Use the Cow-Farts Method to Find a Lucrative Writing Niche - Make a Living Writing

Use the Cow-Farts Method to Find a Lucrative Writing Niche

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Find a Lucrative Writing Niche with the Cow-Farts Method

Ever wonder how to find a lucrative writing niche?

You know…the kind of writing niche that pays pro rates and allows you to eat well.

Maybe even affords you time to chew your cud, instead of chasing low-paying one-off writing assignments all the time.

Sounds pretty good, right? Now what?

You look out across the lush, green pasture of prospects and wonder where to plant your flag.

What if you’re just too indecisive to settle on one patch of grass?

The truth…you’re a lot more likely to go hungry wandering from one writing niche to the next.

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

When a farmer-turned writer felt the churn of fear and anxiety in her gut about getting paid to write, she decided to find a writing niche that would serve better eats than the content mills.

After some testing, a few blow outs, and greener-pasture detours, this freelancer figured it out.

Ready to find a lucrative writing niche, even if you’re still trying to land freelance writing jobs for beginners? Use the Cow Farts Method (plugging your nose optional). Here’s what you need to know.

Meet the freelancer who writes about cow farts & farm robots

Writing Niche: Georgie Smith

Georgie Smith

When I decided to shutter my 20-year farming business in the spring of 2019, I had only one other, very rusty skill to turn to — writing.

I had a journalism degree and several years of newspaper reporting experience. But, from 20 years ago. I had no idea what to write about, how to find good clients or what SEO meant.

My light-bulb moment was when I realized that what I knew inside and out — agriculture — would be my ticket to launching a successful (and profitable) career writing about subjects I love.

Even though everybody told me agriculture was a tough niche for a freelance writer.

Most agricultural sales traditionally occur person-to-person at conventions or, literally, on the farm. What marketing does happen was usually done in-house and did not generate written content.

Well, it turned out there are oodles of great-paying clients that needed my particular expertise. I needed to broaden my vision of potential clients and build a marketing strategy that played to my strengths.

Wondering how to find your writing niche to move up and earn more?

Follow the money to find the right freelance clients

My first big lesson was, follow the money.

I tried to work for farmers running small farm businesses, sort of like my farm. But just like I couldn’t have afforded to hire a content creator for my own farm business, neither could they afford me. As much as I love those farmers, they weren’t my clients.

I had to get outside my comfort zone if I wanted to make freelancing work.

I started researching beyond what was comfortable and quickly identified two more focused writing niches:

  • ‘Smart farm’ companies with agtech solutions (like robots, drones or using data analytics).
  • The sustainable farming movement focused on better farming practices to improve the environment.

The ‘smart farm’ movement was a no-brainer

  • It’s projected to nearly double in size in five years and worth $22 billion by 2025, which makes it a great writing niche.
  • There are oodles of agtech startups with investment money they need to spend and leads they’re desperate to capture.
  • They all need writers that can translate their “techy, data science geek-speak” into “farm vernacular” (as I like to call it). Perfect.

Finding good clients in the sustainable farming movement was trickier

After all, I was a small farmer that used sustainable practices and I already knew the former farmer me couldn’t afford the current writer me! Then I saw a sponsored content piece published in the Guardian about regenerative agriculture, a sustainable farming method I knew inside and out. Maybe I’m zeroing in on a writing niche!

  • Who paid for that sponsorship? General Mills. That’s right, the world’s sixth-largest food brand, creator of Cocoa Puffs cereal, for goodness sakes, is creating extensive content about sustainable farming practices. It was something I could have written, practically, in my sleep.

I looked closer. Almost every big company with a toe in:

  • Agricultural production
  • Land management, or
  • An environmental aspect to their business is creating content around sustainable farming practices.

Usually as validation of their sustainability initiatives and to convince their customers their products are Earth-friendly. And they all need writers who understand sustainable farming.

Eureka, great clients in a lucrative writing niche! The sustainable farmers weren’t my clients. The companies writing about sustainable farmers were.

Fun fact: It turns out I can write for, well, almost any sector (I just wrote a piece for a wireless phone company about farm tech using wireless networks). The freelance writing world is my (sustainably-farmed) oyster.

  • What niche topics or industries do you know something about or have an interest in?
  • If you’re not sure, brainstorm a list.
  • What companies and publications are part of your niche?

Where or where might the good clients be?

Finding the right person to connect with in these businesses was another head-scratcher.

  • Farmers meet other farmers at conventions.
  • Maybe I’d have to take field walks and farm tours

But, as my research had proven (unequivocally), farmers weren’t my clients.

  • I needed to find the smart-farm CEOs and marketing directors for large food and clothing companies.
  • Or simply any company with a sustainable ag-focused marketing campaign.

