Niche Site or Freelancing? Which is Best For YOU?

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 10/16/23 •  9 min read

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 all about golf

The other is all about cocktails.

Yes, the name of that second one seems pretty fitting…

Both have been extremely enjoyable to work on, led to a lot of great connections, and made some money in the process.

And it’s only been in the last few years that the golf site has started earning a truly full time income – years after I first started it.

I’ve written a fair amount about niche sites over the years, and this post continues to be among the most popular on the blog.

Niche Site or Freelancing Business: Which Business is Better for You?

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 are 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!

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. But that’s the exception rather than the rule.

Generally speaking, a niche site is going to take much more time to make profitable, so if you’re in a 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? Write it down. No, cheating.

Verdict: If money is the first thing on your list, go with freelancing writing.

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 has grown to actually make far more money than Location Rebel, more importantly than that is the incredible community I’ve become a part of.

I just crossed over 20,000 YouTube subscribers, and have been getting tons of engagement with my audience.

I’ve built relationships with some of the most prominent people and companies in the golf industry, get lots of free stuff, 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 arguably worth more than the money that comes along with it.

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.

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 that being successful with a niche site is difficult. 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 Academy 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?

This is a really important question, and I want you to answer it honestly. The reality is that most people would like to answer #2 – but #1 is actually closer to the truth.

Verdict: Pretty straightforward 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 with 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.)

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So, What Should You Do?

My hope is that this post helped to give you some clarity around whether your should start a niche site or freelancing business. 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:

Then a niche blog can be an excellent way to build a long-term business that both has the potential to make you a substantial income, while helping you establish yourself in the community that your site services.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Location Rebel. We'll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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20 comments on "Niche Site or Freelancing? Which is Best For YOU?"

  1. Jamie Stewart says:

    Hey Sean,

    I couldn’t agree more on the importance of building valuable skills whether you’re freelancing or entering the niche site business.

    I messed about with niche sites and had no clue what I was doing for about 6 months. Didn’t make a penny! Looking back, it was clear I had no idea what I was doing. I joined Location Rebel and learned SEO writing and made my first money online (which I’m forever grateful to you for).

    However, after freelancing part-time while working 50 hours a week for 8 months, I decided that my time would be better spent building a passive income source while I have no plans to quit my job. So, I went back to building niche sites, but this time I’ve had more success and I’m earning a few hundred bucks a month.

    Focusing on building the skill of SEO writing has definitely put me on the right for success with niche sites. Thought I would share as a real life case study that backs up what you say holds a lot of truth.


  2. Rob Bingham says:

    Great post Sean! You really clearly setup the framework for choosing a trajectory based on your personality, mindset, and financial situation.
    I’m really feeling the need for community and accountability, and am excited to join Location Rebel soon (finally!). Talk to you soon!

    1. Sean says:

      Rob, sweet! We’ll be excited to have you 🙂

  3. Jamie says:

    I think you need 3 things: guaranteed income per month on a set date that covers all your bills (like salary, your HDR site, or my medical), something that you can do in a day to go to next financial level (for me is a monthly retainer for professional services or your Location Rebel, I think), and lastly is to keep your fingers crossed that today it can happen by being proactive! Feet on the ground and keep your head in the clouds, man!

  4. Eric says:

    So if I decided to go SEO freelance, how do you find customers? If everyone is already doing it, how is there room for one more SEO guy in the mix?

    1. Sean says:

      The internet is a big place, there’s always room for someone who knows what they’re doing and can add their own unique personality or spin on a certain niche or industry.

  5. Gundi says:

    Great article, Sean! – puts it really into perspective. One option I would add that doesn’t really fall into either area is Kindle Publishing. Especially since it allows the combination of publishing and affiliate marketing all at once.
    It didn’t take much learning, just understanding how Kindle marketing words and how to do market research = which was done by reading a short Kindle book and watching 1 webinar.
    Even as a newbie you can easily write and publish a Kindle within 3-4 weeks and get paid a month later – and not just royalties – but also affiliate commissions that you can place inside the book. AND it is a great way – probably the easiest when you are brand new – to build a mailing list. Certainly much faster than guest blogging.
    But other than that – I totally agree ! – thanks for a great post!

    1. Sean says:

      This is DEFINITELY a viable option as well, as you’ve proven! Lots of different avenues that can work.

  6. Saida says:

    Hi Sean,
    Ever since I had my baby 11 months ago, I have been looking for a way to be able to work from home as to not be away from her all the time. When searching online for ways to do that, many people seem to advise to start a blog. My intuition however was telling me that freelancing is a better option. My only problem now is that I don’t have any marketable skills other than writing. I used to build websites though back in the day so my skills in that need updating. Anyway just wanted to say thank you because this post came at exactly the right time for me since an idea has been forming in my head which I think has the most potenial out of all the ideas I have had thus far.

    1. Sean says:

      Saida, Through building the freelance business you’ll learn more marketable skills like setting up a website on wordpress, how to find and book clients, the benefits of copywriting etc. Let me know if I can help at all as you’re getting going!

  7. I completely agree with your views in your blog. Very good post. I have about 9 blogs and website and I have not been able to make any money. If I want to do free lancing work, I do not know how to get that and which of my skills that I can use to make money? I think I will be grateful if you give me some advice.

    1. Sean says:

      Freelance writing is generally the easiest way to get going. First thing is to build a website around your services:

  8. Jason says:

    This is an incredible post, Sean.
    I feel that there is too much focus in the IM world on schemes that create passive income and not enough on solid, practical self-employment.

  9. Loretta says:

    I like having both niches and freelance work. I work on my niche sites and I have a freelance transcription business that keeps money coming in as well. Income diversity is my favorite thing 😉

  10. Another great post Sean.
    I totally agree with what you’re saying. I spent the past 6 years freelancing while building a niche membership site and publishing Kindle books. One thing I’ve found is if you can combine the niche topic with the type of freelance work, you can get leads for both which makes the marketing much easier. I also agree making money freelancing is a lot easier, but not near as fulfilling.

  11. Chris says:

    Sean, you make some compelling points. Perhaps I’ll consider freelancing as part of my next creative venture. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Samantha says:

    I think doing both simultaneously is almost always the best answer… freelance to earn money right now, but work on niche sites that can earn money in the future. Seems like the most logical thing to do to me, anyways.

  13. jeanette says:

    Would you recommend Freelancing on other subjects besides SEO like photography?

  14. Hafiz says:

    Nice analysis there Sean,

    Personally, I also tend to lean towards freelancing but I’m creating a niche site on the side.

    This way, I’d be able to pay my bills easily and have some more flexibility with my online business.

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