Which one’s on your bookshelf?
Which one’s on your bookshelf?
A writer writes:
So Part 4 of The Booster Shot, the portfolio & pitching section (which I’d been waiting for) finally arrived today!
Yes, it is indeed useful, and I’m glad I got it now instead of waiting til I had clients, because I do think your suggestions might help me land that very first client. But: I realize now that I’ve never really identified a niche, and I’m feeling like this reflects my general cluelessness about how the business world works.
I don’t think I’d even figured out that writing about “business” “technology” or “stuff that my friends’ friends do for a living” wasn’t quite specific enough.
But: how *do* you pick a freelance writing niche? How’d you come up with HR (and you started writing in the personal finance niche, right?). And how should I pick?
I’ve edited content on tons of different content— it’s been all over the map. And I think I could —- with research and access to an SME or two — write on any of these topics, or on any of a plethora of others that I’d find interesting. But choosing something specific feels like throwing darts at a target in total darkness—I have no way of telling if I’m even getting close.
I’m so glad to hear it’s getting practical up in here!
My journey on the way to pick a freelance writing niche went a little something like this:
Of course, I could put a little * at each step and say God sprinkled blessings in there, but I think it goes without saying that you have to get out there and try some things (and then take a break) so God can bless it.
Here are some of the ways my niche found me:
What business topic do you read about for fun? What site could you click through for hours and have a good old time just reading about it?
For me, it’s Ask A Manager, and that helped me see that I really love the people dynamics going on in the workplace. But if for you it’s nano AI or cryptocurrency…. that’s a good way to start to pick a freelance writing niche!
Make three columns:
(For me: Construction, AI, Legal)
(For me: intermediate technology/security, accounting, mobile marketing, higher education, logistics)
LOVE TO DO
(For me: HR, business and business products, content marketing)
As you take on new assignments, one list may grow as the others shrink and vice versa… This is what will temper the fact that as a smart, competent writer you can “with research and access to an SME or two—write on any of these topics, or on any of a plethora of others.” It’s a curse (and a gift :)).
With editing (and sometimes content), it’s (surprisingly) not as much about editing/writing the text as making sure the text is the most effective version of itself it can be *for its purpose*. So, you could also niche by purpose/audience, such as “I edit texts that speak to X buyers” –> Because specializing in a type of buyer would be just as powerful as specializing in a type of writing.
For example, if someone wants to write a book specifically to appeal to CEOs in non-profits, they would know to come to YOU because you get that audience and you know what they’re looking for/what the market has to offer in that space (no matter what industry the non-profit happened to be in). Or when someone who just wrote a book about productized marketing gets my name from someone they spoke at a conference with, I can accept and edit their book because I’ve read a bunch of other eBooks in the space and I know a) what her book needs to have to be on par with other books and 2) what we can add to set it apart. (True story!)
The life motto for freelancing is, “Leap and the net will appear!” There is no track to “get on” and then be set for life. But that’s only a bad thing if you keep your eyes down at the pit you might fall into. It’s also a good think because your work and your potential for success is limitless!
So keep “pick a freelance writing niche” in the back of your mind as an important goal, but don’t stress about trying EVERYTHING for a year in the mean time.
Another writer writes:
It’s really kind off you to reach out to help beginners like me. I have been writing since close to a year now, of which 6 months have been dedicated to copywriting.
Three days back I stumbled upon your B2B webinar and was highly inclined towards it. I have been working and getting assignments on Upwork (yeah, I think I saw you cringe) and a content agency. Both have been good in terms of getting exposure and practice but don’t pay well. And it specially burns me to throw B2B copy in for pennies (literally).
Anyway, so for the past two days I have been fumbling online to find ANY content on how to get started and strategies to up my B2B copy game. Through the PDF attached to your webinar, I gathered pivotal tips on how to get started which included to pick a freelance writing niche. Now I have written for various industries and the ones I’m interested in are:
-Natural Health. Although no direct experience in it but it comes naturally (pun intended)
-Education. Have been an early years educator for two years, one of which was in Remediation.
-Renewable Energy. I read online that this is the next-gen niche to get into, hence I’m curious and willing to learn if it’s worth it.
So what do you think? Any of these or if you have a general niche in mind suitable for beginner B2B Copywriters?
Thanks for reading and sorry for the length of the message.
Thank you so much for your note!
And there’s no shame in UpWork as long as you go into it with eyes wide open — I started on terrible sites like BlogMutt and Demand Studios myself for like $15 a post. We all start somewhere, the point is just that we don’t stay there :).
Right off the bat, Education and Renewable Energy are going to be your money makers. Natural health is fascinating (I’m a big believer in it, myself) but I’ve found those companies rarely have the overhead for marketing themselves. Education and Renewable Energy, on the other hand, have whole departments dedicated to marketing and likely have already started to blog and put content out there, so that’s your in!
So, I’d say start looking for clients in both those fields: read about them endlessly (Education Dive and Utility Dive are great places to start) and start sharing the links (and your thoughts) on LinkedIn as you build your network. Read and share the white papers companies are writing, as well as the blogs and social media updates. They might notice you doing that, and if they don’t everyone who interacts with you will notice what an active and informed presence you have online.
(Pro tip: Find the companies mentioned in these articles and look them up on LinkedIn. See if you can connect with any marketing managers from those companies [with a friendly note, NOT a pitch… a pitch will get you deleted] just to grow your network.)
