Should you market yourself as a writer of all topics (a generalist), or rather focus on one topic? Which choice will bring you more assignments and business? Rose-Anne Turner investigates.
Beginner writers are faced with many questions. One enduring issue is whether to specialise in a niche area or not.
It may be that you’re a parenting and childcare expert. Or you may be familiar with tax and financial matters, or you love writing about lifestyle and travel. If you have a topic that you’re really comfortable writing about, should you stick to it?
As a generalist writer, you could find yourself writing about a new tourist attraction one day and writing the copy for a doggie daycare centre’s website the next. However, as a subject specialist, you’ll cover the same genre for most of your assignments, albeit from different angles or topics within the subject.
You could have had a previous career before becoming a writer, or writing is an add-on to your primary career. In this case, these other careers may well be your niche. Perhaps you were in real estate or the beauty industry and write about these areas familiar to you.
You could also be an area specialist (by which we mean ‘physical area’) – so be an expert on all things about your city, for example. This works well for travel writing or restaurant reviews, for instance.
Here are some examples of freelance writing niches
- Business and Finance
- Location specialist
- Food and wine
- Health/alternative health/wellbeing/mindfulness
- Beauty and fashion
- Entertainment (film/TV/music/books)
- Real estate
Usually, once you’re known as a specialist in a particular field, you can command higher rates. Being a specialist gives your clients or editors confidence in your ability to write about the subject.
Many freelancers prefer to find their niche and aggressively market themselves to publications covering their area of speciality. They are prepared to branch out from there, but often avoid topics they feel uncomfortable with.
If you go this route, make sure your LinkedIn profile mentions your area of expertise as a copy and content writer, as well as your own website (should you use one for your online portfolio).
Of course, you don’t have to write exclusively within your niche, but it can be a great way to find repeat business and rank highly in Google searches when editors or clients are looking for a writer for a specific topic. And best of all, you get to write about something you like!
What steps should you take to be a specialist writer?
Firstly, identify your area of expertise.
Discover your preferred writing types and style (blogs, newsletters, web content, whitepapers, opinion pieces, magazine and e-zine articles) and your subject matter. Ask yourself: what are you passionate about?
Next, identify opportunities in the market.
Opportunities could be blog posts, magazines, e-zines, as well as businesses that would want articles written for them on a topic. For example, you’re a pro at all things teen-related: you could approach schools to write articles for their parent newsletters, or contact websites that cover teen issues.
Perhaps you’re a know-it-all on organic foods, so submit ideas to health and lifestyle magazines. Of course, having your own website or blog in your area of expertise will give you credibility, and you can use it as a portfolio for potential clients.
Be careful of making your niche too specific.
For example, do you want your niche to be ‘Travel Writing’, or do you want it to be ‘Family Travel’. A niche that is too narrow can limit your commissions. You could, however, market yourself as a ‘Travel writer with a focus on family travel’.
Stay on top of your game.
Once you’ve narrowed down your niche and are marketing yourself as a pro in that field, you must keep up to date with all information on the topic. If your niche is tech, it’s a constantly evolving field; you have to be up to date with the latest gadgets and apps, or you’ll fall short. Follow trends, read industry publications, subscribe to newsletters and be the go-to writer in the field.