posts in advance, so the minute your post goes live, you can send out a post about it to all of your followers.
If you’re promoting your content on Facebook, your Facebook page (a business or organization page, not your personal page) and Facebook groups you manage will allow you to schedule posts for free, too. This is a great way to save some money and post to Facebook “natively” if you want to save a “paid” slot on your scheduling software for a different platform.
5. Track your analytics.
The blog content strategy that works when you’re first starting out won’t necessarily serve you in the long term. Trends change, customer attitudes shift, and algorithms for search engines demand different approaches to your content year to year, and even sometimes month to month.
It’s vital that you tweak your strategy as you see what works, or doesn’t work, for your business. The best way to do this is to check your analytics with tools like Ubersuggest, Google Analytics, or Moz, depending on your price point.
Again, if you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend money, you can do your own tracking by using a spreadsheet system. The key is to consistently check your own analytics and update your spreadsheet.
All of these tools can give you insight as to which blog posts get the most views and, in some cases, where your clients click once they get to your posts. Paid tools can also help answer questions like these:
Do your readers prefer long posts or short ones?
If you include videos in your posts, do people watch them?
What topics do they like to read about, and which ones do they avoid?
All of this information can help you optimize your blog content strategy over time.
A blog content strategy is the missing piece that will transform your blog into a powerful tool to help you build your business. With a little planning, your blog can boost your sales, increase your web presence, and win you customer loyalty in the long-term.
Let's play a compare and contrast game – a contract vs. a letter of consent. Are they the same?
If you’re new to the world of freelancing, you might come across the term “letter of consent” while negotiating an agreement. A letter of consent is one way for freelancers to document an agreement with a new client, but is it the best one? How does it measure up to a legal contract?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is a letter of consent?
A letter of consent is an informal agreement between two parties. Where contracts are legally binding, letters of consent, or agreement, are not.
Letters of consent are common in situations where there needs to be only a casual acknowledgment of agreement that something is taking place, usually when the stakes are low.
For example, a letter of consent for a freelance writer might contain the names of both parties, the nature of the tasks assigned, and the method of compensation.
Usually, letters of consent are not used in a setting where money is changing hands. While it helps to have an agreement in writing, the client is not legally obligated to follow through on the terms, so you could very easily end up not getting paid for your hard work.
If you’re a freelancer and a potential client wants you to agree to a letter of consent rather than a contract, think twice. The terms of a letter are not enough to protect you if the working relationship goes south or your client refuses to pay. If you intend to get paid for your work, you should consider a contract instead.
What is a contract?
A contract, on the other hand, is a formal agreement between two parties that lays out the terms and conditions of an agreement. Legally, a contract must contain several elements: A purpose or offer, mutual acceptance of the agreement, the promises each party is offering, and the material terms and conditions, such as payment and deadlines.
The contract must also be signed by freely consenting adults in their right minds. While a contract must follow a much more specific format than a letter of consent, it’s also legally binding, meaning it offers you recourse if your client does not fulfill their end of the bargain.
There are many templates online to help you draw up a contract if needed. Contrary to popular belief, a contract doesn’t need to be written or approved by a lawyer to be valid. Of course, if you can have one look it over before you sign, that’s awesome! If not, just be sure to read through anything a client sends you carefully to make sure you agree to the terms.
A Contract vs. Letter of Consent
Letters of consent are okay when you’re doing pro-bono work where no money is being exchanged. As long as there are specific parameters in place to determine the amount of work, type of work expected, and what is being offered in exchange, a short letter between the two parties should be fine.
For example, if you agree to do some work for a client in exchange for promotion or a good reference, a letter of consent is likely all that’s needed. There is still a possibility that one party will not follow through with the agreement, but there is much less at stake than there would be with a paying job.
When we're talking about actual work for money, however, the safest bet is to go with an ironclad contract that explicitly lays out the work being done, the timeframe it will be done in, whether or not there will be edits made, and how those edits can be requested and returned. You should also cover consequences for nonpayment, such as a late fee for missing an invoice.
