The Difference Between Editorial Writing & Blogging, & Other Fun Facts About My Job
I’m confident enough in the work I do to say that, yeah, I have a pretty cool job. Free beauty products and clothes, traveling around the globe, and going to cool events are just a few perks of what I do for a living. But despite all of those pretty incredible parts of my career, the question I get asked the most about my job by far is something along the lines of, “So you’re, like, a blogger, right?” (I 100% recognize the irony of me talking about this on my blog, but such is life.)
Since so many of the people who follow me on social media are aspiring writers and/or bloggers, I thought it would be fun to talk about the different between editorial writing and blogging. Here are a few of the questions that you all regularly ask me, answered.
First off, which of these actually is your job?
I categorize myself as an editorial writer (though I recently started blogging here on my website just for fun as an outlet for me to share my thoughts outside of my regular work). As a freelance writer and editor for various digital publications, I pitch stories to editors who work on staff for the publications I want to write for, then I write the piece if I get an assignment.
For example, say I want to write for Composure Magazine — the fastest-growing women’s magazine in the country — and Andie, Michelle, and Jeannie are the beauty, travel, and fashion editors there, respectively. (All my points to you if you understand the references in this paragraph!)
If I have a story about dermaplaning that I want to pitch to Composure, I reach out to Andie. If I have a story pitch about the best Instagrammable carry-on suitcases, I send it to Michelle. And if I want to talk about how leopard midi skirts are still a thing, I email Jeannie. Get it? Each editor oversees a certain section of the site, or “vertical,” and I pitch to each editor depending on what topic my pitch falls under. That is, Andie doesn’t want the suitcases pitch, and Jeannie doesn’t need an email about dermaplaning. Because I write for so many different verticals, I usually end up having to pitch a bunch of different editors from the same publication. (There are also separate editors for the print side of the same publication, but that’s a story for a different time.)
In 99% of these freelance cases — meaning that I don’t go into the publication’s office and I am not on staff — I get paid after my pitch has been accepted, I’ve written the piece, and it has been published on their website.
But I thought you were on staff somewhere!
I am! I’m a part-time lifestyle staff writer for Elite Daily, which means that I write for them three days a week, seven hours per day (what we call “shifts,” like any other job). During those seven-hour shifts, I pump out three posts per day, all of which have to hit at least 500 words. Though I’m able to regularly have bylines published on Elite Daily’s site, the pitching process is the same as if I were freelance. However, because I’m on the lifestyle team for the publication, I only pitch stories that are relevant to my team’s section of the site. That means no pitching stories about the best denim shorts to wear to Coachella. (Not every publication sets up their staff writer positions this way, but all of Bustle Digital Group — which includes Bustle, Elite Daily, The Zoe Report, Nylon, Mic, and many others — does.)
Do you ever take assignments?
Absolutely! One of the perks of freelancing for awhile means that you develop relationships with editors who trust your work — from the cleanness of your copy to the quickness of your turnaround time — and will just send you assignments when they have something that has to be written and they have no one on staff to do it. The same goes for my job with Elite Daily; my editor often assigns me pieces that she knows will perform well for us, which is especially helpful when I’m running out of ideas. (Trust me: Trying to produce three new ideas a day isn’t always easy!)
I’ve been freelancing for almost three years, which means that I have a decent relationship with a few editors who reach out to me when they think that something they need covered would work well with my writing voice. Though this is a definite perk of having freelanced for so long, it doesn’t make the pitching process any easier. In fact, there are a few publications that I regularly write for that have never accepted any of my pitches, even though they assign me a lot of work. But finding balance between the things that I am actively trying to write about versus writing trending and SEO-friendly pieces for publications is all part of the fun.
So how is this different than blogging?
The way that I think of blogging is that the writer gets to keep their own voice throughout everything they write. Blogging is often more conversational, more casual, and generally has a more relatable tone — though many digital publications are blurring that line more than ever. (I think Elite Daily is a great example of that.) Publications often follow style guidelines so that every piece looks uniform, and depending on the publication, it has its own voice guideline as well. (For example, whenever you read pieces in Vogue Magazine and/or on Vogue.com, you know where the piece came from.)
With blogging, the writer has a lot more freedom to pick and choose what topics they talk about. They can essentially treat their blog as a diary for all of their readers to peruse. There are no restrictions when someone starts up their own blog, because the people visiting that site are visiting specifically to read about that person’s lived experiences in their own voice. Whereas, with a publication that has a lot of clout, readers care more about the credibility of the publication and the information that they’re given.