And keep in mind — once you start approaching companies directly with a pitch, they’re going to expect to see market rates. So if you pitch something too inexpensive or for pennies that will be a red flag for them! (AKA if they’re used to paying writers $100 an article and you offer $25, they’ll wonder if you know what your doing. Same for if they’re used to paying $500 and you offer $50!).
Another writer writes:
Do you think hospitality industry would be a good niche?
It depends. On the one hand, travel writers writing about their own experience seems to be a saturated market. You’d need to build a blog and a following and be consistent about that for a few years to make a good income as a B2C travel blogger, per se.
But! If you are open to a more corporate take on travel writing, like B2B writing on behalf of a company, I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t be a very lucrative niche! Travel companies (hotels, destinations, resorts, tourist attractions) are getting into the online content marketing game and it would be very attractive to them to find a seasoned travel writer who knows about digital marketing and how it applies to the travel niche.
As I sip this sour, twice-brewed decaf Earl Grey Tea from Carytown Teas, I have to wonder why I tried to squeeze a second drink out of old leaves. But maybe that’s a metaphor for the months I wish I’d performed better, focused more, or made more progress in 2017….
But you know what? Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially not when there’s kids, hydration, Netflix streaming, and piles and piles of books to read. Let’s focus on the awesomeness that was 2017 with this freelance writing year in review:
These posts were clicked on with the tippy tops of little fingers all over the world:
These are the posts that are not on the previous list that I wish were more widely read:
My most favorite client I’ve ever had (in every way: pay, frequency and type of writing, topic, and client contact, everything!) moved on to a different writer during and after my maternity leave.
What can I say, it hurts!
It’s a lesson everyone learns at some point: sometimes it’s not your fault and people move on. I just focus on the fact that they’re in good hands (working with a writer who is very talented and who must be a personal contact or much lower cost or offering a different kind of consultative writing relationship) and move on with my super classy head held high.
A long-term client I’ve been courting (over a year of inquiries!) sent me an email that was right out of my dreams: “We want you to be our primary writer with X posts per month.”
Runner up: I may have sold a comic strip! Stay on the lookout, because I could be getting paid to make fun of the hilarious online freelance writing and editing life we all know and love. It’s no Dilbert, but it is a dream come true.
Thanks to my last minute and random attendance at DYFC a few years ago, I connected with a brilliant UX/IX designer named Jane Portman. I was surprised and delighted to my toes that she contacted me about editing her most recent book, Your Productized Consulting Guide, which we wrapped up in December. After writing hundreds of short-form articles, it was really satisfying to sink my teeth into (and bring order to) something long and complex.
I niche, but I also take on “interim” work when my niche is slow. This year, that meant writing thousands and thousands of dollars worth of content on…. womp womp… FTL/LTL trucking, shipping, and inventory management systems.
I learned so many fun things (like how flowers get from South America to us!), and it really made me appreciate how much writing prepares us to think, research, and become short-term experts on so many topics. It’s truly amazing how our writer brains work!
Now for the juicy part! I came in just over $53,000 this year. I’m very proud of this number, as I worked an average of 6 hours per week (if you include the hundreds of hours I spend on emails, administrative tasks, networking, and writing my personal blogs, like right now). If you don’t count those hours and only count paid work, the number drops even lower.
Now, my weeks didn’t really look like that. I took off a good three months starting in early April to bring forth human life and I didn’t get back “in the game” until June-ish (as you can see from the drastic income drop). When I did get back to work, there were a couple of seriously crazy 15 hour weeks (is it so wrong that 15 hours is like a marathon to me??).
But, frankly, that is just freelance life! If God has blessed you (or is about to bless you) with a baby, there’s simply no other formula you can use to stay in business: do a LOT of work in advance and save a ton of money.
In August, I was beyond blessed (again) to reconnect with a client I’d worked with on and off right when they were ramping up work. I worked an obscene amount to have a $12K month. That right there is the same lesson I’ve already shared: make connections and keep them going even if there’s no immediate work to be had.
My business has always been bootstrapped, but there are some things I pay for yearly because they bring me a huge ROI:
Back in November, I decided to run a promotion on my biggest product, the B2B Booster Shot. It did really well, so much so that I’ve made about as much from that course ($1300 or so) as I have in five years of selling Life After Teaching eBooks! The products (and audiences) are completely different, but it makes me smile.
Let me tell you, I am so proud of this course. It’s just so beautiful, and it was such a good feeling to be teaching again and completely draining my brain in an effort to help other people. I can’t say if I’ll run a promotion again (this one was an effort to get a solid first cohort through the course so I can go back and revamp it), but I look forward to tweaking and continuing to promote it through 2017.
Right now I’m featured on The Horkey Handbook, The Write Life, and AWAI Online. I don’t know if I have the energy to do a “promotional circuit,” but we’ll see how much time I have to devote to it in the coming months.
Completely unplugging during my maternity leave. It was a difficult and sometimes dark time for me, so it’s really a gift that I had the luxury to be 100% offline and just dealing with life for 8+ weeks. That’s more than many people get, and I’m very grateful.
Runner up: Hiring an in-home nanny. Our nanny is so loving and gives the little man her full attention for 12-15 hours per week. We’re paying full-time rates for part-time care, but it’s important to me that Benedict is cared for by someone who knows and loves him. So far so good!
Moving my desk (aka “office”) into the bedroom. I’d rather the bedroom be a place 100% disconnected from work, but in a 2BR apartment that’s a luxury we don’t have right now. They just opened a co-working space in my building (!!) but I’m trying to exchange work for rent instead of adding $250 to my bottom line each month. I know that’s a steal, but it’s simply not something we can spend money on when we’re spending $800+ on childcare.