When you’re starting out at a freelance writer, you may be tempted to keep your options open by casting as broad of a net as you can with your skills. You might target clients looking for B2B copywriting, and lifestyle content, and parenting stories, because hey, you’re just starting out and you need the work.
Except that approach is going to backfire on you, for a few reasons.
Companies want experts (and you don’t want to have to become an expert in everything).
Most of the brands and publishers that are willing to pay their writers a living wage (i.e. companies that go beyond using content mills) are also expecting to hire a writer who knows what they’re talking about (or is willing to do enough research to figure out what they’re talking about). And opening yourself up to learning everything about anything on top of trying to run a freelance business is a pretty large undertaking.
Learning the lingo of any industry, whether it’s fashion, or foreign policy, or fish tanks, takes time and experience, and if you aren’t familiar with the sector you’re writing about (even if doesn’t seem all that complicated), two things can happen.
One, it will take you for.ev.er. to finish every assignment you get because you’ll spend hours doing research and then sitting in front of a blank screen while you try to distill it all into a helpful blog post or website copy. Or two, you won’t spend enough time doing all of the research you need to do to write a well-informed article because you’re too busy to spend a whole eight hours writing 1,000 words (isn’t every freelancer too busy for that?), and then the blog post or website copy won’t be specific or convincing.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about something unless you have a Ph.D. in it. When I started writing magazine stories and blog posts about interior design and home decor (which has been my personal niche for about five years now), I lived in a rental apartment full of IKEA furniture. In order to help me sound like I knew what I was talking about when I wrote about design styles and furniture, I would read shelter magazines like Elle Decor and Veranda and record adjectives in a word doc that I would reference later when the only word I could think of to describe something was “pretty.” A few years later, I could probably (OK, possibly) trick you into thinking I went to school for interior design (if you were reading my writing, not necessarily walking through my front door).
If you’re just starting out and have no idea what you want your niche to be, it’s OK to start out with a broader focus (like lifestyle content writing, or B2B copy, or tech writing for medical industries) and then narrow it down as you gain experience and decide what you like most. Eventually, when you learn the ins and outs of your niche you’ll have the ability to write about it much faster and with much more authority than if you attempted to be a Jack-of-all-trades starting from scratch each time you took on an assignment.
Oh, and bonus: When you do become the expert in your niche, you’ll be able to charge more, too.
You’ll face less competition.
Another compelling reason to choose a niche as a freelance writer: you’ll have a greater chance of being found by potential clients online. If you go and Google “freelance writer,” you’ll get millions of search results, with the front page dominated by major sites like FreelanceWriting.com, Upwork.com, and Indeed.com. What won’t be on the front page is your freelance writing website (unless you’re a legitimate SEO all-star, in which case I’d like you to call me so I can learn your secrets). It’s pretty hard to compete with these mega-sites and rank even in the first 100 results for such a broad and popular term.
On the other hand, if you have a freelance writing niche like wedding industry blogging, or copywriting for commodity businesses, or ghostwriting for business executives, or home decor writer and you tailor your site accordingly, you’ll have a much, much better chance of ranking on the first page of search results because there are will be far fewer good sites on the internet to compete with yours.
AND you’ll reach your ideal clients.
The other good thing about tailoring your site to your writing niche? You’ll reach your ideal clients. Because my website is targeted to the people who are looking for someone to write about home decor in some form, if they land on my site and see samples of the work I’ve done for other companies in their industry, there’s a good chance they can imagine me helping them with their project, too. There’s also a good chance they’re going to be a client I would want to work with.
Do you have a freelance writing niche? Has this strategy worked for you?