Are You a Fish or a Monkey? Finding Your Freelance Writing Niche
The fluffy-haired math guru, Albert Einstein, is credited with the quote, “Everyone is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its entire life believing it is stupid.”
Fish are excellent at swimming, blowing bubbles and entertaining scuba divers, but monkeys are the tree-climbing pros. Neither can do both.
Every freelance writer has industries, topics and tones that they excel at, but no one shines at all of them. While some writers are fish, others are monkeys, giraffes, or okapis. There’s a whole menagerie of content writers out there.
Many fresh writers believe that the best way to start making an income from writing web content is to cast a wide net and take any work that is available, no matter the industry or client. While this shotgun approach will temporarily fill your queue, it’s not the most effective path to long-term success, especially if you are a part-time writer with limited hours to devote to the process.
Accepting writing assignments outside your area of expertise means devoting large amounts of time to research and watering down the amount of income you can make in the hours you have available. Even with thorough research, writing on unfamiliar topics can result in vague, subpar content. It will also keep you trapped in a loop of continually searching for new clients and assignments, rather than establishing ongoing relationships.
One of the keys to creating unique, professional content and maximizing efficiency is determining your writing niche. Finding your niche means zeroing in on the types of assignments that are the best fit for your knowledge and skills. Plus, it sets you apart from the masses as a unique writer. In essence, your niche becomes your personal brand.
Start with industries
The best place to start your niche quest is by determining which industries you are the best match for. Dust off your old resume and take a peek at it. What fields have you worked in? Previous employment is a good indicator of which industries you will be the most successful at writing for. But, you don’t need to have worked for a dress designer to successfully write for the fashion industry. Your hobbies, education, and passions come into play as well.
Koi and sharks look nothing alike, but they are both fish. Within a single industry, there are many specialties and subsections. Couponing and family budgets are different than high-yield investments, but they are both part of the finance industry. The more you narrow down your focus within the industry the more likely it is that the right clients will find and identify with you.
Consider your voice and audience
Each writer has his or her own natural voice and style. The same person that masters an authoritative tone may find it difficult to write with a witty or casual voice. Likewise, different writers will resonate with different audiences. The same phrases that appeal to a 20-something audience may not appeal to Baby Boomers. Authentic writing means knowing your true voice. That voice is just as much a part of your niche as industries.
Once you have narrowed your niche down the industries and styles that make up your personal brand, it’s time to shout it from the rooftops. How else will clients know that you are an expert travel writer and fashion writer with a laid-back casual style? Update your profile, social media accounts and websites to better define your identity as a writer. Not only will it help clients find you, it will also aid in establishing you as an expert rather than a novice.
Michelle S made the transition from part-time to full-time writing over three years ago. Though her employment history is rooted in the nonprofit world, her writing niche also includes the fashion and travel industries.