Problogging: Should you blog for yourself or freelance for someone else?

  • In terms of professional blogging, I like to think I have the best of both worlds: as well as being paid to edit and write for a blog owned by a large blog network, I also run my own blog network, so my blog income comes from a number of different sources.

Sometimes, though, I find myself wondering if this really is “the best of both worlds” or whether it might be better just to commit to one method of earning and stick to it. Here are the pros and cons of each…

Being paid to blog for someone else:

Pros:

  • No need to worry about administration
    The blog is set up for you, and it’s someone else’s job to worry about technical issues, design issues, and promotion. All you have to do is get up every morning and write.
  • A set job description
    You’ll generally have to write a certain amount of posts, of a certain length, every day, week or month. Once you’ve completed those posts, your time is your own.
  • A set wage
    This isn’t true for all freelance bloggers, of course, because some are paid based on the amount of traffic they generate. If you’re paid by the post, or on some kind of retainer system, however, you know exactly how much you’ll be making each month, which allows you to plan ahead and enjoy a certain degree of security.
  • Camaraderie
    If you’re blogging for a network, even when you’re based at home, there’s a good chance that you’ll get to know the other freelancers who write for your blog, or the people who run it. I’ve made some great friends this way, and even although I’ve never met some of them, I do enjoy some of the benefits of having colleagues – albeit ones behind a computer screen.
  • An instant audience for your work
    If the blog you’re freelancing for is well-established, you won’t have to wait for it to be noticed, or feel like you’re writing into a vacuum: you’ll have an instant audience for your work, which can be very gratifying for a writer.
  • The kudos of writing for a popular blog
    You can achieve this by blogging for yourself too, of course, but it will take you longer and be much harder to gain than the respect you’ll gain for writing for a popular, well-established blog. And then there are the other writing/blogging opportunities that can come to you as a direct result of this…

Cons:

  • No control over various aspects of the blog
    You don’t get a say over the look, feel, or way the blog is run, so if the owners decide to do something you don’t agree with, that’s too bad.
  • Lack of freedom in writing style
    You’ll probably be working to a specific house style, and will have to craft each post in a specific way, as specified by the blog owner. Not a huge problem if you’re used to freelancing, but it may cramp your creativity just a little!
  • Lack of freedom in general.
    If you want to take a holiday or have a day off, you’ll have to ask someone else’s permission. You may also be obligated to compete your posts by a certain time each day, which means you can wave goodbye to that long lie and afternoon shopping trip.
  • You’re at the mercy of someone else’s marking and publicity skills
    Pro-blogging is a business, but in this case it’s someone else’s business, so it’s someone else who’ll be ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the site. That’s all well and good if all you want to do is write for it, of course (and some networks do give their bloggers some input into the way the site is run and marketed), but others may not like this lack of control.
  • You’re always writing and speaking on behalf of someone else
    If it was your own blog, you’d possibly just ban that commenter who insists on abusing you every chance you get, but when the blog belongs to someone else, you may just have to suck it up and reign in your temper.
  • You’re ultimately making money for someone else
    This is the downside of any paid employment: the fact that the success that comes will benefit the person you’re working for more than it will benefit you. Of course, by negotiating traffic bonuses and pay increases, you can work around this, but the fact that the spoils of your toil are being shared between you and your employer may eventually start to grate.

Blogging for yourself

Pros:

  • The money you earn is yours and yours alone
    Well, the tax man will take his share too, but what’s left over will be all yours.
  • You have complete freedom over your blog and writing
    It will look how you want it to look, be written in the style that youchoose, and be run exactly how you want it to be run. You’re the boss.
  • You have complete freedom over your lifestyle.
    If you prefer to work in the dead of night and spend your days in bed, no one will stop you. Similarly, if you need a day off, you won’t need anyone’s permission but your own.
  • The satisfaction of making a success of something all by yourself
    There’s a huge amount of satisfaction to be had from the knowledge that you’re making money from something you started from scratch.
  • You have no clients
    So you have none of the problems that come with clients either, including unreasonable demands, late payments and personality clashes.

Cons:

  • You will have to do EVERYTHING for yourself
    You’re responsible for designing your blog, sorting out technical problems, attracting advertisers, monetising it, optimising it for search engines, dealing with the daily administration – oh, and you’ll have to write for it. Of course, you can always pay people to take some, or all, of these tasks off your hands, but then you’re going to have to manage the people who are working for you. You’ll spend a huge amount of time on non-writing tasks, which could be frustrating if writing is all you’re really interested in.
  • You’ll have to become a business person as well as a blogger
    You’re no longer just a writer. You’re now an accountant, a marketer, a sales person and much more besides.
  • You’ll have to do an awful lot of learning…
    … about SEO, blog promotion, social networking, monetisation, advertising – the list goes on. And not only will you have to learn about all of these things to start with, you’ll have to keep on learning about them, and make the effort to keep up with developments in the world of pro-blogging.
  • You won’t have a guaranteed income
    And not only that, but your income from blogging can fluctuate wildly from month to month, making earning a living precarious at the best of times.
  • It will take a long time before you’ll start making money from your blog(s)
    Unless you get very, very lucky, it could take months, or even years before you make enough to live off.
  • You’ll work much longer hours than you would as a freelancer
    All of that writing, marketing and admin takes up a huge amount of time, and you won’t be able to just clock off at 5pm.
  • You may not have clients, but you will have advertisers
    Who can be just as difficult to deal with!

Look at both sets of lists, it does look like blogging for yourself is the hardest choice, with more cons than freelancing for someone else. All things considered, though, I think the “pros” more than make up for them, and as I actually enjoy the marketing/admin/analysis side of things, I know which option I’d choose.

Which would you go for?