Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Freelance Writer Vs. Online Entrepreneur: What's the Difference?

Source: Emma Larkins
I often describe myself as both a freelance writer and an online entrepreneur. In some ways, the difference between these two types of employment are greater than you might think; in other ways, they're actually pretty similar, and involve a lot of related skills, techniques, and abilities. If you're interested in trying either one, it helps to know exactly what they each entail.

Freelance Writing

The main identifying factors when it comes to being a freelance writer are writing for other people and (almost) always getting paid a set amount. In general, you work for one or more clients. The clients specify the type of work they are looking for, and the amount of money they're willing to pay (although sometimes there is negotiating involved). The writer provides this work, and in return receives the agreed-upon payment. In order to increase income, freelance writers search for new clients and new writing markets.

There are a variety of different ways you can get paid as a freelance writer. You can write articles for online or offline newspapers and magazines, either as one-shot deals or as a regular contributor (at some point you might end up becoming a staff writer). You can write copy for marketing purposes, to be included in advertisements, brochures, websites, or other mediums. You can ghostwrite fiction or non-fiction pieces.

One thing remains the same: you are guaranteed to receive payment for your work, and that amount is almost always agreed upon before the work is completed.

Online Entrepreneurship

The main identifying factors when it comes to being an online entrepreneur are writing for yourself, not always getting paid, and potential for for higher income.

Of course, when I say that you're writing for yourself, I mean that in general you get to pick the topics you write about. That doesn't mean that you can write about anything in the world: if you want to receive money from your writing, you have to either adjust it to the needs of the current market or else create new markets of your own.

Online entrepreneurship involves many skills beyond just the ability to write. Because you need to take care of the marketing as well as the content production, you need to learn a bit about image procurement (taking pictures or finding ones with the proper usage rights), design, basic CSS and HTML, SEO, and social media.

There are many ways to become an online entrepreneur. Some people start with sites that provide tools and community in return for part of the profits from sales and advertising (see my Best Kinect Fighting Games article on Squidoo for an example). Some people create their own blogs or websites, and explore affiliate marketing. Some people do a combination of all of these things to form successful online businesses, often focusing on niches of specific products or areas of expertise.

You are not guaranteed income as an online entrepreneur, and usually the up-front payments you get from freelance writing are greater than what you get starting out creating your own content online. However, there is the potential to create income streams this way that will support you with fewer hours of work in the future (also known as residual income).

Takeaway

Personally, I'm a huge fan of online entrepreneurship because I enjoy the related activities (such as learning about design and HTML) and because I like retaining ownership of my content. At the same time, it can take years of working nonstop to build a successful online business, and freelance writing is a great way to fill in the gaps, along with making new contacts in the industry and exploring new niches that you wouldn't have otherwise considered.

Questions? Thoughts? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

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