Freelancers VS. Hobbyists (Plus How to Build Your Portfolio)

freelance hobbyIn my time as the Associate Editor and Community Manager over at Be A Freelance Blogger, I’ve noticed that a great many people don’t know the difference between “blogging” and “freelance blogging.” This has caused some issues behind-the-scenes seeing as bloggers who pitch to us at Be A Freelance Blogger need to send in topics related to how to be a freelance blogger.

So what is the difference anyway?

My Thoughts: Freelance Bloggers VS. Hobbyists

Anyone can start up a blog. Starting a blog is easy. Even writing on a blog is fairly easy. Literally anyone can produce content on a blog and call themselves a blogger. However, these “bloggers” are not freelancers. They’re hobbyists.

And that’s fine! Having a hobby blog is fun. I have one myself. It’s filled with self-indulgent posts about my life. (I frequently write posts about the press-on nails I wear! And even posts that are really important to me still include pictures of my cats).

Hobby bloggers may be very good at what they do — they may be brilliant writers who are well-aware of “proper” blog formatting — but being able to produce fantastic content doesn’t mean they’ve successfully turned their blogging into a career. They may not even want to! Which is where the “freelance” aspect of “freelance blogging” comes in…

  • Are you earning money from your blog? Then you might be a freelance blogger. However, even bloggers who aren’t freelancers can still earn money from their blogs via affiliate links and other means.
  • Are you attempting to earn money from your blog? Then, again, you might be a freelance blogger. If you’re attempting to earn money as a blogger from your blog, but haven’t done so yet, then you’re probably just an unsuccessful freelance blogger (for now at least!). Or, you might be using your blog as a way to draw in clients to sell other services — writing-related or not — besides blogging. In which case, you’re a freelancer, but not a freelance blogger.
  • Are you blogging for someone besides yourself? Then you might be a freelance blogger! Blog posts written for other people are always going to be taken more seriously — deemed more professional — than those you write for yourself. However, a lot of publications don’t pay their writers…so it would still be “just” be a hobby, if that’s the case.
  • Are you blogging for someone else for pay? Then you’re a freelance blogger.

Yep. That’s my definition! Blogging + Clients + Money = Freelance Blogger.

Freelancing is all about earning money (on more-or-less your own terms) from other people. If you happen to be earning money from other people by writing blog posts for them then congratulations: You’re a freelance blogger!

But Don’t Take My Word for It…

Despite you adoring me unconditionally and taking everything I tell you extremely seriously, I thought I should get the opinions of some other professionals on this matter. Since most of the confusion between “blogging” and “freelance blogging” has come up while at my position at Be A Freelance Blogger, I decided to ask my fellow BAFBers who were “in the know” for their thoughts on this. Here’s what they said:

Bree Brouwer, BAFB Community Moderator

BreeBrouwer“The main difference between freelance blogging and blogging is that you can’t treat freelance blogging like a hobby. When you’re aiming to do freelance blogging for businesses, the work you do must be professional and high-quality.

Alicia Rades, BAFB Community Moderator

AliciaRades“Blogging is the act of performing blog-related duties (usually writing blog posts, but also marketing and such), whether you’re doing it for a hobby, for money, for your business, or even for a client.

Freelance blogging is only when you’re offering those blogging services to a client and getting paid for it.

So you could be a freelance blogger and a blogger at the same time, but being a blogger doesn’t necessarily make you a freelance blogger. Just because you’re making money from your blog doesn’t make you a freelance blogger, either (in my mind). You really have to be building client relationships and working for others to be a freelance blogger.

That being said, a freelance blogger can take on a lot of different roles. I know some freelance bloggers who manage the entire blog while others only write the blog content.”

Ashley Gainer, BAFB Community Moderator

Ashley Gainer“To me, the distinction between a freelance blogger and a hobby blogger is where and why the blogging actually takes place. When I think of freelance blogging, it’s blogging for clients (i.e. not my own site) in exchange for some kind of compensation, usually money (because freelancers are out for money). It’s blogging for income, essentially.

Whereas hobby blogging, to me, is done at a personally owned/run blog, without compensation but maybe with the intent of monetizing at some point. Hobby bloggers might do guest posts (for money/exposure) but it’s usually for building their own blog or reputation as a blogger; and freelance bloggers probably maintain at least one blog of their own, but that’s not the focus of their blogging efforts — client work is.”

Sophie Lizard, BAFB Owner and Head Editor

SophieLizard“I’m often confused by people who ask me if their personal blog can ping them into a high-paid freelance writing career. Because, well, no. It really, really can’t. Your blog can’t turn you into a freelancer, because your blog is a collection of content online, but freelancing is a business. If you want to earn money, it’s a business you’ll need. That means marketing, clients, invoices, accounting and taxes as well as writing.

A lot of the skills hobby bloggers have will transfer nicely to a freelance blogging career… but you’ll still be missing a bunch of business skills unless you purposely go and learn them. Even if you could skip all the marketing and sales sides of it — like if, out of the blue, a willing client called you up and invited you to write $250 blog posts for them — hobby bloggers have no experience of working to a paying client’s schedule and requirements, or managing business relationships.

Not everyone enjoys freelancing, and not everyone is good at it. The biggest difference between hobby bloggers and freelance bloggers is that the freelancers want to turn their blogging skills into business revenue, they’ve worked to make that happen, and then they keep on working.”

Don’t Stop Trying!

As a teen, it might be hard for you to get paying work. Which may make you feel as though you aren’t a “true” freelance writer.

Don’t get discouraged!

So long as you’re trying and you’re building your portfolio: You’ll get there.

Speaking of which…

How to Build Your Freelance Writing Portfolio

One of the things that will differentiate you (a freelance writing professional) from a writing hobbyist is having a portfolio full of clips (writing samples). Here are three ways you can do that, starting with the best way:

1. Get Your Own Site

On the Recommended Resources page, I suggest you get a WordPress website. Just like this one! They’re easy to use and maintain and, depending on what version you get, cost little to nothing to start up.

WordPress sites are also great for building portfolios. If you have a self-hosted WP site, you can get a portfolio plug-in. Some themes also include portfolio features. Or, you can do what I do on my own freelance writing website and create a list:

WritingSamplesPage

As you can see from my own website, above, portfolio pages don’t have to be anything fancy. My own portfolio is just a long list of links to articles I’ve written with an image here or there to break up the text. It’s easy!

2. Use Contently

Contently (contently.net/portfolio) is a website created specifically for freelance writers to use as their portfolio hub.

The great thing is that there’s no age limit for creating a Contently portfolio. I wrote in and asked and this is the reply I got:

ContentlyAgeLimit

3. The Old-Fashioned Way

Using the ol’ three-ring binder method of portfolio is fine if you’re only on the hunt for local jobs. My very first portfolio as a teen was exactly that and it served me well.

However, if you’re interested in finding work online, I would suggest using one of the other two methods listed above as soon as you can.

I can’t wait to see your portfolio! 😀

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