When I first started out as a freelance writer, I assumed a writing niche was something that was meant for other people—people that weren’t me. After all, I was hustling just to get my business off the ground.
I’d write about storage units, assisted living facilities, fish finders, and hair care. If someone was willing to cut me a check, I’d put pen to paper on whatever they wanted me to write about. When my method for paying my car payment had resorted to searching my couch cushions for spare change, who was I to turn away work?
But, as the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. And, looking back, I actually started to experience better success with freelance writing once I decided to narrow my focus and zone in on a specific niche.
So, as counterintuitive as it might seem (believe me, my friends, I’ve been there!), I now recommend that all prospective freelancers choose a niche sooner rather than later.Choosing a niche could be the best thing you do for your #freelance writing career: Click To Tweet
Are you rolling your eyes and writing this off as advice that’s meant for all of the other freelancers out there? Like I said, I made that very same mistake. But, trust me when I tell you that choosing a niche could be one of the very best things you do for your freelance writing career. Why? Well, keep on readin’.
While I can understand the desire to take on as much work as you can—regardless of the topic or industry—there’s a major downfall to that all-over-the-board approach: You wind up with a writing portfolio that’s, well, a little unfocused.
So, when it came time for me to pitch outlets that I was truly interested in, I only had work to showcase that was completely unrelated. Needless to say, this made breaking into the fields that I really wanted to write about that much tougher.
I thought that the surefire way to build my reputation as a freelancer would be to get my name out there as far as I could. It didn’t matter what I was writing—if I could blanket the world in my byline, I’d be sure to grow my business.
However, yet again, this was yet another thing that made me seem scattered and unfocused. Despite my naive assumptions, I wasn’t getting contacted by prospective clients left and right. And, the worst part? The ones that did contact me were places I really didn’t want to write for.
Writing involves quite a bit of research—that much you already know. But, you’d be surprised at how much less research you need to do when you pick only one or two specific areas to focus on. All of your pieces start to build off each other, and you aren’t left feeling like you’re starting at square one (staring at that menacing blinking text cursor) each time you sit down to write a new article.
Even further, you start to build a presence as a subject matter expert. The more content you have published on a certain topic or niche, the more you begin to gain notoriety as somebody who can write thoroughly and thoughtfully on those subjects—which means you ultimately gain more well-vetted clients in the area you’re interested in. What could be better than that?!
Alright, you get it. Establishing a writing niche is beneficial when you’re a freelance writer. But, now you have another big question hanging out in the back of your brain: How do you find your freelance writing niche? Start by asking yourself these three key questions.
If you’re going to spend your days writing, you might as well do so about topics that actually interest you. And, as much as the posts about storage units helped to pay the bills, they didn’t necessarily set my heart on fire.
Take some time to think about some specific areas that interest you. Perhaps you love pop culture or entertainment. Maybe you’re passionate about technology or software. Or, you might just adore science or medicine.
As for me, I realized that the pieces I most enjoyed working on had to do with careers and self-development. Notice that my niche isn’t particularly narrow (it encompasses a lot—including communication, productivity, motivation, etc.). But, it’s focused enough that I can easily say storage units no longer fit the picture.
It’s easier to get started in a particular niche if you have some skills, experience, or expertise to bring to the table in that particular area. Personally, I had a background as a resume writer, so writing about careers seemed like a natural fit for me.
But, maybe you studied music in college and have always been active in your local music scene. Or, perhaps you’re a Certified Nursing Assistant who’s trying to build up a freelance writing side hustle—medical topics could be an awesome fit!
The key is to find something that you know at least a little bit about, and maybe even have some unique experience with. That will help to set you apart when pitching your work.
You might have no problem thinking about things you’d love to write about. But, you also need to be realistic: Is there a demand for this type of content?
Fortunately, I have some good news for you: There’s opportunity to write about practically anything. Remember, I was churning out posts about how to keep your storage unit secure. So, if there’s a demand for that, you know things have to be pretty wide open out there.
Even so, I’d recommend sitting down and doing a little bit of research to find out what brands or outlets are publishing content that’s in line with what you’d like to write out. That’ll help you to ensure you’ve selected a viable niche before you’re too invested!
Of course, determining your freelance writing niche is only half the battle. Obviously, you want to figure out how to build a presence for yourself in that area. Here are a few tips that worked for me:
While I recommend eventually narrowing your workload in order to focus on your niche, that doesn’t mean I think you should dump all of your current clients and start from scratch again. This doesn’t need to happen overnight.
Stick with your existing work for now—it’s what’s paying the bills for the time being, after all. But, when seeking out new opportunities, make an effort to focus only on your niche. Slowly but surely, you’ll begin building a client roster within your particular area, and be able to eventually drop those projects that don’t suit you best.
Alright, maybe not any opportunity—but, allow me to clarify. When you’re attempting to make a name for yourself in a particular niche, you don’t have the luxury of being as concerned with price.
Instead, you need to be more focused on gaining experience in that area. If that means writing for a little less than you normally would, so be it. You’re just looking to get your start.
Here’s another thing that can be particularly helpful: Refining your social media accounts to focus on your chosen niche. That doesn’t mean you can only post things related to that area. However, you want people to be able to look at your Twitter page, for example, and immediately get a feel for the type of work you do.
Add something like “Personal Finance Freelance Writer” or “Technology Freelance Writer” to your bio. Follow accounts that fall under that umbrella. Share posts and articles—whether your own or someone else’s—related to those topics.
Those changes might seem small, but they can make a big difference in reinforcing your professional brand in your new niche.