Where can you possibly find and connect with executive and marketing directors across many different sectors but all with a common focus?

LinkedIn: The cash cow for freelance marketing

I had a LinkedIn account when I started Carol’s Den2x class in the summer of 2019, but I had never posted to it and had only 200 connections.

So I got to work with a premium account, spiffed up my profile per Carol’s advice, and did the following:

  • Targeted potential businesses for connection requests
  • Take different “sectors” at a time
  • Find mid-size to large businesses (or well funded startups)
  • Sending out mass connection requests to their executives

I didn’t worry about exactly who I was targeting, and I didn’t pressure them with follow-up emails — just a simple:

“Thanks for connecting, here’s what I do. Let me know if I can be of any help to you!”

Side note: I tried LOI’s a few times, but quickly gave them up for taking way too long for little return.

How to stand out when you meet prospects for the first time

I quickly realized I got the best engagement when I had something provocative to say about food and farming systems. This built my reputation as a “thought leader” in agriculture.

Farming has many controversial, nuanced aspects (GMOs, pesticides, labor practices, etc.).

By showing I was willing to talk knowledgeably about them, I attracted the attention (and respect) of the types of clients I wanted.

Here’s an example…

Just recently, an executive from a company I would love to work with messaged me and told me he admired my posts. He asked if I minded if he recommended more people in their company connect with me?

  • Um, of course not. (And yes, I’ve since connected with that marketing director. Ad I’m on their shortlist for their next content projects!).

In less than a year, I built my 200 connections to over 2,000 (I’m almost to 3,000 connections now). I get quality, inbound leads from my LinkedIn account several times a week (sometimes nearly every day). I haven’t sent out an LOI in over a year.

Fun fact: I recently discovered that when you Google “Ag Writer,” my LinkedIn profile is the first ag-writer profile to pop up (actually, I am the only one in three pages of Google rankings). Several clients have told me they found me just by Googling “ag writer.”

  • What do you know about the key players or companies in your niche?
  • Have you given your LinkedIn profile a makeover to stand out as the writer in your niche?
  • Are you reaching out, networking, and making connections with people in your niche?

Establish yourself in your writing niche

The other strategy I took was building up a body of bylined work about agricultural topics in reputable publications to make a name for myself in this writing niche.

  • Trade pubs. I did target some ag trade publications, but I quickly realized most of those are (embarrassingly) low paying in agriculture.
  • Consumer pubs. I focused on consumer-facing publications covering sustainable food and farming topics related to climate change, the environment and fun, smart farming solutions (like farm robots!). 

Pitching to publications is incredibly frustrating when you are first starting and I hadn’t had a bylined clip in more than 20 years.

But, I was persistent. Through the first half of 2020, I sent out ten or more pitches to different publications a week. A few small wins led to bigger ones. Most recently, I have had a piece published in the Guardian.

Fight back against Imposter Syndrome

When I first started freelancing, the most intimidating thing was the “imposter” syndrome and feeling like I didn’t know enough about marketing and content strategies.

Sound familiar?

Here’s how I kept going: I spent time that first year working my way through the Writer’s Den library, getting a handle on the basics of SEO, good headlines and writing for an online audience. 

I eventually realized that, other than the basics, my clients weren’t hiring me for my deep understanding of digital marketing strategies.

What matters to them are things like:

  • Understand farming
  • How to talk to farmers and what motivates them
  • The ability to translate complex farming and food systems issues into content for their audience

My clients don’t come to me because of my digital marketing chops, they’ve got those (usually hired in-house). But a freelancer that gets “agriculture?” I guess you could say I’m the proverbial “needle” in the haystack in this writing niche.

Tip: Every time I have a bylined piece, I share it with my LinkedIn network and post it on my writer’s website portfolio.

  • If you feel like fear and doubt are holding you back, what are you going to do about it?
  • What’s stopping you from pitching a story idea, reaching out to an editor or marketing director?
  • Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Tap into your writing niche to merge talent + passion

My big take-away for newbie freelance writers, even ones looking at those ‘tough’ writing niches?

Don’t just give-up because everybody else says that writing niche doesn’t work for freelancers!

  • Look at the bigger picture. You still have to find the clients that can afford you, but maybe they are in different places than you initially thought.
  • Don’t be afraid to be outspoken about what you know and share that with your network (aka potential clients!). My passion for farming is what has built up my LinkedIn following.

Even with a global pandemic, I earned more writing in 2020 than my best year as a farmer. I wrote about wildly fascinating and entertaining subjects.

  • Super daddy goat sires?
  • Farm robots?
  • Cow farts? (This one trended on Twitter for three days). Why, yes, that was me!

