There’s tons of writers out there, and as Ben Folds puts it, there’s always someone cooler than you—someone with more experience, or a bigger blog, or better SEO for their website. There just is.
So how do you set yourself apart? You niche.
Choosing a niche lets you become an expert in a designated area and leads to more (and often, better-paid) opportunities. But how do you find your niche? How do you know if a niche is narrow enough … or too narrow?
Lucky for us, there’s tons of advice available on the topic. Here’s some highlights from my own research, plus my own two cents on how to make niche-ing work for you.
The two big questions
There are two basic questions any starting freelancer should ask themselves that will help you find your niche
1. What do I have proven experience in?
Look at your work samples. What trends do you see, in topics or types of work?
2. What do I enjoy?
You’re going to spend a lot of time doing the work you choose as your niche, so don’t let experience alone be your guide—make sure you focus on something you enjoy, too.
After all, what’s the point of being a freelancer if you can’t enjoy your work?
And ta-da! It’s that simple. The intersection of these questions, where your experience and interests overlap—this is your niche.
Carol Tice, the master freelancing mind behind Make a Living Writing, advises considering the market when choosing your niche, too.
As an example she cites that she enjoyed writing Arts & Entertainment articles for a local newspaper, but opted to niche in other beats because the A&E writer pool is already so overcrowded.
These considerations have led me to focus on offering blogging and other content marketing services geared toward small to mid-size businesses, as well as public relations and marketing trade publications.
My Extra Question
As I plan my own strategy, I’m asking myself a third question: What do I want to write about, but can’t claim as a niche right now?
For me that’s an easy question to answer—I adore geek and pop culture writing and would just love to build a portfolio in that niche. I’d also love to write about health, fitness and well-being topics.
I’m not there right now, but if I could get paid for posts in these niches, it would be a dream. So while I’m putting my biggest focus on where I can niche myself right now, I’m saving some time and energy to build out some credibility in these topics, too.
After all, I’m in this for the long haul, not just the next few months. I want a career arc that is balanced, dynamic, and diversified. (And, duh, fun.)
What About You?
So what’s your niche? Take some time to explore these key questions and find those sweet spots where interests and experience overlap for profitability. When it comes to standing out among the hordes of freelance writers out there these days, specialization is the key.
And don’t forget to leave some room to reach for the stars and plan future niches, too!