Yes, You Need a Niche, Freelance Writers
I struggled to get paid what I was worth for a long time as a freelance writer. You know why? Because I was a generalist. I would write about anything. When someone asked me what my specialty was I would say, “I can write anything!”
*Insert the sound of a deflating balloon here*
Yah, potential clients don’t want to hear that you write about all kinds of things. They want to know you specialize in their category. They want to know they’ve hired a writer that knows industry terms and sounds like they genuinely know what they’re talking about.
Why Clients Want to Know Your Niche
Okay, think about it this way… You wouldn’t hire someone to paint your car if their sign says, “We can paint anything!” No, you’d want someone who has years of experience painting cars so you know your vehicle will come out looking shiny and flawless.
Picking Niches Changed Everything
Eventually, I wised up and focused on three topics: DIY, health/science and tech. Know what happened when I finally pick some niches? I quadrupled my freelance income.
How to Pick a Niche
Picking your niche isn’t as overwhelming as it may seem. All you really need to do is think about what you like writing about. This is the most important thing. Remember, you will be writing about this topic day in and day out, so you better enjoy it.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Do you love researching the latest scientific discoveries? Then you may be a science writer.
Can’t wait to write about the latest iPhone? You may be a tech writer.
Adore sharing tips on eating healthy? You may be a diet or health writer.
Do you like to build or fix things, then write about it? You’re probably a DIY writer.
Have the need to share your parenting tips with the world? You could be a parenting writer.
Feel the overwhelming urge to talk about movies or the latest Hollywood gossip? You’re probably an entertainment writer.
Do you know the difference between post modernism and expressionism? You may like being a fine art writer.
Does doing your taxes or following the stock market give you a high? You might be a financial writer.
Were you a marketer in another life? Copywriting or content marketing may be for you.
Do you love correcting someone’s grammar more than you love writing? You’re probably better suited as a copyeditor.
Don’t Get Too Narrow, Though
While you’re narrowing down your niche, remember not to get too specific. A broad category will allow you to find ample work, while still anchoring you as an expert.
For example, "tech writer" is nice and broad. This niche label lets me write about anything under that enormous umbrella, including tablets, phones, computers, home hubs, self-driving cars and home security. If I picked tablet writer, though, my niche would be so narrow I wouldn’t be able to find much work. Plus, I would get bored very quickly!
Now, I want you to go sit down with your trusty notebook and write down all the things you like to write about. Then, choose no more than three to be your specialty.
Be a Niche Spy: How to Write Authoritative Copy For Niche Clients
Freelance writers, particularly when they’re just starting out, will often take any paying clients that happen to come along. This means that occasionally you’ll need to write for a business that occupies an extremely narrow niche, that you have very little experience with. Obviously, this makes writing consistently high-quality content a little harder than it would be with more conventional clients. Here’s some of the best advice for writing for these niche clients…
If you want your work for a niche client to be as fitting and effective as possible, you need to strive to make yourself an expert in that given niche, or at least as close as possible without having to scramble to meet your deadline.
Researching and reading some publications tied to that specific industry is usually the best way to start, as it can introduce you to industry-specific terms which will give your content a potent sense of authority. For example, if you were writing for a company that sells diesel generators, you wouldn’t be able to write a competitive piece of content while sticking to a conversational, generic blogger’s style. The tone would need to be a little more formal and a lot more technical.
You should strive to educate yourself about any product or service you write about, and this is even more important when it comes to niche clients.
Examine Larger Competitors’ Content Strategy
Your clients are going to want unique content that hooks readers and sticks in their mind. One of the best ways to draw inspiration is by taking a peek at the business’s larger, more successful competitors. You can easily find them by googling the industry. The top results are usually the best in the niche.
Pretend you're a corporate spy.
Okay, don't do anything illegal. Just head on over to their website and take in their copy, their style and their tone. You're going to want to mimic it to a certain extent. To prevent being too copycatty, take a look at several different competitors and look for similarities. This is what you want to incorporate into your approach with your client's copy.
There will also be some competitors who are running a notably worse content strategy, which can be just as important to research and understand. No one’s going to give you their Google Analytics password, no matter how nicely you ask, so you’re going to need to apply a little detective work to see how content is performing. Take a look at their social engagement on social media (how many likes they get, how many comments, how many shares). If they are doing things right, they should have tons of engagement. If not, try to figure out what they are doing differently than their more successful competitors.
Also take a look at their SERPs, and comments on the posts themselves to gauge how a given piece of content is being received by your client’s target audience. Most importantly, as with anything creative, you should be combining different elements that seem to be working, all the while thinking about some way you can make your content stand out.
Write for the Target Niche Audience
Like I said before, when writing about certain niche businesses, it can be smart to include a few specialised phrases and pieces of jargon that will assure the reader that you know what you’re talking about. Having said that, if you write like a professor in a given field, and use too much specialised language, you could risk alienating the readers you’re trying so hard to attract.
It’s all about getting the balance just right. If the company you’re writing for targets B2B clients, then you should write according to the basic knowledge of these people, without getting too complex and trying to sound too clever. If a prospective customer has to keep opening a dictionary in another tab just to figure out what your content is actually saying, they’re not going to stay on the page for long!
Want more tips on becoming a successful freelance writer? Read my book: