The idea of choosing a niche can be really stressful for a lot of new writers.
It’s true that there are riches in the niches. It’s also true that there’s a lot of money to be made as a freelance writing generalist. I want to bring this message to my readers, in a counter-establishment kind of way.
I’m no longer the one proclaiming that the riches are in the niches.
I really believed this message for a long time, in large part because it was the message that was given to me over and over–being a generalist is not good for your career and you need to burrow down and become a super expert as quickly as you can. Even in my own experience, I really started getting traction when I started choosing a niche and putting blinders on to all the other opportunities.
That’s why I firmly believed that picking a niche was the right thing to do and the sooner you choose one, the better off you’re going to be. I still believe in this message, but I’ve come to a different place of understanding about it and my beliefs are a bit more nuanced.
I was actually pretty nervous to write this. Lots of people and organizations offer courses just on selecting a niche. It’s a big part of their platforms.
Generalists aren’t seen as professional, as “high end.” You’re leaving money on the table if you’re not picking a niche.
^^^ This is a common, very loudly proclaimed message and I am now showing up to counter-proclaim that the message is wrong. It’s not 100% wrong. It’s not entirely false. It’s just not the right message for everyone.
There is a lot of truth in this idea of not being a freelance writing generalist… but I don’t think it is properly applied.
There is tremendous truth in specializing, in becoming an expert, and increasing your rates because of your specialty. However, there is a timeline, a process that you need to go through. I think telling absolute beginning writers that they need to choose a niche immediately is setting a lot of us up for anxiety and imposter syndrome, lots of mental hurdles, barriers, and blocks (oh my!).
It’s causing a lot of us who would otherwise be doing pretty well not to get started and to give up quickly and succumb to frustration. I want to speak to those people.
I cannot tell you how many new writers or would-be writers have come to me scared and frustrated and feeling like they can’t begin because they don’t have a niche. They don’t feel clear on what their niche should be and they know that they shouldn’t move forward until they have one.
That’s the message I want to undo.
If you’re there, it’s really important that I help you understand that you do not have to specialize.
A generalist is just someone who’s not a specialist.
A freelance writing generalist is just a writer with no niche.
I want to encourage you if you’re having trouble picking a niche; just know that you can do really well as a generalist. You can put yourself out there for anything that looks interesting to you. You can become the go-to writer for all the things. You can build up a massive referral pipeline just for being “the writer.” You know, “my writer friend” or “my copywriter friend” or “that person everybody tags when someone needs a writer.”
The truth is that there is a lot of money to be made in the writing niches. But there is also a lot of money to be made as a freelance writing generalist. If this idea of choosing a niche, not having the right niche, and feeling like you’re not an expert enough in the niche that you’ve chosen is holding you back, then I want to encourage you to abandon this notion of choosing a niche.
The reality is that a huge majority of people who are now specialists didn’t start that way… or they started somewhere completely different than they ended up and they took a long, winding trail to get where they are today.
They just leave that part out and tell everyone to start where they are — that place they figured out eventually.
Eventually you can make higher money as a specialist, as you become more of an expert and really claim your niche, but you don’t have to start there. You often CAN’T start there. So… start as a freelance writing generalist instead.
You can start by applying for anything that looks interesting. You can start by putting yourself out there as a writer and when you have client calls–maybe they’re interviewing you because you applied for a blog writing gig–they ask, “Can you also do sales pages?”
You’re in a position of strength if you are able to say, “Yes, I can write other things, too.”
Some people are able to choose a niche easily. They have a built-in specialty, they know where their strengths are. Maybe they have some professional experience that puts them squarely into a niche that they are comfortable claiming and owning. But a lot of us don’t have that starting from scratch.
We know we’re smart and good writers and can figure it out, but we don’t really have any specific experience that points us to a niche. If that’s you and you’re feeling lost, sad, and discouraged, I want you to drop the rope and know that the message that you have to have a niche is false.
You may not be at that point yet.
There is something really valuable to many people who hire writers, that they can hire one writer who does all the things. Many clients want one writer to do everything. You can be that person and you can make good money as that person. In fact, I have someone who’s been trying FOR MONTHS to get me to work for him as his writer-of-all-the-things. And I’m not cheap, and this person knows it and still wants to hire me.
In the meantime, I have a free email course you can sign up for, that walks you through the process of choosing a freelance writing niche to see if you’re ready (with no pressure to choose one!). I’ve had about 500 people go through this email course over the last few years.
I use this free email course to offer a lot of support around the stress, because I get it.
For those of you who are struggling with choosing a niche, or who have had clients say, “Can you also do this?” and you don’t know what to say because it feels wrong to say yes since you’re supposed to choose a niche…. but it feels wrong to say no because you’re leaving money on the table and you’re not serving your clients to your best ability… I recorded a free masterclass for you. It’s free and you can watch it any time.
My goal is to teach. I’ll give you scripts. You can take a lot of notes. I’ll help you become comfortable with the idea of marketing yourself as a freelance writing generalist.
In the meantime, if you are really struggling with not having a niche and feeling like you have to have one because all the experts say so, I want you to know that the experts are wrong.
They’re right, but they’re also wrong. They are right that having a niche is valuable. They are wrong in that every single writer at every moment in time needs to have one. So if you are not ready to have a niche, if you feel totally lost, if you just want to write and this niche thing is stressing you out, you have my permission not to choose a niche.
Since 2010, businesses and entrepreneurs have turned to me for stronger copy, deeper customer relationships, and great blog content.
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