If a client doesn’t pay, you’ll have wasted valuable time that could have been spent on other, more lucrative projects. Even worse, one missed payment can be the difference between paying bills or struggling to get by for some freelancers.
At the end of the day, contracts offer much more protection for freelancers than letters of consent. As much as we all want to trust our clients, nonpayment is unfortunately a very real issue for freelancers across a variety of industries. Always insist on a contract when completing client work. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
When you’re looking for freelance writing opportunities, most potential clients will ask to see at least one writing sample before deciding to work with you. For newer freelancers, this can be a huge obstacle. After all, how do you build a freelance writing portfolio before you’ve actually gotten any writing assignments?
Luckily, you have a few different options when it comes to putting together a portfolio of writing samples. Here are 4 different ways you can assemble a freelance writing portfolio without a lot of experience.
1. Do some work for free.
While I’m a huge advocate for writers knowing their worth and getting paid for the work they do, when you’re brand-new to the freelance world, it’s not always a bad idea to do a little work for free. A business or website is much more likely to take a chance on publishing your work if they don’t have anything to lose by doing so.
A great way to do this is to pitch your services to small or local businesses that are looking to expand their online presence. You can offer to write blog posts or web content for them in exchange for being able to use that work in your portfolio later on.
If you’re having a hard time finding anyone in need of free blog posts or web content, feel free to take the lead! Conduct some research and write a few articles in your chosen niche to have on hand. You don’t have to pitch them to anyone; you just need to make sure they’re well-written and properly edited.
While some potential clients will ask for links to published writing samples, many just want to see an example of your work to evaluate your skill level and writing voice before they hire you. You can find plenty of freelance work just by showing you’re capable of producing quality writing.
2. Take some low-paying gigs to get your feet wet.
An alternative to working for free is to accept a few low-paying gigs in order to fill out your portfolio. Upwork is a great place to look for these types of jobs. Upwork is a job board that allows you to create an account and apply for multiple jobs at once. It’s great for newer writers because it provides some security in terms of ensuring you get paid when the work is done.
While you can make a bit of money on Upwork with some skill and practice, most of the jobs you’ll find there are pretty entry-level, low-paying, and in high demand. That said, if you write a killer cover letter, you can beat out the competition and snag these gigs even without a portfolio already in place.
You can also check websites like Craigslist or job boards like All Freelance Writing, ProBlogger, and BloggingPro for low-paying or beginner-level writing work. As you apply for gigs and start communicating with potential clients, use your best judgment and try to target reputable people.
Remember that if something sounds fishy or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Protect yourself by doing the smart thing and walk away if something doesn’t feel right.
Another option is to find an opportunity to write for a digital marketing agency. Many agencies specifically hire newer writers because they want to keep their prices low and less experienced writers can be paid a cheaper rate.
While you won’t make as much money writing for an agency as if you were pitching clients on your own, it’s a great way to gain a lot of writing experience in a hurry. Agencies usually have clients across a variety of industries, so you can work on your research skills while putting together a diverse portfolio. In the meantime, you’ll be getting paid consistently for your work.
4. Guest post on other blogs and publications.
Finally, you might want to look into guest posting on other blogs or online publications, especially if you have a blog for your freelance writing business that you’d like to advertise. Guest blogging not only gives you examples of published works to add to your portfolio, but also allows you an opportunity to link back to your own website and get your name out there.
Seek out bloggers in a niche you feel comfortable writing about, then send a personalized email asking if they’d be interested in a collaboration. Mention why you feel that your writing would be a good fit for their website, and include some ideas for what you’d like to write about.
In the case of online publications, look on business-targeted websites (for example, Business Insideror Entrepreneur Magazine) for instructions on how to pitch to the company’s editorial team and follow the instructions to a “T.”
With both of these options, the more you can show you did your research, the more likely a blogger or editor will be to give you a chance.
While working to build a freelance writing portfolio might be a bit of an investment up-front, it’s worthwhile to spend some time assembling work you can be proud of. Not only will these writing samples help you gain experience as a writer, but they’ll also help you land higher-paying writing gigs as you grow in your career.