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.
As an American expat living outside the US, I’ve felt so powerless and unable to support “Black Lives Matter” movements.
As a foreigner living in South Korea, the laws about participating in protests is gray at best: Depending on the circumstances, I could risk deportation for taking part in protests – peaceful or not – and the threat of the pandemic has concerned me because of the impact it may have on my job.
I have agonized about what to do and how I can raise my voice and be an anti-racist and an ally for the #BLM movement. I want to be an advocate and I want to participate in an active way.
And the more I thought about it, I realized that though I’m living far away, there are ways I can actively participate in this important time.
Over the last 2 or 3 weeks, I’ve come up with 5 ways I can support “Black Lives Matter” as an expat living overseas.
1. Ensure you’re registered to vote in the next election.
So many have (rightly) said in the last few weeks that the best way we can collectively effect change is by using our voices to vote in the upcoming election cycle.
This has never been more true than now.
For once, it’s so important to know who is on the ticket, what they stand for, what’s in their public history, and whether or not they will truly be the voice of the people.
If it turns out you’re not registered, register with your state the Overseas Vote Foundation. The instructions are straightforward (for the most part) and you can take the first steps to ensure you’ll get an absentee ballot.
The one thing I felt was a little confusing when filling in my absentee registration information was which addresses to use. Be sure to carefully check the PDF with your regurgitated information for accuracy and update it immediately if you spot an issue, otherwise, you’ll have to do it all over again from the beginning as the download link expires within 15 minutes to protect your personal information.
Here’s my main advice on this point: DON’T. WAIT. Do it now. With mail taking longer to trek across the globe, none of us can afford to take our time. (I paid to send my absentee registration via express mail because it was the only option I had. It was expensive but I was glad to pay it.)
2. Call your state representatives to voice your approval or disapproval of bills working their way through Congress.
Sometimes we forget how easy it is to place calls back home.
You might ask, “Well, why can’t I just send an email or a letter instead of calling? I live halfway across the world and my hours don’t match up with Congressional business hours.”
In some ways, I’m inclined to agree with you. In others, I disagree. Here’s a great article from the New York Times detailing a few points but the one that sticks out to me most is that it’s far more difficult to ignore a ringing phone than it is to ignore an overflowing email inbox.
Calling isn't hard.
In the day and age we live in, it’s no more than a push of a few buttons and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to make a trans-Atlantic or -Pacific call. Even if you have to pay a bit more for it, it’s worth making a small investment to stay connected.
To keep your costs down, consider buying Skype credits to call and text internationally. The cost per minute is incredibly affordable and you can spend as little as $5-10 (before any VAT costs). This small credit top-up will be enough to cover dozens of calls to Congress.
Alternatively, you may be able to use your cell phone minutes included in your mobile plan from your host country. For example, I have 5 hours of talk time to landlines and cell phones in Korea included in my annual plan that I literally never use. However, I downloaded the OTO Global app for iOS (also available from the Google Play store) which allows me to call US mobile and landline numbers for free and pulls from my mobile plan minutes here in South Korea. Like Skype, OTO Global also sells credit packages to place calls all over the world.
If you’re not in Korea, chances are there’s a similar app in your host country that will allow you to use your local mobile minutes to call internationally. Google it and see what you come up with before spending money.
How to Call Your State Representatives and Senators
Once you’ve figured out how to call back home for a reasonable price, you can actually start calling the people who represent you at home. Here are step-by-step instructions for calling your state Representatives and Senators.
1. Start by determining who your state Representatives and Senators are.
I wasn’t before I started writing this, honestly, who my Representatives in the House were. I know Ted Cruz is one of my state Senators because I voted against him in the 2018 midterms – I was a Beto supporter and bought a shirt to prove it!… Aside from that, I haven’t lived at home for a while and have actually never resided at my “permanent” virtual address, so I had to do my homework.
There’s no shame in not knowing, my friend. But do your due diligence and get informed.
