One of the best ways to earn more as a freelance writer is to develop niche expertise.
Assignments get easier and easier to do, as you learn where the good sources and statistics are for that niche topic. Developing story ideas gets easier too — as sources catch on that you write a lot on their subject, they start tipping you off about breaking news and emerging trends.
You learn more and more about your niche. Eventually, you find you’re irreplaceable for clients in this niche. Invaluable. Your rates go up and up.
Sounds great, yes?
There’s only one big question to answer:
How do you find your niche?
I’m getting this question a lot lately in Freelance Writers Den:
I can’t decide whether I want my writing niche to be A or B.
As soon as I figure that out, I’m going to get started.
Bad news — you will never discover your freelance writing niche by endlessly pondering what topic you should choose as your specialty area.
There is a proven way to do it, though. I know because it worked for me.
How I found my writing niche
One of my first-ever gigs was freelancing for one section of a newspaper, the real estate section. So I wrote a lot about real estate. I found I liked it. The more I did it, the more different aspects of it interested me — how real estate is financed, for instance.
I noticed there were good-paying clients in this niche — real-estate companies, real-estate trade publications. As time went on, I kept growing my knowledge of real estate so I could get more assignments.
My other early gig was writing about community news for an alternative paper. While I found it interesting, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of money in that. And it was pretty straightforward stuff that anybody could report. As the years went on, I pitched fewer of these types of stories.
Later, I was a beat reporter for a business weekly. I got assigned loads of beats — higher education, arts and entertainment, retail, restaurant, franchising, nonprofits, and more. I wrote a lot on each of these topics.
As time went on, I found I enjoyed some of these topics more than others. I noticed everybody and anybody seemed to want to write about arts and entertainment, so I drifted away from that topic.
As my knowledge got more sophisticated, my articles in these areas got more attention. That gave me more credibility as an expert in my topic.
Since I’m a former legal secretary, I loved the lawsuits. Other reporters didn’t want to read those long legal filings, so I became the go-to person to cover business bankruptcies. I learned to read businesses’ SEC filings and charities’ tax forms, too. Soon, I was an indispensable reporter for stories that required document-based reporting.
I was able to build a stable of great-paying freelance clients who craved this expertise. They were easy to land because I had clips to show them that were about their exact topic. These clients were thrilled to get me at any price, because they found it hard to get anyone who understood their industry.
To sum up:
- I wrote a lot on many different topics, which helped me improve my writing.
- As I wrote, I learned which topics I liked.
- Of the topics I liked, I observed which niches paid well, and wrote more on those.
- I kept developing more sophisticated expertise in my chosen fields.
- Good-paying clients became fairly easy to land.
What types of niches pay well
I often hear from writers who despair of finding a good-paying niche because they don’t know about financial services, or technology, or healthcare.
Two things about that: When I started, I didn’t know anything about them, either. You can learn as you go, if you have an interest in an area.
And contrary to popular belief, those aren’t the only good-paying niches around.
Anything technical will do. For instance, I recently met a writer whose passionate hobby is jewelry-making. You think there are a lot of writers who know the technical aspects and emerging trends in metalsmithing?
Manufacturers who use that method and need their products described would probably love to meet that writer. Ditto for trade publications for jewelry-makers and other industries that employ metalsmithing.
The myth of the single niche
My story illustrates another point: You do not need or even want to specialize in one, single niche. If your one industry goes in the tank, then you’ve got nothing.
It’s better to carve out several different specialized writing niches where you can claim expertise. At this point, I have many different areas I write on frequently, including legal, tax, insurance, business-finance, real estate, and jobs & careers.
Want to know your best niches? Start writing, and let them find you. You’ll see what you enjoy writing about.
Analyze where you’re seeing the best pay, and keep writing on those topics. The marketplace will point you to your best-paying writing niches.
What are your writing niches? Leave a comment and tell us how you developed your expertise.