Welcome to Write Bites, an audio series where we discuss writing, marketing, and freelancing during one of my daily walks around the neighborhood.
In Episode #7, I talk about something that is somehow every new freelance writer’s favorite topic – niche – and why it’s both wildly overhyped and a bit underrated. If that’s not the most effective curiosity hook of your week, I don’t know what is.
Transcript: Why Choosing A Freelance Writing Niche Is Wildly Overrated
Hey guys. Welcome to Write Bites, an audio series where we discuss writing, marketing and freelancing during one of my daily walks around the neighborhood.
So today, I wanted to talk about NICHE. Niche seems to be a favorite topic among freelance writers. I get asked about it all the time. And I see somewhat conflicting advice on it.
And because of that, I would say that choosing a niche as a freelancer is both wildly over-hyped and a bit underrated.
So to explain that, what it really comes down to is the stage of your career. When you are early in your career, niche is moderately helpful, and that’s about it.
I would say it is moderately helpful if you can choose it relatively quickly and then stop worrying about it. If it’s something that you worry about, if it’s something you’re constantly re-evaluating, if it’s something that feels confusing to you, then it is going to be a net negative for you, and I would recommend that you ignore it altogether.
On the other end of the equation, when we’re talking about a more advanced freelance writer, and by that, I mean you have freelanced a minimum of five years and really invested a lot of time in mastery. Five years. Completely full-time. For most people, we’re talking closer to 10+ years of being a freelance writer to kind of be in that more advanced category.
When you’re there, or close to there, that’s where having a niche that you’ve been focused on for a period of years can really start to pay off for you.
To dig into both of those things, let’s talk about what niche does for you and what it doesn’t do for you.
What niche does for you is it adds a level of specificity to your pitch, to your value proposition.
If you work specifically within a certain niche, that makes you more appealing to people in that niche because they know, “Hey, you don’t work with everyone else, you work with me.” If you say, “Hey, I’m a medical copywriter,” then when you’re talking with some sort of medical business, they know that you’ve spent a lot of your time working on medical projects and that you’re specifically focused on that niche. By virtue of you saying, “I’m a medical copywriter” on your website and your branding, you are excluding many other brands.
Clients know that, so they understand that there’s a greater value to them by virtue of your specificity of focus. And in reality, that’s also where we get the other benefit of your spending a lot of time working in the same area, and you develop significant expertise in that area.
If you’re working with medical businesses for five years, you’re going to have a lot more niche-specific expertise in that area than other copywriters. What that translates to is—in conjunction with 5+ years building a business, in conjunction with all this time you’ve spent getting your brand out there, building your lead generation system, connecting with people in the niche, building your referral network—you’re going to have a lot of specific lead flow in this area. You can then charge a very attractive rate, because you’ve also been building the expertise. So it’s kind of the “both/and” there. And when you’re just getting started, you don’t have any of that.
The only thing that niche does for you is it gives you a more specific area to focus on. And listen, anything that helps you be more focused and take action quicker is a positive, and that’s why I say it can be moderately helpful.
When I say, “Hey, go pitch 20 businesses.” And you say, “Well, how do I find 20 businesses?”
If it’s just any sort of 20 businesses, you might be like, “Oh, I don’t even know where to start,” whereas if you’ve already decided you’re doing medical copywriting, you can look up: highest valued medical device companies, or something along those lines.
It gives you a little more of a specific place to begin various activities related to building your business, and that’s what makes it so valuable. But again, we’re talking a very minor thing here.
You can go get a list of businesses from anywhere and have just as much success. For all intents and purposes, practically speaking, it’s not going to have a huge impact on your first couple of years as a freelance writer.
Even if you do choose a niche, I will encourage you to take any project that comes your way—at any price—because I want you working on as many projects as possible to develop your initial writing skills and your initial experience with closing sales, interacting with clients and in getting your freelance process together.
The types of clients you’re working with through that initial stage really doesn’t matter. If niche helps you make that initial jump to go start pitching specific people, fantastic.
But what I see so often with so many of my students—even the ones who I have access to on a regular basis, and I am constantly telling, advising them against this—some personalities just get really, REALLY hung up on niche to an almost absurd degree, where they’re constantly second guessing. They need it to be perfect.
Niche is very much like: Pretend you weren’t going to be a freelance writer and you were trying to think up some business idea; niche is very much like thinking up a business idea. It’s going to be a vague concept—an un-testable concept—until you actually create something and move forward and see how the market responds.
But so many people have this idea that you create some perfect idea from the beginning, and that’s what results in success. They think, “Hey, if I can just pick the perfect niche, I’ll succeed.” But your success is going to have absolutely nothing to do with the niche you pick.
And that’s where I say it’s wildly over-hyped because a lot of people really have that mentality that “If I can just pick the right niche, I’ll be good to go.” But there is no right niche. There are niches that are more lucrative than others, but you can potentially make way more money in a less lucrative niche than how much money you would have made attempting to do it in a more lucrative niche.
So, all of that to say:
The end point, when we talk about niche—the end game—is that you do want to have a niche.
When you’re 5+ years into your career, definitely by the time you’re 10 years into your career, you want to be very clear on the niche that you’re working in. That’s going to maximize the amount of money you’re making, the size of opportunities that you’re working with, it’s going to have a huge impact towards that stage of your career.
When you’re in the beginning, if it helps you get up and going, great. If you can choose a niche within a day, if you can think about it for a day and then start rolling, great.
But if you can’t, if it’s going to be a source of confusion and second guessing and this, that or the other, then it’s really not worth the effort.
I would imagine some people will disagree with me, but I would hazard to bet that 90% of the people who are going to most eminently disagree with me on this are in the advanced stage of their career, and they don’t understand that it’s more specific to their scenario than it is to yours.
I hope that clears things up, and I’ll see you in the next episode.
Share Your Thoughts
I hope this was helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.
Plus, if you have a question you want answered on a future Write Bites episode, ask in the comments, and I’ll add it to the schedule.