I have some news that you might not be ready to hear. The truth is that as a freelance writer for hire, you simply can’t be everything to everyone. You can certainly try, but the strongest writers know they have limits and they resolve to chase excellence instead of stalking the almighty dollar. While grabbing every article may seem like the best way to build up your bank account, being the master of one domain (instead of dabbling in many but become truly skilled at none) will lead to more client loyalty, more long-term job prospects, and more pay per word. Eventually.
Explore Your Options
It wouldn’t be wise to decide on a niche before identifying all your options, now would it? And I know you’re a wise person, so start by considering the following (totally non-comprehensive) list of possible job areas available to you in the wide world of freelance writing:
- Web copy
- Marketing content (product descriptions, buyer’s guides, and more)
- Ghostwriting (fiction or non-fiction)
- Grant proposals
- Fiction (including historical, romance, sci-fi, and more)
- Columnist – especially if you get syndicated!
- Academic writer
- Screenwriter, songwriter, or playwright
- Technical writer
- SEO and content planning
And that’s just for starters. Often there is some overlap between types of freelance writing or your particular skill set may lend itself to more than one area, but if you’re just reading through job postings and sending out a proposal to any live email link you can find, you’re wasting a lot of time and effort.
Identify Your Strengths
There are also subject niches that encompass everything from accounting to art to online gaming to anything and everything pet related. Where in the world do you start?
- See what you’ve already written. What is it that you write when money and clients aren’t at stake? They say that if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life, and while I kind of like researching a new topic and stretching my limits to please a client, it can be pretty mentally taxing. When I write about something I know really well, like food or wine or travel, it’s the most enjoyable time I spend in front of a computer. Make a list of what interests you – and not just “this is kind of cool,” but ask yourself if it’s something you want to know more about, because you’ll be spending a lot of time upping your expertise.
- Assess the demand level. Are there enough people who want to read what you want to write? It’s great to specialize in underwater pet photography, but if there aren’t clients in line to buy it, you’re going to starve really fast.
- Is it scalable? Where are you going to go with your chosen niche? Can you use it to build a bigger client list? Can you feed your family (or your family of 17 cats)? Think big enough to build a career, but small enough that you can stand out as someone special.
Above all, don’t be afraid of failure. You may not find a way to stand out immediately so start by just writing. Write anything and everything and then take the time to see what sticks. Being a successful freelance writer for hire doesn’t happen overnight – but it does happen.
Alana M is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.