Why is Choosing Your Freelance Niches important?
Niche is such a buzzword when it comes to anything to do with the internet that you could be forgiven for thinking it was a meaningless piece of jargon. However, if you want to be a successful freelance writer then you dismiss niches at your peril. The word is so popular because it is so important! You have to choose your freelance writing niches and you have to do it now.
It’s not just freelance writing where choosing a niche is important. Forbes magazine says that “almost every thought-leader and hotshot CEO who made it big did so by focusing on one crucial aspect of their business: they embraced their niche.” I’m pretty sure life is not that simple, but clearly, choosing a great niche is important when it comes to business and freelance writing
There are so many reasons why choosing your freelance writing niches is an important first step, but the most important one has to be your own sanity! Freelance writing is a great gig, but when you’re spending all day everyday writing about something you don’t care about it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Life is going to be so much easier if you’re writing about something you love!
If your own sanity is not reason enough for you to choose a niche then your success should be. By choosing a niche and building a great body of work in that niche you make it so much easier to advertise yourself. Once you establish yourself as an expert in your niche the job offers will start to pour in and suddenly you’re living the dream.
Trying to figure out your niche isn’t always easy though, so we’ve put together 7 steps to put yourself ahead of your competition when choosing a niche. Follow these steps and be honest with yourself and you will make the first steps to ensuring your freelance writing success.
1. Think of Yourself as a Brand
When you think of McDonald's, what do you think of? The chances are - burgers. That’s because McDonald's serves 68 million happy customers a day, and most of those customers will have a burger. So you think of McDonald's, and you think of burgers.
The more important question is: when you think of burgers, what do you think of? In many cases, the answer is going to be McDonald's. The equation works both ways because of McDonald's' unbelievable branding.
When it comes to your freelance writing career, you need to take a leaf out of McDonald's' playbook and make sure you become the go-to (brand) name in your niche. By focusing on a specific niche or niches, you can create a competitive advantage for yourself, that gets you more jobs, earns you more money, and reduces your workload.
Don’t let us limit your ambitions, but it may difficult to show that you have 68 million happy customers a day in your niche, but the principle is there. If you have a body of work that includes 100 top notch articles about competitive chess, this is going to be more useful than a 100 articles on anything from the vocabulary of parrots to the music of Art Garfunkel (unless they’re somehow linked).
Follow McDonald's and focus on a few things that you are good at - burgers, fries, and soft drinks. Hone your skills in these areas so that you have every step of the process down to a tee and create a body of work that shows you are an expert in this field.
The better you get at writing about competitive chess, the more people are going to think competitive chess and then think of your name. You will jump to the top of listings, boost your earning potential and attract job offers without having to source them.
As The Writing Cooperative says, “you can’t do your branding properly until you have figured out some niche stuff. It’s also hard to do niche stuff without thinking about your brand.” Your niche and your brand are always going to be intertwined because that is your calling card.
Like McDonald's' calling card might say burgers, fries, and soft drinks, your calling card needs to say “Jonny Dallas - attracts 10,00 viewers to competitive chess blogs by making complex chess talk accessible to the average reader."
2. All Good Things Start With Brainstorming
The easiest things to write about are the things that we are passionate about and that we have a high level of knowledge about. You can take it from me, there’s nothing more painful than constantly having to churn out 2,000-word articles on something you just don’t care about out.
On the flip side, when you write about something you’re truly passionate about it can be an extremely enjoyable process. Time seems to fly by, the ideas flow and you know that this is what you were meant to do.
Maybe you’re sitting there thinking there’s nothing I’m passionate about that other people want to read about, but you would certainly be wrong. It’s a weird and wonderful world out there, and the internet is the embodiment of that. Up to 4.3k people a month ask Google “is Bigfoot real” in the US alone, so the chances are that whatever you’re interested in there are other people out there searching for it too.
The best place to start out when you choose your freelance writing niches is with a good old-fashioned brainstorm. We love to do our brainstorming on a whiteboard, but the main thing is that you write it down! Think about your skills, your passions and anything that generally gets you excited, put them down on a piece of paper and start from there.
