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How to Find Your Niche
Here are 4 super-simple steps to find the most successful, profitable niche for you.
As a new freelance writer, it may be tempting to say “hey, I’ll write about anything!” And that may serve you well - for a while.
However, in my time as a freelancer I’ve noticed that people with a real specialty - something that they are uniquely good at or knowledgeable about - are far more likely to bring in the big bucks.
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Seems counter-intuitive, right? I thought so at first, too. Who would want to knowingly slash their potential client pool?
However, niching down doesn’t really limit your income potential unless you go too far, too soon. Instead, it’s a great way to differentiate yourself and show potential clients that you are worth paying more for.
Here are a few more of my thoughts on niching, along with four simple steps to identify the best niche for you at any point in your freelance career.
What is a niche?
A niche is your specialty, essentially. It’s what you do best in the massive world of online writing and digital marketing.
First and most importantly, you need to determine if you write content or copy.
Copy: sales-oriented, action-driven, goal is to make a sale
Content: education-oriented, informative, goal is to build trust and provide info
Both are important, but most writers stick to either copy or content because they are very different styles. I stick to the content side of things, although I am starting to dip my toe into copywriting.
Content writers typically work in a topic-based niche.
As a registered dietitian, I naturally fell into a niche: nutrition. However, as a newbie writer I took a broader approach - focusing on health and wellness in general. This got me more work when I was growing my business.
Now that I’ve been writing for a few years, I’ve settled into a more granular niche: metabolic health. Although I still do a lot of general nutrition writing, clients seek me out specifically for content related to keto, low carb, whole food diets, and metabolic health.
Some common, broad niches include:
Health and wellness
Medicine and medical care
Parenting and family
However, your niche doesn’t have to be a topic. Many copywriters specialize in a particular type of writing, rather than a topic. For example, you may choose to have a niche such as:
You can also make a fantastic living with a super-defined niche in both an industry and a particular type of writing. Ex: “I write high-converting sales pages for dietary supplement brands.” These are the types of writers who have months-long waiting lists - but it takes time to reach the point where you can do this successfully.
Another thing to consider about niches is who you’re writing for. Who’s your audience?
Direct-to-consumer (B2C): You are writing content or copy that will be read by individual consumers. For example, a blog post on a dietary supplement’s website, or an email sequence for a clothing company.
Business-to-business (B2B): You are writing content or copy for other businesses. There’s a huge B2B industry known as “software as a service” (SaaS) that many freelance writers work in.
Do I need a niche?
That all depends on who you ask. Some people are very pro-niche, and others are very anti-niche.
I am firmly in the “eh, maybe” camp. I like having a niche. It doesn’t have to be super-specific, and you don’t have to turn down projects outside of your niche. But, choosing a niche that most of your work falls into makes it a lot easier to market yourself to high-profile clients. For example, I feel very confident approaching some of the movers and shakers in the world of keto and metabolic health because I have built my brand around that niche and I have the education and experience to back it up.
However, there are several successful generalists who never choose a niche. And, to be honest, I’d say only 50% or so of my work is directly in my niche of metabolic health.
So, do you need a niche? It really depends a lot on your interests and expertise. Since I have a degree in nutrition and I’m a dietitian, it was natural to adopt a niche in nutrition. I’m also kind of a dork when it comes to weight loss and metabolism, so that was something that evolved naturally as I pursued opportunities that I was really personally interested in.
But if your degree or experience doesn’t necessarily translate into a profitable freelance writing niche, or if you don’t have a degree or an established career, then staying on the generalist side of things may benefit you more.
There may also be a little bit of serendipity (luck? fortune?) involved. It’s impossible to know how your career is going to go, or what big, trajectory-defining jobs may be in your future. Don’t worry too much about choosing your niche. Instead, a better approach is to let the niche find you. The wand chooses the wizard, and all that.
Benefits of niching down
Here are a few of the biggest benefits of narrowing down your niche.
Expertise: Niching down allows you to develop deeper expertise in one specific area. Having this expertise makes it easier to draw in clients and streamline content creation, making you more profitable and productive.