A great example of this is with a simple roundup piece like “The 10 Best Travel Curling Irons.”
A blogger would approach writing this piece from a very personal standpoint and adjust the headline to read, “My 10 Favorite Travel Curling Irons.” They would talk about their experiences with each curling iron that qualifies why they made the list. For a publication, the piece would probably read, “10 Celeb Hairstylists Dish On Their Favorite Travel Curling Irons.” The expert opinions from those professional hairstylists is the word that matters more there, and the writer is the vessel to get the stylists’ expertise out to the world.
Do brands pay you to talk about them in your pieces?
This is actually one of the biggest distinguishing factors between people who work for publications and bloggers. As a writer, I ethically cannot receive compensation from a brand to write about them for one of my publications. Bloggers, however, can receive compensation from a brand for a sponsored post, because that is part of how they make their money. I know this part is confusing, but essentially, publications are supposed to be impartial and unbiased; our job as editors and writers is to promote the actual best products. This is actually why editors and writers get sent so much product. We can’t be paid to talk about it, but we won’t talk about it unless we have a chance to try it out and know for sure that it actually works.
The lines get a little blurry when editors and writers have sources of income outside of their publications. For example, I write for the blogs of a couple different brands, including Nudestix and Glow Recipe. In a way, I am receiving money from these brands to talk about their product, but that’s only in exchange for writing on their own websites. The obligation to talk about them stops after I’ve completed my blog post for them, and any editorial mentions in my publications are only because I genuinely love the product. (And for the record, I only write for the blogs of companies and brands that I truly love and believe in — it just makes the work so much easier!)
I’ve had a few people ask me if some brands sponsor me to write about them because I talk about them so much, but in actuality, the products really are just that good. Some brands are kind enough to restock me on product if I run out because they know how much I love them, but that’s not a given just because I wrote about the product. (I still have to go out and buy things if I really want a restock, sometimes.)
What about the traveling?
Believe it or not, the same concept goes for press trips. For most of the traveling that I do, I usually don’t end up spending more money than the Ubers to and from LAX, and some change for souvenirs. While this is an amazing perk of my job, keep in mind that I’m not actively being paid to travel. In fact, I usually lose money when I travel, because it means that I’m taking time away from writing my freelance pieces. Usually the way press trips work is that a PR company that represents a destination, hotel, or tour provider approaches me to attend a trip on behalf of my various outlets. They sponsor the entirety of my trip in the hopes that I will produce a feature piece for them. My compensation then comes after I have written and published that piece. For bloggers and other “influencers,” the terms of them traveling for the same client (a destination, hotel, or tour provider) is vastly different. Depending on how wide their reach is, they can ask for things like first or business class plane tickets, a per diem check, and a set monetary amount per Instagram and/or blog post.
Why did you decide to be an editorial writer instead of a blogger?
There’s a serious hustle involved for both jobs — the hustle is just different. I had experience working in a newsroom (my first job out of college was at Billboard), so it made sense for me to continue freelancing in editorial. At the time, I didn’t have enough of a social following — or a commitment to creating social content, for that matter — to be able to start a blog. I also seriously appreciate the amount of work that goes into keeping up with a blog, and sometimes question whether or not I’m capable of sustaining the one that I’ve just started.
With editorial, all I have to do is type up my story into a Google Doc, send the link to the editor, and I wake up the next day with my byline published. The publication already has eyes on it, so I don’t have to do much promoting on my end. Bloggers have to completely build their site from the ground up and drive traffic to their website so they can be established as credible and frequented sources in order to continue to make money from sponsored posts. They essentially have to do all of the backend work of a publication on their own: They are their own SEO specialist, IT department, and marketing manager all rolled into one, in addition to actually writing the content and taking the photos.
I have loved writing for publications for the past couple years, and the work has gifted me with some opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Now that I’m more of an established writer, I think that it makes sense for me to try my hand at blogging. I love both equally (even though blogging isn’t making me any money yet), and can’t wait to see what my writing schedule looks like one, three, five, and even 10 years from now.
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Did this answer your questions about what exactly my job is, and how it differs from bloggers and “influencers” you see on Instagram? Leave me some more questions in the comments below — always happy to talk about my work with you all. Until next time!