This year, one single contract has already eclipsed all of last year’s earnings and I am well on my way to earning more in 2021. I can’t tell you how astounding that is to me. For me, living the dream has turned out not to be farming itself but writing about farming. And the best part? I get to live on my farm while doing it!

Choosing a writing niche is one of the best things you can to do elevate your freelance career to help you move up, earn more, and make a living writing.

Have you found your writing niche? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Georgie Smith is a freelance agricultural and food writer. She writes content for agricultural businesses, farm-focused food brands and organizations.

Grow Your Writing Income. FreelanceWritersDen.com

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27 comments on “Use the Cow-Farts Method to Find a Lucrative Writing Niche

  1. Sergey on

    Dear Georgie,
    Your story is very impressive and encourages me to find a new opportunities. Perhaps, you know that Linkedin is blocked in my country, where I used to log in being abroad before the pandemics, when I had possibility to go abroad. So, your story has given me idea to use other networks instead of Linkedin. Thus, your experience shows me the right attitude for hardships and has brought me new ideas. Thank you very much for sharing it with us!

    Reply
  2. Patricia Slocum on

    I think what you have done is wonderful. My take-away? Make progressive steps forward, even if they are one at a time; never give up; create your own niche about your passion.
    Thank you Ma’am.
    Patricia.

    Reply
  3. Sasha Kildare on

    Fascinating. Really mapped out your path. For me personally, it made my head spin as I am in a crowded field, mental health. Education too, but not touching that as my lived experience does not mesh with a lot that is out there. A lot of shallow content flooding the market. A lot unpaid. This certainly gave me insight as to how to approach pitching.

    Reply
    • Georgie Smith on

      Thanks Sasha!

      I will say pitching for publications is super frustrating when you’re first trying to break in. But once you get past some of those editorial walls it gets easier.
      I just sent a very vague, one-liner for a possible pitch idea to an editor I was working with on a different story and her response was, “that sounds great let’s do that one too.” Wow!
      It’s really about building your network and find the publications and editors that value what you can offer.

      Reply
  4. Soso Mweendo on

    It is interesting that such a topic can carry so much information! I am in awe of your ability to translate an ordinary topic into an extraordinary learning journey. Thank you. I am passionate about agriculture because I am from a long line of gardeners. I love gardening. But from this article, I have learnt that I can’t be a gardener, freelancer! I have followed your step-by-step find to a niche, and I have my fit. I will engage you further in developing mine. Keep teaching! You are good.

    Reply
    • Georgie Smith on

      Thank you Soso!

      Yes, you nailed my “true” passion in agricultural writing – translating these very complicated topics into something relatable and understandable.
      There are opportunities for writing in gardening as well, but you’re right, to be able to write in ag you really need to understand it at a deeper level than you do with home gardening experience.
      I’d be happy to chat more if you like though. Feel free to connect with me via LI or email.

      Reply
  5. Christine Osterwalder on

    Thanks so much, Georgie!

    This was an incredibly helpful article to me and very encouraging as well. I’m interested in local farms and food companies, especially sustainable ones, and want to help these small local companies build brand. It’s been hard to get my head around how to approach this unusual niche, so thanks for helping me to “think outside the box” in terms of finding clients, how LInkedIn worked better for you than LOIs, how you made the most of Den resources to create your own development plan, etc.

    May 2021 be an exceptional year for you!

    Reply
    • Georgie Smith on

      Thanks Christine!
      I hope 2021 is exception for you too!
      I would caution you to be careful about trying to help the small, local (farming) companies. They usually can’t afford a writer (at livable rates). Instead… look to the larger companies (or organizations) that are helping the small local companies. Maybe a farm supply company? A app for small farmers? A group that is working regionally to increase local food access. That sort of thing!

      Good luck!

      Reply
      • Christine Osterwalder on

        Thanks, Georgie!

        When I said “local farms and food companies,” I meant larger farms that do online marketing or value-added food companies that produce processed products of some kind, like chocolate, medicinal syrups, etc. I used to work for Whole Foods Market as a Local Forager to research small companies that would provide profitable products.

        Thanks for the suggestion about the farm app and support for food access groups!

        Reply
  6. PATRICIA NICHOLS on

    Your article is very encouraging, Georgie. Thank you. I’m just where you were in 2019. I haven’t been in a newsroom in 20 years. I opted for more regular hours while raising kids and became a tax examiner.
    Zeroing in on a niche that makes sense is my hold up. (I don’t like tax topics.) I love literature and history and art but I really don’t see the market for that – yet.
    Congratulations on your success, Georgie. Thanks for an encouraging word!

    Reply
    • Georgie Smith on

      Hi Patricia!

      It has been a LONG time since I was in a newsroom, but those basic skills are really a great base.