Client acquisition: Having a specific niche makes it easier to find potential clients that would be a great fit, or filter out clients that would be a poor fit. Knowing that I can fairly easily find work in my own niche, I usually decline opportunities that are completely out of my wheelhouse (and make sure to refer them to people in my network who would be a better fit).
Boost your online presence: If you can optimize your website, social profiles, and LinkedIn to advertise your niche, you can make it easier for good clients to find you. Few cream-of-the-crop clients are going to search for something general like “freelance writer,” but instead may use more specific terms like “dietitian writer” or “keto writer” depending on what they’re looking for.
Make more money: When brands go looking specifically for writers in a certain area of expertise, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll also pay well. In my experience, these clients are also universally great to work with too.
4 steps to find and refine your niche
1. ID your expertise
The most obvious niche (and the easiest to break into as a writer) is something you already have some level of expertise in, like your career or your degree.
Remember to keep it broad as a beginner, though. That means you may have to “zoom out” a couple of times.
For instance, as a dietitian my natural niche is nutrition, but I focused on general health and wellness at first to get more work.
If you have a degree in accounting, you may want to focus on a broader niche of finance or business.
High school math teacher? Focus on education in general, at least at first.
2. Consider your interests and lifestyle
On the other hand, if you’re considering freelance writing to break out of your current career or pivot away from what you earned your degree in, you may want to take another approach to finding your niche. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you arrive at some other niche ideas:
What are your hobbies and interests? Are you a competitive runner? A master gardener? A self-taught chef?
What about your lifestyle? Are you a parent? A pet owner? Frugal to a T? A fan of luxury? Great at makeup? A dedicated DIYer?
Do you already have a social media following/presence? What do you normally post about on social media?
All of these things have the potential to be a profitable niche for you. As I mentioned above, go ahead and try to find the “bigger picture” niche as a beginner. For example, if you’re a runner, focus on more general fitness/wellness. If you’re a parent, parenting is a vast niche. Likewise with personal finance, if you’re a frugal person and you have a good grasp of the basics.
3. Get to work
Next? Just work!
You don’t want to define a super-narrow niche before you have any experience as a freelance writer. I did, and it didn’t work out.
When I first got really serious about writing, I decided that my niche was going to be functional beverages. But it wasn’t something I was particularly passionate about, and it was an extremely narrow niche that I - a newbie writer - couldn’t make a splash in.
I found much more success after zooming out and adopting general nutrition as my niche, and over time found a more specific niche that I was truly passionate about.
So, just go with the flow and see where your writing career takes you. Part of freelancing is the fun and excitement of taking on new projects, meeting and working with new people, and getting to know new brands. I have had so many cool opportunities that I never expected - and that have had a big impact on the direction of my career.
4. Reassess periodically
Finally, make sure to step back and assess every once in a while - especially as a newer writer who is working on the more generalized side of things.
As you become established, you may start to notice patterns in the type of work that pays best, or that you enjoy the most. Something that falls into both of these categories would make a great niche.
And remember, you’re not locked in forever. If I had been rigidly attached to that functional beverage niche a few years ago, I don’t think I ever would have found freelancing success. And if you’re like me, you chose freelancing for freedom and flexibility - so use it!
A niche is your specialty area as a writer. On the content side, this may be a topic like nutrition or education. On the copy side, this may be a particular type of deliverable - like emails or sales pages. But there are no set-in-stone rules about niches.
You don’t necessarily need a niche, but there are some benefits. They help you develop an area of expertise, which can make it easier to attract and find better clients who pay more. Niching down also helps you differentiate yourself online.
To find your niche, first think about what you know: your career, your degree, your interests. These are a good start. You may need to zoom out a little bit to find a bigger picture niche, at least as a beginner.
Next, just get to work. Even if you have some idea of what you eventually want to niche in, you never know what direction your career will take. Leave a little room for happy accidents. Every few months, reassess and see if it’s time to start niching down further, pivoting your niche, or expanding back out.
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