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:
- Start blog for fun (I forget why! Isn’t that crazy?)
- Write about personal finance because we’re in debt, write about job seeking because I’m in the process of leaving teaching and learning about career stuff
- Realize some blogs pay for that, so accept $15 and $20 post assignments and feel shocked someone will pay for writing
- Find a finance app or product or something that paid $50 a blog as well as sites like Brazen Careerist…. felt rich
- Start reading about writing online and pitching to everything I see on ProBlogger Job Board. Start using FreshBooks to actually track my income and send invoices that aren’t just emails saying, “Hi, Pay me!”
- Get a marketing job with my blog experience [This is the part I think others can replicate with online courses]
- Go freelance and write about marketing for other marketing agencies (so meta!)
- Write an absolute nonsense amount of stuff for different kinds of companies at a wide range of rates, usually around $75-125
- Realize I’m good at/love HR stuff, particularly because the people in that space are personable and energetic. I get and love them.
- Start to niche and specifically find companies that educate in that space or sell HR products. Raise my rates. Keep an agency in play so I still get new work in marketing and education to keep things spicy, but otherwise focus on HR
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.