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Contributor vs. Staff Writer: What’s the Difference?

Contributor Vs. Staff Writer: What’s The Difference?

If you have read top-tier media publications, such as Forbes, you may notice that the platform often features two types of writers – Contributors and Staff Writers. For a layman, the difference between the two may not be discernible. However, for a PR agent, knowing who does what makes a world of difference. To help you navigate these choppy waters, here is a detailed look at the difference between contributing and staff writers and how to approach them.

Contributor vs. Staff Writer: A Glossary of Titles

Let’s quickly go over the definitions, roles, and responsibilities of a contributing and staff writer:


A contributing writer writes for a platform, either on a one-off or a regular basis. Much like freelance writers, contributors work independently and get paid either on a per-article basis or as per the terms and conditions stipulated in their contract. Furthermore, they get the extra advantage of holding the title of a “Contributor” that adds to their portfolio.

Since they are freelance journalists, they operate remotely. And in some cases, contributing writers are industry leaders or subject matter experts who can lend insight into an industry or market. As a result, they may write focus-driven articles such as opinion pieces and editorials and stick to a beat. Contributors may also guide and assist staff writers in their projects.

Staff Writer

Staff writers are a part of the in-house content development team. They are associated with the organization, and since they are on the company’s payroll, they get paid as per the remunerations set aside for the post. Additionally, they also enjoy the perks, benefits, and allowances offered by the company. 

They may have defined working hours and report to their respective editors while pitching ideas or leads. As they are a part of the organization, they have access to company resources, such as contacts, newsroom, etc. While staff writers predominantly operate from the office space, reporters are a separate class of staff writers who work at the site. 


Similarities Between Contributor and Staff Writer

Despite the differences, here are some similarities that you may notice between a contributor and a staff writer:

  • They normally stick to a niche that they have mastered.
  • Both contributors and staff writers receive author credits and a byline in the publication.
  • Typically, staff writers and contributors do not have to travel for work.

Differences Between Contributor and Staff Writer

Here’s a quick snapshot of the key differences between contributing writers and staff writers:


ContributorStaff Writer
Job RequirementsThey work on a project to project basisThese are permanent employees working for an organization
Compensation MethodAs per contract or on a pro-rata basisEnjoys a fixed salary or gets paid by the hour, along with the associated allowances
Working HoursNot bound by any fixed hoursMay work part-time or full-time
IndependenceCan work for various organizationsAre duty-bound to their parent organization
Nature of WritingCan be promotional or biasedStrictly neutral and unbiased in normal situations

Best Practices While Pitching to Contributor or Staff Writer

Whether you are pitching to a freelance writer or a staff writer, here are a few best practices that may help.

  • Contributors and staff writers are both busy people. So rather than beating about the bush, write a concise and focused brief with the topic right in the subject line.
  • Edit, refine, and streamline your pitch until every word has earned its place and you are left with an attention-grabbing brief.
  • Build on the angle that your story adds value and is newsworthy.
  • Develop a self-sustainable pitch. The less research a reporter has to conduct for your story, the more likely they are to pursue it.
  • Be ready and well-prepared for any follow-ups. On the same note, be readily available whenever the writer reaches out.
  • Carry out thorough research into the organizational structure of the publication and target the relevant individuals to make your pitch more impactful.
  • Ideally, consider pitching to higher roles such as Senior Writers and Editors as Staff Writers may not have the autonomy to determine content direction.
  • Since contributing writers are associated with multiple outlets, pitching to them opens up opportunities to getting noticed.
  • Identify staff writers and contributors who specialize in the very niche or beat that you wish to narrate.
  • Prioritize building relationships rather than pitching aggressively. Offer a quick introduction and ask whether the reporter would be interested in your pitch before spouting it off.



Now that you know the difference between a contributing writer and a staff writer, you can know when to pitch to either of them. It’s also important to know the approval process for articles and the relationships between editors and staff writers.

In a nutshell, you may have better chances are striking gold while working with a contributor. However, it is not necessarily the case universally. The best way to ascertain the accuracy of this statement is by pitching to both and seeing where it takes your brand. Use the tips shared above to make high-impact pitches that are too good to pass up on. 

Read more on the media in our media guide, which breaks down the structure of newsrooms, the different types of publications, and much more.

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