2. Find the right phone numbers to call.
The same websites where you looked up your Senators’ and Representatives’ names will provide you with the right numbers to call to reach their offices directly.
If you’re having trouble with that for any reason, you can call the capitol switchboard directly at (202) 224-3121. The switchboard operator will get you sent to the right place. (You’ll need to know who you’re calling for, obviously.)
3. Call your state Senators and Representatives.
This is a little nerve-racking, but once you’ve done it once or twice, it will start to feel totally normal. There are a few things to remember when you’re calling:
Know exactly what you’re calling about.
State Rep and Senate offices field hundreds of calls every day so it’s vital that you know exactly what you’re calling about.
Have a script ready to help you make the right points.
There are a number of different sources for scripts and many associations who lobby Congress on the regular offer scripts or talking points for free, such as the American Psychological Association. You can also get scripts from organizations like You Lobby and 5 Calls, among others. Google, google, google to find more.
Ask to speak directly to the staffer responsible for the issue you’re calling about.
Let’s face it: You’re not likely to speak directly to your Senator or Representative. Instead, you’ll speak to the next best thing – their staffers. There are multiple people who work in your state Rep’s or Senator’s office and not all of them handle all the issues. Your best bet is to speak to the person in the office who fields calls and messages regarding the specific issue you’re calling about so your message doesn’t fall on partially-deaf ears.
Don’t request a call back.
According to Refinery 29, it’s better to say you don’t need a reply from your Senator’s or Representatives office so “they can tally you down without having to go through the extra step of adding you to a response database.” This keeps phone lines open and frees up more time to tally down constituent concerns.
3. Support “Black Lives Matter” financially and donate to worthy causes.
This is obvious: Give away your money.
There are plenty of worthy causes out there and often, we’re bombarded with reputable opportunities and organizations where we can donate. Right now, though, the #BlackLivesMatter movement needs funds to continue the fight.
This should not be hard. We all need to make an effort to diversify the voices we listen to on a regular basis. I am making this effort myself and have followed all the women I’ve listed above in an effort to open myself to more diverse voices and points of view (read: not white).
5. Talk to your family and friends about what you’re learning and doing to make a change.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and wrote my parents and sister a very long email about how I was feeling and expressing that I wanted us to talk about the #BLM movement as a family.
I pointed out the glaring fact that we didn’t talk about race in our home when I was a kid because we didn’t have to talk about it.
I acknowledged that, unknowingly or not, we are very privileged as white people.
I want my little brothers – ages 16 and 20 at the time of this writing – to understand the role they play as young white men in society and that they subsequently have voices that carry in our society.
We need to talk about these things, white people.
We need to acknowledge that the society we live in was built on the backs of – and at the expense of – black slave laborers. We need to acknowledge how those that came before us intentionally put laws and hindrances in place to keep black people from getting ahead in society – from Jim Crow to redlining to segregation in schools and other public places. Watch this YouTube video for a quick history crash course.
And once we’ve acknowledged the existence of these things, we need to start calling our Senators and House Reps and do what we can to change things.
We need to end police brutality. How? I don’t know yet – but we need to work together to figure it out.
Yes, we need to listen. But we also need to talk. We did this – we created this mess. Now it’s time for us to whatever it takes to make it right.
Black. Lives. Matter.
The last few weeks have been so eye-opening for me. I’ve asked myself and those around me tough questions and having uncomfortable conversations. I’m reading more and making an effort to listen more.
I am committing to calling my state Senators and Representatives more consistently (which is something I’ve never done before) about issues that pertain to #BLM and in an effort to end police brutality.
I may be away from home, but I’ve also started to realize I’m not powerless even though I felt like I was. I absolutely can support “Black Lives Matter” as an expat.
I hope you’ll join me in doing what you can – whether you’re an American, a Brit, a Saffa, or hail from anywhere else in our beautiful world. This is important. Let’s do something good together.