Broadly speaking, freelance writers fall into two categories: generalists and specialists.
Generalists are open to writing content about any topic. One week, they might be writing about food and dining trends for a magazine; the next, they might be writing articles for a blog about dogs; and the next, they might be writing website content for a plumbing business!
Specialists, on the other hand, have established a freelance writing niche for themselves. This is a particular topic or area they specialise in writing about, and they focus exclusively on working with clients in this area.
Now, we're not saying you have to be one or the other. Both are valid and potentially lucrative options. Plus, plenty of freelance writers can be classified as both generalists and specialists – that is, they might have a niche, but don't work exclusively within it.
However, today we're going to focus on the specialist side of things.
Having a freelance writing niche can be a great way to make good money, attract repeat clients, and write about what you love. So let's get into the step-by-step process of identifying your ideal freelance writing niche!
Step 1: Identify your area of expertise
First things first: it's time to ask yourself... 'What do I know the most about? What area do I have above-average knowledge or experience in?'
You might have had (or still have) a non-writing-related job, with enough specific knowledge or skill in that area to be able to write about it. For example, if you used to be a florist before becoming a freelance writer – or you're a part-time florist, part-time freelancer – your area of expertise could be all things flowers and floral arrangements.
If you're a full-time freelance writer, or you have another job in a writing-related area such as publishing, your area of expertise could even just be writing itself! What specific type of writing do you know the most about? Fiction writing, blogging, content marketing?
No matter what your specialisation, there's sure to be a market for it. But to be successful in your freelance writing niche, you've gotta love what you do. Which brings us to our next step...
Step 2: Identify what you're passionate about
You've established what you know how to write about; now it's time to consider what you love to write about.
Let's continue with the above-mentioned florist example. Perhaps, yes, you used to be a florist, but you made the switch to freelance writing because you didn't really have the passion for floristry. However, you still love flowers, particularly native Australian flowers and the process of growing them.
In this case, what you're passionate about is flowers themselves. So rather than writing about the practice of floristry, you'll be writing about different aspects of the topic of flowers – the aspects that you truly love to learn, read and write about.
Identifying your passion might also involve looking at styles of writing as well as just topics you love. Perhaps your absolute favourite thing to write is instructional blog posts – in-depth how-to guides for an online audience. Whatever style you enjoy writing in most should be the one you specialise in.
Step 3: Identify opportunities or gaps in the market
The next step is to make sure there is actually work available in your particular area of expertise/passion.
Do some browsing to find publications, blogs and businesses that might actually pay you to write in your particular niche.
Are there trade publications, such as industry magazines, that are currently accepting articles from freelance writers? Are there gaps in the market that might offer job opportunities – such as businesses in your industry that might be interested in adding a blog to their website?
If there doesn't seem to be a place anywhere for writing about your particular subject (and getting paid for it), your niche might be a little too specific. Take a step back and see how you can broaden your area to appeal to a wider market.
Step 4: Identify the crossover of these areas
Look back at all the brainstorming you've done so far. You should be able to see a clear formula for your niche:
Area of expertise + specific passion within that area AND/OR specific style of writing you love +
potential opportunities or gaps in the market = your freelance writing niche.
Using the components of our florist examples above, that particular freelance writing niche would be something along the lines of 'in-depth blog posts about growing and caring for native Australian flowers'.
As we cautioned above, it's good to have a specific niche, but sometimes there isn't enough demand for this to be your only focus.
In this case, if the freelancer wanted to open themselves up to more opportunities, they might expand their niche to be a little more general, and seek work writing about general flower-growing as well as native Australian flora; or perhaps they could pitch feature articles to gardening industry magazines in addition to seeking blogging work.
Just to remind you again, though: finding your freelance writing niche doesn't mean you have to write in that niche alone. You can dedicate half your time to writing specialist flower-growing blog posts, and the other half to being a generalist freelance writer!
Step 5: What's next?
Seek out clients
Once you've identified your freelance writing niche, it's time to start looking for work.
There are a number of ways you can seek out clients. Try:
- Pitching freelance articles to publications in your niche. This could be a trade magazine, or a website/blog that publishes articles related to your topic. You can also pitch to publications that aren't necessarily 100% specific to your niche – generalist publications that might be interested in a feature article, for example.
- Browsing freelance job boards using targeted keywords. For example, our florist-turned-freelancer might if search things like 'flower growing' or 'native Australian flowers' + 'blog'.
- Contacting local businesses related to your niche to offer your services. Get in touch to explain what you do and see if they might need content creation or blog posts. It's worth a shot!
- Rebranding your website/social media to market yourself as a specialist. If you're serious about pursuing your specific freelance writing niche, your online presence should reflect this.
- Advertising your services. Place a few free ads on places like Craigslist or Gumtree. You never know – someone browsing these sites might be seeking exactly what you're offering!
Expand your knowledge
The more expertise you have in your freelance writing niche, the more desirable you'll be to clients. That's why it's important to keep expanding your knowledge even after you've begun working within your niche.
Make sure you're up-to-date on all the latest info, news and developments in your area of specialisation. Read industry publications and blogs; subscribe to relevant newsletters; even take an online course or two through a site like Skillshare or Lynda.com.
No matter how specific your freelance writing niche is, the global nature of freelancing means that you're bound to have competition from at least a few others. So do everything you can to become an expert in your field and stand out from the crowd!
Do you have a freelance writing niche? Or do you prefer to take a generalist approach to freelance writing? Share your experience with us in the comments!