When I talk about niching down as a freelance writer, that can mean one of two things:
- You can choose a niche that focuses on the type of product you offer—marketing emails, case studies, blogs, SEO articles, web content, info pages, etc.
- You can choose a niche that focuses on a specific industry—beauty/cosmetics, medical, tech, fitness, health, weddings/events, food/nutrition, etc.
In this article, I’d like to put a spotlight on the industry niche to show you how you can add more value as a freelance writer, and this technique is especially useful if you’re are just now starting out as a freelance writer.
You can discover your possible industry niches by exploring a few different things:
- Your hobbies
- Your passions
- Your past career(s)
- Your life experiences
A hobby, if you need a definition, is something you do for fun. These can be crafts you like to make, art you like to create, games you like to play, things you like to collect, etc. Let’s start by making a list of the hobbies you’ve engaged with since your childhood. Write down everything you can think of. Then, rank them in order of how much experience you have with each of your hobbies. The more experience you have, the more likely you are to have some advanced knowledge in that area.
While you may be passionate about one or two of your hobbies, for this exercise, a passion (or interest) is a cause, belief, or idea that you believe in strongly. They might be related to your religion, politics, volunteer work—or they could be something about you or your life that you champion for. Make a list of your passions and rank them according to how important they are to you.
Because we spend so much time at work, we are likely experts at any previous job we’ve held. It doesn’t really matter if you were in love with that past job or not, go ahead and write it down as an option. Then, rank this list by how many years of experience you have with each.
A life experience is exactly that—anything notable thing you’ve done (or that has happened to you) throughout your life. You might include . . .
- Diagnoses you’ve received
- Events you’ve survived
- Parental/family obligations (homeschooling, single parenthood, caregiving, military spouse, etc.)
- Places you’ve traveled
- Courses you’ve taken
Write down anything you can think of and rank them by how significantly they impacted your life.
So, now that you’ve got this long list of crap, what do you do?
Well, before you do anything else, look over your list. Does anything jump out at you as more interesting than the rest? Keep that in the back of your mind as your strongest option for an industry niche. Then, I’d highly recommend going through these lists to find where there are intersections and/or connections.
For instance, if you once worked in a bookstore, love readings books, and like to do volunteer work for a literacy cause, your industry niche more likely would be either education or publishing. Find where you have the most connections and write down your ideas for how those might connect with each other.
But you also need to balance that with an industry that will have a lot of opportunities.
According to Forbes, here are a few of the fastest-growing industry niches for freelancers today:¹
- CBD / Medical Marijuana
- Vegan / Plant-Based Foods
That’s a rather short list, so don’t discount anything you’ve written down if it doesn’t align with Forbes forecasting. However, if you do see something that intersects, that could be a really profitable niche for you. As an example, for someone who is passionate about helping others lose weight, biohacking could be an excellent industry niche to focus on.
So, why in the world should I have an industry niche?
That’s a really great question—I’m glad you asked! In my freelancing business, I’m constantly looking for ways to differentiate myself from similar freelancers who are doing the same kind of work I am. First and foremost, I am a book editor. Do you know how many book editors are freelancing out there? Way too many to count. When I find ways to step away from that large group of service providers, I can attract a potential client who is looking for the exact expertise I have.
Niching down to a specific industry is also helpful when you start marketing. It’s much harder (for me) to reach self-publishing authors who are looking for an editor in their browser searches. But since I focus more on my fiction editing and writing skills, I can make it slightly easier for them to find me through SEO tactics, networking on social media, or advertising in publications they’re most likely to subscribe to. It all starts with your ideal client, and defining the niche you want to focus on gives you a more direct line to that client.
This technique is also extremely helpful for freelance writers who are just starting out. Let’s say a new vegan restaurant in your area is looking for someone to write some content for their new website. There are tons of online agencies they could hire who might be generalists, but they would find much more value in a freelance writer who both lives in their area AND has a blog that teaches new vegans how to cook for their new lifestyle. (By the way, you’re the vegan blogger in this example.) Your knowledge, location, and experience with vegan content are extremely valuable to them. You might even be so valuable that they don’t care whether you’ve written for Vedge, Crossroads, or Plum Bistro or not.
It all sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? I mean, all you really have to do is make sure you’re visible in the places your ideal client is looking. But that’s easier said than done. However, it is much easier than marketing to a general audience. I’m sure I’ll dive more into how to do that in the future, but for now, I’d love to challenge you to start thinking about where you fit in among your competition.
1: Pofeldt, Elaine. “This Year’s Fastest-Growing Freelance Industries.” Forbes. February 15, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2020/02/15/this-years-fastest-growing-freelance-industries/#7969d4084608.