One of the most common questions I get from people is advice on if they should get into building a niche site or freelancing business.
It’s a good question, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on it here.
Over the last few years, I’ve built two blog niche sites with a lot of success.
One is in the photography niche.
The other I’m very active with and is in the golf niche.
Both have been extremely enjoyable to work on, led to a lot of great connections, and made some money in the process.
However, neither have made enough money that I felt comfortable solely living off of the income.
I’ve written a fair amount about niche sites over the years, and this post continues to be the most popular on the blog.
Niche Sites Vs. Freelancing
Because that post on building a niche site has been so successful, I get a few dozen emails a week from people telling me they’re interested in starting a niche site, building passive income, or getting involved in affiliate marketing.
For a few years, my first reaction has been to try and change their mind.
I pretty firmly believe that for the majority of people, starting a business freelancing is the best way to get going online.
But you know what? That’s not very sexy. Passive income and niche sites are much more interesting.
So rather than continuing to always try and change people’s minds, I figured I might as well embrace the fact so many people want to create niche sites and do a better job of helping them do that!
After all, I’ve learned a thing or two about building a successful niche site over the years.
However, before I start writing more content about creating a niche site, I wanted to write something that once and for all would help people figure out what is better for them: a freelancing business or a niche blog.
Hence, this post.
I’ll preface this by saying, there is no one-size-fits-all for everyone. There are people that can have unbelievable success with either of these in literally days or unbelievable failures with either over months and years.
So much of it depends on the individual. The questions and information in this post is based on years of helping people do both of these things and seeing the results of hundreds of members in our premium Location Rebel Academy community.
Now that I’ve established that, let’s help you decide what’s better for you a freelance business or a niche site.
1) Are you a decent writer?
I’m not saying you need to be a Pulitzer winner or anything, but with either of these business types, you need to have a solid grasp of the English language.
As a rule of thumb, you should be able to write at a basic high school level.
Don’t feel like you’re there yet?
Then before you go any further, I’ve got a couple of action steps, yup homework starts now!
- Check out this post on how to become a better writer.
- Take a look at this post on writing tools that can help you write daily.
- Go grab Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. Short of old-school textbooks, this is one of the best books I’ve seen for improving your content writing.
Verdict: If you’re a decent writer, move onto the next question. If you don’t feel like you can write at a basic high school level, you’re going to struggle. Sure, in either business you can outsource everything, but you still need to send well-written emails to get work in the first place.
2) How important is making money right now?
How important is making money, quickly?
If you’re finding yourself in debt, without work, or needing to make some cash within the next 60-90 days, then freelancing is absolutely the better way to go.
I’ve seen people make $4,000 in their first month within the Location Rebel community through freelance writing. For more on that, check out this post.
Generally speaking, a niche site is going to take much more time to make profitable, so if you’re in cash crunch, there’s really only one option here.
Verdict: Need money quickly? Go the freelancing route. Not necessarily hurting for money? Continue on.
3) In what order would you place these as it relates to starting a new venture online?
If I asked you to rank the following three attributes of a business in order of most important to least important, how would you rank them?
Alright, got it? Right it down. No, cheating.
Verdict: If money is the first thing on your list, go with freelancing.
Notice a theme here? I don’t believe niche sites are the best money making move in the short term, however, they can be great in time, and also provide other benefits freelancing doesn’t provide.
If you ranked fulfillment or community first, then continue on.
As an example of how this is relevant, let’s look at Breaking Eighty. While the site makes a decent side income each month, more important than that is the incredible community I’ve become a part of.
I just crossed over 10,000 Instagram followers, and they are extremely engaged with most posts getting over 5% engagement.
I’ve built relationships with some of the most prominent people and companies in the golf industry, get tons of free stuff, get access to private courses most people only dream about playing, and often don’t have to pay greens fees.
The fulfillment and sense of community I get are personally worth more than the money from the site.
4) On a scale of 1-10 how proficient would you say you are at online marketing?
I generally follow a three-step process when I’m teaching people how to build a business online.
- Learn the relevant skills
- Freelance the skills
- Apply to your own projects
This video outlines this pretty well:
The problem with so many people wanting to start niche sites is that they want to jump straight to step #3, without educating themselves first.
The reality is, being successful with a niche site is difficult, and most people who try fail to see the success they want. However, if you build up your base of skills and confidence first, you’re more likely to have success later on.
Verdict: If you said you were a 4 or less in online marketing, go with freelancing. It’s much easier to market a freelancing business. We have hundreds of people in Location Rebel who have proved this.
There is a caveat, though. A niche site can be a fantastic training ground to help you build this skill set. So I’m not opposed to people wanting to pursue freelancing, build a dedicated website for those services, and then also build a niche site on the side to slowly improve their online chops.
5) If I said you could have one of the following, which would you choose?
- Make $5,000 a month starting next month, but not be overly inspired or fulfilled by your work
- Make $5,000 starting 2 years from now, but be extremely fulfilled and be engrained in a thriving community olike-mindeded people?
This is a really important question, and I want you to answer honestly. The reality is, most people would like to answer #2 – but #1 is actually closer to the truth.
Verdict: Pretty straight forward here: if you answered #1 go with freelancing, if #2 is more fitting, then a niche site could be a good fit.
6) Do you prefer more one to one work with real people, or do you prefer to work more behind the scenes?
One of the great things about freelancing is that you’re often able to build real relationships with real people. You get to work on projects and be a part of a team.
With a niche site, you’re behind the scenes, doing things on your own, and creating a resource for a larger audience that you may or may not ever get to connect with on a more personal level.
Verdict: If you’re the kind of person that needs more regular human interaction, and you value building relationships more than sharing a message to a wider audience, freelancing is a better fit.
7) Are you trying to build something that will allow you to quit your job in the next 12 months?
When I receive emails from readers saying they want to build a niche blog or create passive income, more often than not, this is also accompanied by a desire to leave their job.
So are you trying to build something that will allow you to transition out of your day job in the next 12 months?
Verdict: If you are trying to leave your day job as soon as possible, go the freelancing route.
Long Term Brand Versus a Bridge Business
The bottom line is that a niche blog is a long term branding play, and for many, freelancing is more of a bridge business (although this isn’t always the case). What’s a bridge business? It’s that thing that gets you from one phase of life to another.
For me, I was working in finance.
Then I went to work for the Tropical MBA and I also began doing freelance SEO. Did I love freelancing?
Not necessarily, but doing SEO work was the bridge that paid the bills and helped me grow my confidence while I transitioned into a business of professional blogging and creating online courses like Location Rebel Academy.
It wasn’t a forever thing, nor was it something I was overly passionate about. However, what it did do was enable me to do the things I was passionate about (like work for myself, travel, golf etc.)
So, What Should You Do?
My hope is that this post helped to give you some clarity around what the best fit for you is: freelancing, a niche blog, both, or neither. You can probably tell, that I’m still a little biased towards freelancing as the best way to start.
It’s the way I most consistently see success, and it’s what worked in my own life.
However, if you’re:
- Not hurting for cash
- Willing to put in the hard work to build a long term brand
- Have a monetizeable niche or hobby that you’re super passionate about
- Know a thing or two about online marketing (or are interested in building a site to get hands on and learn those skills)
Then a niche blog can be an excellent way to build a long term business that both has the potential to make you a decent income, while helping you establish yourself in the community that your site services.
Questions about either of these business models? Leave a comment, and we’ll do our best to help you figure out the best fit!