Advice commonly given to freelance writers is to find your writing niche, or “niche down.”
This is great advice, especially for writers who have specialized knowledge or who have been in the game long enough to know what their niche is, no sweat. And ideally you’ll niche at some point — specialized knowledge gets higher rates and it takes less time to generate ideas and write, because you’re already familiar with the topic.
But picking a writing niche isn’t always so straightforward, especially if you’re early in your career.
When you’re scanning the sea of freelance writing opportunities with no idea which way is the “right” way to go, it can be overwhelming.
What if you come across like an idiot? What if it takes you 10 hours to write a $50 post because you have to research the topic or industry so much? How could you possibly stack up against all the expert writers out there? Will you ever be able to pull this off?
Don’t let yourself go there. Just don’t.
How to find your writing niche
If you’ve been a writer for a while and you find that you enjoy specific types of assignments or that you don’t mind taking on assignments that others seem to avoid, you’ve got a good clue about what your niche could be. If you still feel pretty green and don’t have much experience to compare and contrast, don’t get caught up in niching.
Whether or not you think you have some specialized knowledge that you can turn into a writing career, there’s probably something. Here are some to think about when you’re wondering what your niche should — or could — be.
1. What do you do in your spare time?
If you’ve got a hobby (like jewelry-making or deep-sea fishing) then there’s probably a niche for that. Go beyond blogs — think industry or trade magazines, equipment manufacturers, even travel magazines. Manufacturers may need writers for their materials, and sellers will, too.
Further questions for exploration: If you had 4 hours to spend in the library, what section would you head for? What newsletters do you read immediately? What blogs do you read every chance you get? If you went on a weekend retreat that revolved around only one topic or idea, what would inspire you to go?
2. What’s easy for you that’s hard for others?
A big eye-opener is to think about things that come easily to you or you find completely fascinating and important, but are inexplicably dull or difficult for the people around you. Are you the go-to person for a given topic with your friends and family? If you’re totally into personal finance and like looking at new credit card offers just to scoff at what’s buried in the fine print, your niche may be money. If you can’t get enough about Montessori education for the 3-6 age bracket, there’s an opportunity to write for industry publications, develop marketing content or curricula for merchants, or even start your own profitable blog.
3. What was your favorite job?
If you’ve ever had a job or any other long-term commitment of some sort, which one was your favorite? Think about why you liked it so much. Was it the population you served, the needs you met, the types of tasks you carried out? If you loved being the “conference registrar” in your event planning internship, there may be places for you in hospitality, database/membership management, or even online summits. If you miss the dogs you walked to make money as a summer job and you enjoyed experimenting on them with animal behavior techniques, there are all kinds of pet-related industries waiting for your pitch or LOI.
Think about what made you want to keep showing up. No matter what the answer is for you, there’s an audience for that… and if there’s an audience, there’s a paying market.
Further thoughts on finding your writing niche
Here’s the thing: The best way to improve your writing is to write. The best way to improve your career is to write. Don’t get stuck not-writing because you aren’t sure what your niche is. When all else fails, write!
Think about what comes most easily to you, what you enjoy doing, and where your strengths are compared to your fellow writers. Staying conscious of those things will help you evaluate your opportunities and, yes, find the right niche(s).
In the meantime, keep writing!
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