Over the past week or so, I’ve been posting a lot about freelance writing both here on this blog and on Instagram. Today someone on IG asked, “Exactly what is freelance writing?”

The person who asked said she thought it was a “dumb question” but it’s not AT ALL. In fact, I know people who have been writing for years who don’t fully understand what freelance writing is.

So, here’s a crash course in Freelance Writing 101.

Freelancing ain’t free!

First and foremost, let me explain that “freelancing” is NOT another word for “writing for free.” Freelancers get paid — or at least they should.

You may write for free when you’re first starting out or you may write an article for free about a cause you’re passionate about, but you shouldn’t be writing content for a publication (that’s not your own blog) or for any other type of business on a regular basis unless you’re getting paid with actual money — not with “exposure” or with coupons to Ulta.

“Freelance” simply means you’re not an on-staff writer for a publication or company.

How do freelance writers make money?

As a freelance writer, there are several different ways you can make money, but let’s talk about three.

Freelance Journalist: I make most of my income through freelance journalism. That means I interview people and do the necessary research to write reported articles and essays for newspapers, magazines, and websites. Some freelance journalists write about anything and everything, while others have a niche. I mostly write women’s lifestyle content, but I used to work for a trucking magazine so it’s safe to say I can write about anything. But when local editors usually think of me when they need content for or about women.

Related Reading: What Life as a Full-Time Freelance Writer is Really Like

Freelance Content Writer: I also write blog posts, email newsletters, articles and reports for businesses and non-profit organizations. So, a small business owner who needs help with content for her blog might hire me to write posts. The spokesperson for a non-profit organization who needs to submit an op-ed to a local newspaper might hire me to write the piece.

Freelance Copywriter: Some freelance writers are also copywriters. They write copy designed to sell a product or service. This can include content like blog posts and emails, but might also include sales pages or blurbs for brochures or an e-commerce website. They might also write copy for social media posts as well. I don’t do much of this because, frankly, I don’t want to. I prefer writing personal essays or reported articles that tell a story more than any other type of content. And that’s the beauty of being a freelance writer as opposed to an on-staff writer — if you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to!

If you want to learn more about freelance writing — specifically freelance journalism — don’t miss my free webinar, So You Think You Can Freelance, on Sunday, November 15 at 6 p.m. CT.