      I don’t have much advise how to turn tax advise into a niche (especially if you have it!) but maybe there is something there you can flip around into finances? Or business planning?

      Literature and art, hmm… well yes not obvious ones. But neither was agriculture when I started! Keep looking and you’ll find the right fit! I know some freelance writers also pursue more than one niche as well, which can work depending on the person.

      Reply
  7. Paul Williams on

    Brilliant article Georgie! Congratulations on your finding your writing niche. Fantastic advice written with passion and clarity from someone who is doing it, and living the dream too! I found my niche in the British media by writing about ‘nostalgia’ and ‘retro subjects’ they never go out of fashion because they already are!

    Reply
  8. Judi Shimel on

    Is there some connection between a niche and what’s called an ideal client? Every time I hear that term I shut down.

    Niche is not much better. I know which subjects I write often and we’ll about. I know which subjects I look forward to writing about.

    Take Black History Month, for instance. I look forward to February every year, to find something new and interesting to write about. I love writing about Carribean arts and culture.

    I love writing about Justice and the courts — that’s a broad way to describe that subject, but I’ve spent years working on every thing from crime, civil cases, and court rulings. I’ve covered judicial conferences and law group presentations.

    I like writing about education, science and the environment.

    Do you think there might be a niche in there, somewhere?

    Reply
  9. Arnita M Williams on

    Farmer Georgie,

    WOW!

    Your article gives me hope. I’ve often struggled with nailing down a niche. I have a B.A. in Business Administration with a marketing focus.

    Currently, I write articles for a new community newspaper. It’s also my community in which I live.

    I write articles about small, mom-and-pop businesses in my community. My byline and photo have appeared faithfully in every issue since May 2020, except for three of them.

    The business niche seems to be saturated with the same info. I just have a tough time finding new angles.

    I would love to write white papers. But, I need to mock-up a sample before I pitch. Yes, I’m also experiencing the ‘imposter syndrome.’

    Since my writing background is in print media, white papers are ideal, and lucrative. This has been my desire for the past three years.

    I’ve written case statements, grants for non-profits, business and marketing plans for start-ups, product descriptions, and executive bios (all in print). Online content just doesn’t seem to be my thing, with SEO, and all.

    Writing has been my side hustle since 2006. But, I just began to pursue freelance writing fulltime in June 2020.

    So, do you have any advice?
    I have a writer’s website, a LinkedIn profile (premium). But, I’m not sure that I’v maximized it to its potential.

    Reply
    • Georgie on

      Anita –

      My absolute first advice is to join the Freelance Writer’s Den if you haven’t already. It’s an incredible resource and it gave me the tools to kick-start freelance writing into a full-time career. It will help you take everything you already have in experience and clips and maximize it.

      The Writer’s Den has a huge library you can self-study courses. But I absolutely 1000% recommend applying for the Den2x course the next time Carol offers it. That mastermind was amazing for me, not only what it taught, but the support group of other freelancers I found in the group.

      Georgie

      Reply
  10. Michael Mwangi on

    Wow. That’s awesome !

    That inspires me to write about fresh farm produce. I am involved in that business but have never really written about it.

    Many thanks !

    Reply
    • Georgie on

      Thanks for the kind words Michael!

      I think if you’re involved in a farming business you already are half way there. Just remember to qualify your clients!

      Reply
  11. Pedro on

    Wow! Your title is so intriguing: “Cow fart vs freelancing!” At first I was like lazy to read it, but out of curiosity, I just wanted to know what is the connection between the two. And voilà, I’m so glad I did. I gained a lot from your exposition as a whole and particularly about the new marketing outlets.

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  12. Linda Hamilton on

    This is great! Thanks so much for writing it and for posting it!

    I grew up in a farming community and love both farming and horses. But I’ve struggled with writing niches and finding the “right fit.” You’ve given me sooooo many ideas, strategies and so much motivation to get going in a niche that I love but didn’t know how to approach. Now I’ve got a plan.

    Loved your comment about hating to send out LOIs and using LinkedIn for pitches. Another motivation for new marketing.

    Thank you for outlining the specifics of what you did. I’ve needed such an outline and could never find it in language that I could understand.

    Congratulations on breaking into a niche that you LOVE and finding such lucrative success. You’ve shared so many ideas. Great advice.

    Reply
    • Georgie on

      Hi Linda!

      Thanks for your kind words! My first “farm” love (well after the kittens and puppies) were my ponies.

      Growing up I had a very stubborn Welsh pony and then a very lazy Welsh/Quarterhorse pony! Ha.

      I haven’t concentrated on the equestrian side of farming in my writing career but there is probably some money there if you focus on the right clients. Just walk down the aisles and aisles and AISLES of expensive horse products/toys/tack etc. in any local feed and farm store!

      Reply

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