One of the most important aspects of being a small business owner is marketing. This is why it’s critically important to learn how to find a niche as a freelance writer.
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In addition to the many other facets of owning a small business, learning your strengths and clientele is a key to success.
Over the course of my career, I’ve covered events and written about crime, breaking news, investigative stories, public service stories, local and regional government news, economic development, business openings/closures, historical anniversaries, sports, profiles and more for newspapers, magazines and online publications.
If you throw in poetry, essays, short fiction, literary reviews, blog posts and other non-journalistic writing, the list is extensive– and broad.
Most of those I can cover fairly easily now that I’ve gained experience. Interning, freelancing and working at a newspaper for several years helped me develop the know-how to approach different beats.
They also helped me to learn where my passions are.
When I first saw others offering the same advice to ‘find your niche,’ I wondered how I could even narrow them down. I even wondered if I should, concerned that limiting my topics would reduce my income from the ‘lost’ niches.
But true to the popular advice, I found that narrowing my niches helped me focus my marketing and expertise.
Now, I do write outside my main subjects, but keep my focus on the niches I’ve developed.
I am most interested in covering crime, investigative and public service journalism, government, the environment and historical anniversaries/parallels/etc. These are the niches I market the most on my website. Often, two or more are closely related in a story.
For example, a writer may do an investigative story into a county government’s waste management. That single story could fit into multiple niches.
Investigative and public service journalism, government coverage, education and historical writing are the areas most editors reach out to me ask about.
I can and do write about the other topics as the occasion arises, but most of my focus goes to these areas. I recently began writing more science/environmental articles, as well.
Having a handful of areas I focus on– and only half of those particularly highlighted– has allowed me to target outlets and editors that I think might be interested in working with me. I can also focus on looking for story ideas in those areas.
For example, I enjoy writing about the environment. It’s something I’m highly interested in and read a lot about. This makes it easier for me to write articles about it.
While I can write on a broad range of topics, I’ve worked to make myself particularly knowledgeable about a select few. Becoming an expert in a few niches helps you stand out in those markets.
This advice doesn’t just apply to freelance journalists, but it works for content marketers and ghost writers, as well.
To develop your niche(s), try to think about what you are most knowledgeable about. This could be real estate, personal finance, technology, business, home decor, construction, coffee, alcohol, photography, video games or any number of other topics. What interests you?
Highlight your niche on your website. I recommend dividing your portfolio into sections, with headings for the niches and links to your best samples underneath. Include photos with the links if possible to make it look more polished and grab readers’ attention.
Read— a lot. I recommend subscribing to publications that you want to write for. This can help you learn what topics are trending. You can see what the target publication’s voice is like and what areas could use more coverage.
Find out where you can get news alerts about your niches. For example, when I decided to write more about science– primarily about the environment– I subscribed to Science Daily. Through it, I receive alerts about research news.
I read a lot of the summaries from Science Daily. I often find interesting topics that give me new story ideas. Then, I pitch articles about the research I find highlighted there. Those pitches have earned me spots with niche publications such as The Olive Oil Times and others.
Decide what you are passionate about. You can make money writing in most niches, but one of the reasons you probably became a freelance writer is because you wanted to create a dream job. You need to make a profit, but you also have the power to be your own boss. As the boss, you choose what you will or won’t write about.
When you pitch a publication, keep your topic in mind. Keep your pitch focused and to-the-point. Make sure the editor knows exactly what you have in mind and how it fits their readers’ needs.
What are your favorite tips for finding a niche?