For me, this was quite an easy process to begin with. I’ve played tennis for 20 years and played college tennis, so I had a high-level of knowledge in this niche that could put me ahead of the vast majority of other writers. When you’re starting out in the freelance game, this is an invaluable boost.
While I’ve had a lot of success writing about tennis, I didn’t want to limit myself to that though, so I continued my brainstorming. I studied politics at university but didn’t feel like my passion for the subject was sufficient to keep on writing about it. So I kept on thinking back and remembered my love for creative writing in high school.
At the time, I certainly wasn’t an expert in creative writing to the same extent I was tennis, but I knew that the passion was there and I had the eagerness to learn. That’s the beauty about freelance writing. You don’t have to be an expert in something, you just have to have the will to become an expert in it.
Don’t get carried away with thinking you don’t have the expertise to write about a subject. Creative Revolt recounts a typical story where a financial advisor of 2 years worries about not having enough experience to freelance write in the financial sector.
The fact is, there are tons of people writing out there who probably have less expertise than you. What’s going to make the difference is how committed you are to continually learning your niche and how much research goes into your articles. As you often hear in sports, “hard work beats talent” and the same is true in writing.
Commit to your niche and commit to your articles and you will reap the rewards.
3. Research is Key
Once you’ve found a potential niche it is important to start to understand that topic. It’s not enough just to have a basic overview of the subject, you’ve got to know it inside out. That means research!
The most important part about any type of writing is that you’ve got to create great content and that means understanding what content people consume. There’s no point in writing about a specific aspect of your niche if only 2 people (you and your mom, because of course she will read what you put out) want to read about it. You’ve got to make sure you're feeding people’s thirst for your niche and that means researching what they are thirsty for.
The simplest way to do this is to type your niche into google. Ranking number 1 on google is pretty difficult, so you know whatever comes up first is going to be a solid indication of what is popular. Analyze what’s there, think to yourself, what did they do well, what can I do better, what insights can I add?
Don’t just check out google and stop there though. Once you choose your freelance niches, you’ve got to incorporate them into your life. Everything you read or view, you can ask yourself “how does that affect my niche?” The world will give you plenty of content ideas, you’ve just got to be open to them!
A simple way of understanding how in demand your content ideas are is by doing some keyword research. This is simply finding out how many times your topic gets searched for across different search platforms. We use Moz for this, but you can just as easily use Google Keyword Planner. Just type in “competitive chess” and you’ll find out how many people search this term.
Owlcation cites 7 reasons why research is important as:
Amazingly, Owlcation isn’t a website that is dedicated to writing, but their summary of why research is so important hits the nail on the end when it comes to freelance writing. If your research can lead you to complete these 7 steps, then you will be well on your way.
4. Evaluate Your Skills
It’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself! You’ve seen the competition in your niche, you know what they do well and what they don’t do well, so what are your strengths and weaknesses? How can you use those strengths to make an impact in your niche?
When I handed in the first draft of my Postgraduate dissertation I’ll always remember my advisor telling me “I absolutely love your writing” which was quickly followed by “it’s possibly not best suited to academic writing though!” Seeing how I had just handed in a 20,000-word academic paper, I didn’t appreciate the compliment at the time, but now I do.
I now understand that my strengths lie in taking a subject, putting in academic research, but presenting the findings in a light-hearted, simple manner. I seek jobs that are looking for this kind of writing and use it to my benefit.
Like me, you’re going to have your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. What you’ve got to do is figure out which is which and then major in your strengths and minor in your weaknesses. The one thing they have in common is that you’ve got to continually work on both of them!
One of the worst mistakes you can make is taking your weaknesses and trying to bury them. They have a tendency of resurfacing when you least want them to and if you think they’re buried you won’t spot them when they do pop up. The best way to overcome this is by working on your weaknesses as much as you work on your strengths.
First thing’s first though, you’ve got to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. Take out a pen and paper, be honest with yourself, and jot down the things you are good at and the things you’re not so good at.
