If you’re anything like me, you might stick your tongue out at the idea of finding a niche. As freelancers, what we live for is the variety and flexibility, right? So, why would I tie my work to one particular topic and doom myself to writing on that one topic forever?
Well, at least that’s what I felt when I started my full-time freelance writing career. Along the rocky and not-yet-finished journey, I found out that a niche (or three) can bring more freedom than simply focusing on any and every type of writing.
Now I focus primarily on writing in three very different niches: fashion and apparel, food, and personal finance.
So, what changed my mind about niches? It wasn’t just one thing for me. It was a year of trial and error that finally convinced me to try something different.
Why I chose freelancing
When I first started my full-time freelance writing career, I was burnt out and exhausted from the journey that brought me there. I had been freelance writing as a side gig for over six years and had always dreamed of making it a full-time career.
I’m sure you’re familiar with this particular career dream: burnt-out corporate worker dreams of a creative, self-run career. I had tried my share of fields and jobs, and I found pieces of fulfillment here and there, but largely I felt disappointed in the careers that I experienced.
I had always thought of full-time freelance writing as a backup career, and I knew that running my own business and starting something new would be difficult. But I was willing to put in the work knowing there was a chance this was the career I had been looking for, the one in which I would thrive. I also have plans to be a mother, and I knew that a freelance career could offer the flexibility I would need to maintain my work while transitioning to motherhood.
Why niche matters
Long story short, the transition to freelance writing was as difficult as I had expected, but my expectations didn’t do much to soften the journey.
One of the reasons that I love freelance writing is that it offers endless variety. I love being able to write on a variety of topics, and research and learn about subjects I may not have known about otherwise. I didn’t want to tie myself into one niche that I would have to write about for the rest of my life. I wanted to explore all different areas and niches of writing.
This didn’t work.
Turns out, very few people want to hire a generalist. The few people who do are not the clients who pay well. Countless courses, expert resources, and advisors suggested I work in a specific niche, but I am stubborn. It took me a while to realize that my difficulty finding work might be because of my lack of niche.
Here’s what I realized, though: A niche doesn’t have to be forever and you can (and should) have more than one niche. These two factors convinced me to start niching my work.
A niche matters because prospective clients are much more likely to find you if you work in a specialty area. Additionally, a niche allows you to establish a level of expertise that is tricky to get without any specificity in your work.
How to choose niches
Once I decided that I would choose niches, the question became which niches should I choose.
You don’t have to be a complete expert to choose a niche. Choosing a niche requires an inventory of your experiences, interests, and connections.
Do you have the base knowledge to understand a topic? Do you know people who could help you with questions on the topic? And finally, are you willing to continually learn in that subject area?
You should have multiple niches, too. Two to three niches is usually a good place to be. With multiple niches, you set yourself up for success if one of the industries goes through transition or hard times.
You want to research and find the areas where your self-inventory lines up with opportunity. If you love pig farming, but pig farmers rarely put out written content, you probably won’t have an easy time finding work in that niche.
And the fun part is your niches don’t have to be related at all. They certainly can be, but they don’t have to be.
As I took my inventory and searched for opportunity, a few niches made themselves clear. My main experiences in my side-gig writing were with men’s fashion. This seemed like a clear and sustainable niche. There is much work here, I already have writing experience in this area, and I have knowledge on the topic.
I also have an interest in social enterprises and B Corps. Using business for good has always been fascinating and exciting to me. I have worked with several social enterprises in my career, and I worked on developing a restaurant social enterprise in a past position.
Additionally, I have been fascinated with budgeting since the beginning of my adult life. It feels like a necessary fascination. I have money, and I have spent a lot of time researching the best ways to use my money and how to manage it well. As I took inventory of this interest, I realized I could make my way into a personal finance writing niche. I have the base knowledge, I’m willing to learn more, and I know people in the personal finance field.
With this knowledge and background, I made my way to my current niches: fashion and apparel, food, and personal finance. I try to seek out sustainable businesses and social enterprises to work with in each of these fields because that is my favorite space to work in.
Each of my niches came about in a different way. Not every niche comes from a particular career or degree. As you can see, all that is required is some basic understanding of a topic and a willingness to learn and grow.
Here’s the good news: Even with niches, I get to work in a variety of spaces, and I know that I’m not stuck in one place if I decide I want to change my path in the future.
I don’t regret my long journey to finding my niches. I know that I learned a lot along the way, and one thing I would urge every new freelancer to do is to choose some niches. But, hey, if you need to make the long journey to that decision, I know your business will be stronger for it.
Whatever path leads you to your niches, know that you are never tied into anything forever. Choosing a freelance career means choosing flexibility, and choosing a niche doesn’t change that one bit.
Emma is a freelance writer and copywriter who writes on food, finance, and fashion. When she’s not working, you can find her cozied up with coffee and a good book or playing outside in beautiful western Washington, where she lives.