I initially thought I’d turn my digital portfolio into a separate blog full of resources, tips, and strategies for bloggers, freelancers, and Instagram. Instead, I’m revamping my category, “Blogging, Freelancing, and Instagram,” to “Work From Home” because that’s the unexpected path my career took in the time if COVID-19. A version of “Why I Chose Blogging Over Freelancing” previously appeared on the The Wagamama Diaries.
This post contains affiliate links.
It’s been a year since I’ve rebranded my lifestyle blog, Baby Kaiju, as “The Wagamama Diaries — Lifestyle & Motherhood In Tokyo.” It was once a side-project, a diary about musing about life in Japan. However, now The Wagamama Diaries has become a high-ranking source of information regarding Japanese skincare products as well as parenting in Japan. Not only that, my blog has unexpectedly become a source of income for me! So, how did this all happen? Here’s the number one reason why I chose blogging over freelancing, and I owe it all to a former client.
It’s Not Us, It’s YOU
Previously, I wrote content for a number of English language websites about Japan, along with my “day job” as a kindergarten teacher. I struggled to keep a balance between my day job and mom life. In fact, I was always reluctant to take on more work out of insecurity. I didn’t want “mom life” to be the reason why I couldn’t submit work on time. I was also worried about being passed over for any younger writer who didn’t have kids to worry about.
As my daughter grew up, I felt that I could take on more writing work. I was eager to earn more money (aren’t we all) and I figured my writing portfolio and length of time I’d lived in Japan would help me secure a new client.
And it did. However, things didn’t go as intended. (I mean, obviously, that’s kind of the point of this post!)
Here’s what happened. After being picked to write a popular Japan website, the contract was canceled before my articles could even be published!
And, I felt awful, not just because of the sudden dismissal. But, because I initially wanted to turn down the offer after I realized I was to do more than writing.
There was a set price per article. In addition, I had to go onto CMS to format each piece. Up until now, I simply used WordPress or submitted drafts via Word file or Google Documents. I struggled horribly with CMS. I knew that this writing opportunity wasn’t worth it after factoring the time used writing and messing around with formatting.
Yet, instead of staying true to myself, I pressed on. I figured that if I learned CMS quickly, it would all be “worth” it.
Narrator: It wasn’t.
The editor sent me this email:
[T]he checkers of the English department got back to me and they’re not entirely happy with either of the two articles you wrote for us. Long story short, the articles were far too sparse in terms of content and the images still weren’t sourced properly and came from websites that did not have the right copyright. They were also unhappy that your own blog contained plenty of information on the subject matter at hand, but the article you actually made for us paled significantly in comparison.
I understand that I previously said the articles were alright, so part of the blame lies on me, but the reality of the matter is that neither of the articles match the standards that we set on our articles, and as such we would like to end our working relationship here…”
I originally intended to post that article (about cosmetics) on my blog!
From Freelance Writer to Lifestyle & Beauty Blogger
There you have it — rejection is the reason why I choose blogging over freelancing!
Had I just stuck with my initial feeling and said, “ I’m not being fairly compensated for what is expected,” I probably never would have been dismissed in such a way.
Regardless here’s what I learned:
Instead of selling my work to a Japan content mill (and writing OMG Japan is so wAckY articles), I’d rather write content that I know my audience will value.
Yes, freelancing pays, but it’s a one time payment. You only earn income when you write content for others.
On the other hand, when you own and create content for your self-hosted blog (I use SiteGround, by the way!) you have the opportunity to earn income on a recurring basis if you know what you’re doing.
My New Writing Portfolio — The Wagamama Diaries
In the past months, I have expanded The Beauty Files category on my blog and have upped my Instagram game. Now, in the time of COVID and homeschooling my Tokyo toddler, it’s Instagram #sponcon, Amazon affiliate links, and Google Adsense revenue that puts money in my bank account and food on my table.
(For what it’s worth, I do occasional freelance writing about Japan, but only for niche sites that focus on Japanese culture and not clickbait.)
For far too long, I’ve neglected to see my own value. But, not anymore.
Because when it comes to J-beauty, I know what I’m talking about. I also figured out how to write for SEO and my ever-growing blog audience (39K in October 2020!). Content from The Wagamama Diaries ranks high on Google searches. Check this out:
Search for “buying makeup in Japan” and my blog post, Where To Buy Makeup In Japan is the first result on Google. Two former clients are in the #2 and #3 spot. However, another article I wrote, 50 helpful Japanese Beauty Products You’ll Want to Buy Now is in the #4 spot. Not bad, right? (That same article comes up in the top 5 search result when you Google “Japanese makeup.”)
A post about Lululun Precious Sheet Masks still brings in Amazon affiliate referral fees two years after it was published. Today, it remains one of my top 10 beauty posts. All because I wrote a review after trying the series on a whim!
The Wagamama Diaries isn’t just about J-beauty. My posts on being pregnant in Japan and navigating the Japanese daycare and kindergarten system all rank high in Google searches. Likewise, my posts about Japanese celebrations for infants and babies continue to perform well as new parents are eager to learn about the customs of Japan.
Which Is Better — Blogging Or Freelancing?
If you’re wondering, “Which is better — blogging or freelancing?” here’s what I think:
Both have their challenges, especially when it comes to earning income Freelancing is nice when you have a steady stream of work. But, you’re always writing for someone else and Blogging, on the other hand, takes time to build an audience (three years, for me) but once you’re there, you have a portfolio that opens new doors, along with personal and professional opportunities.
In my case, learning my true worth as a writer/content creator is a lesson I learned the hard way. Yet, it’s a valuable one that has finally given me the confidence to write and create full-time —but on my own terms.
As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t given up for freelance writing entirely. But, I’ve become selective with the projects that I attach my name to (even when doing copywriting). I try to make sure there’s cohesion between what I write and the content here on The Wagamama Diaries.
I check my blog analytics regularly, and on top of that, I frequently update my top performing posts with relevant updates to keep that content fresh. After all, my top 10 posts bring in about 80-90% of traffic to my blog. I’m always excited to get reader mail, or Instagram DMs. And, yes, I do a happy dance when I get referral fees via my my Amazon shop. Thank you to all of you who keep me going!
While this post has turned out into a #humblebrag celebration of my achievements, it’s also a reminder to myself that I’ve come so far. I struggled in the first three months of COVID lockdown and homeschooling my Tokyo toddler. But, once I put myself together, I realized that I had a solid portfolio, experience, and skill set that I could use to promote myself.
In my next post in this updated series, I’ll get into how I earn money online working from home.