5. Market Yourself as a Niche Writer
There’s no point in choosing a freelance writing niche if you don’t advertise yourself in that niche. We might all know that McDonalds sell burgers without them telling us, but if you don’t tell people you write about competitive chess then nobody is going to know.
Build up a body of work in your niche and then point people towards it. Make it your tagline on job boards and your social media pages, make sure everybody knows what niches you are an expert in.
One of the best ways to build a body of work and get your name out there is by guest blogging. Sure, you won’t get paid for these blogs, but you will get your content read by a ton of people and start to create a name for yourself. If you can feature on some good websites in your niche then you can really sell this to prospective clients.
Finding guest blogging opportunities is easy. Simply type into google “competitive chess + guest blogs” or “competitive chess + write for us” or something similar and you will find tons of opportunities. Most people who run blogs are more than happy to give you exposure in return for some great content, so don’t be afraid to reach out to these people.
One of the key reasons for choosing a niche is the added ability to be able to market yourself. You’ve got to take that opportunity with both hands and push your marketing as far as it will go. Which brings us nicely to our next point!
6. Build your Own Website
There are so many reasons to do this and absolutely no good reasons not to. Not only is your own website a perfect platform to advertise from, but it also allows you to practice all kinds of skills. Most obviously, you can practice by writing and posting your own articles, but it also allows you to develop website building skills that may come in handy further down the line.
The main barrier to most people building a website is that they think it is going to be difficult, but I’m telling you, it’s really not that hard. Go to a hosting platform (we use SiteGround), buy a domain and set it up on their platform and they will literally hold your hand through every part of the setup. You can make a great website through their Word Press plugin, or, if you wanted to make your life even easier you could use a paid plugin like Thrive Themes. Either way, it’s not hard and if you can figure out freelance writing, you can figure out building a website.
You may want to start off freelance writing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a kickass website of your own that attracts tons of visitors. As you develop your own website you will come to appreciate what it takes to put together a good website, and better understand how to write for someone else’s website.
Most importantly though, this is a great way to market yourself. You can not only show that you write great articles, but that you fully understand the nuances of your niche. Rather than sending potential clients a bunch of articles you can simply send them to your website and they will immediately understand what you offer.
Much of your work is going to be posted on the internet, so why not cut out the middleman? Make your own website, make it great, and use it to market yourself.
7. Scale Up
One of the keys to being successful in this industry is scaling up. Like anything, things will start small, but there will soon be great potential to scale up. When you think things are starting to go well, that’s when you’ve got to double down. Increase your marketing efforts, research even more and take on bigger challenges.
You don’t have to limit yourself to one niche or a few small niches, but remember that these are your bread and butter. When you do take on a new niche you’ve got to make sure you are prepared. You need to have as much passion for any new niche as you did your first niche and you’re going to have to research just as hard.
The opportunities for personal and financial growth are huge in freelance writing, you’ve just got to keep working hard and scaling things up. Once you’ve chosen your freelance writing niche you’ve taken the first big step towards making a success of your new career. It will be a long and sometimes difficult road, but as long as you can position yourself as an expert in your niche you’re going to make a success of it.
Once you’ve successfully demonstrated that you’re an expert in your niche, you will find that lots of opportunities present themselves for you to discover new niches. Whether you choose to pursue those opportunities is up to you, but you know you’ll always have your niche to fall back on.
Narrowing down your freelance writing niches is an important step in your journey. Without a well defined niche it’s easy to drift off into the freelancing unknown and get lost. By choosing a niche you give yourself an anchor and a stable base from which to develop.
Picking a niche is not difficult but it does take some deep thought and honesty. Take your time, and write out the things you are passionate about. No matter what your passion is, the chances are there will be a market for it. Once you’ve chosen a couple of niches you’re bound to feel a lot more confident about your freelance career.
If you follow these simple steps, you will put yourself ahead of the competition and start your career out on the right foot.
Choosing your freelance writing niches is a simple step, but it is one you can’t afford to skip. There aren’t really any wrong answers to this question, what matters is that you make a decision, choose a niche, and market yourself around it!
Have you chosen your niche yet? What did you come up with?