How I Supercharged My Writing Income with a Niche Website

A freelance writer skyrockets her incomeBy Erin Raub

I was a few years into my freelance writing career when I decided that I wasn’t quite happy.

Like so many other freelancers, I knew I loved to write. I knew that my craft thrived under the creative freedom working from home affords.

But I wasn’t passionate about my project list back then. I didn’t get up every morning excited to sit down at the computer. And worse, my hourly rate was too low and my income barely left room for more than the essentials.

That’s when I knew something had to change.

And something did change. Now, more than a year later, my client list ROCKS. They are the coolest people with the most intriguing projects. And my income? It’s quadrupled.

Here’s how I did it.

Dream Big

The first step was to sit down and brainstorm. What did I love to write, specifically?

I had been a Costa Rica travel writer for years and loved the work, but I now had an infant son and was more or less grounded, unable (and unwilling) to travel away from him for weeks at a time.

My dream was to write about travel. My challenge was to do so from home. I had to dig really deep. It wasn’t a question I could answer quickly.

In fact, it took months to really cull an answer and develop my idea: The Travel Copywriter. For me, this was the ideal blend of travel (my passion) and website copywriting (my favorite!).

To Niche or Not to Niche?

Carol doesn’t normally advocate niche websites. Instead, she recommends a general writer website that focuses on each of your niches.

But I decided to go against the grain.

I figured I could be the big fish in a small pond. If I chose a highly targeted niche — one that few others had chosen — it wouldn’t be impossible to rank on Google and attract my dream clients.

And that’s the key to successful niching, in my opinion: you have to choose a very specific niche. There are nearly 14 million results on Google for “copywriter” and another 2 million for “travel writer,” but “travel copywriter?” There were only 4,000.

Choose the Perfect Domain

Before I named my niche writing business, I hit GoDaddy. It was important to me that my business name be the same as my domain.

Why? It’s simple: I asked myself, if my dream client is searching for a travel copywriter, which domain — my first chance to make a good impression (via Google) — looks more professional: www.TheTravelCopywriter.com or www.ErinRaub.com? And so The Travel Copywriter was born.

Presentation is Key

We freelancers work remotely, often thousands of miles from our clients. We may arrange the occasional phone call or, even less often, pop on Skype for a voice chat. But most of the time, we don’t have the luxury of in-person networking or face-to-face interviews to seal the deal. Our websites are our business cards.

But in my house, editing php and scrolling through CSS elements usually leads to stomping feet, foul moods and, later, pleas for help from a Higher Power (and my designer friends).

For this project — my dream business — I invested in a professional designer, a woman who could turn my scribbled homepage sketch into a real, live website.

Knock Your Copy out of the Park

While my designer worked her brand of magic, I worked mine.

I began developing the web copy that would serve as my business card and most important portfolio piece – the words that would help convert my dream prospects into dream clients. I outlined, wrote, deleted, rewrote and deleted again.

I wanted my site to be perfect before anyone saw it.

But that didn’t happen.

My big fish-little pond idea worked a little too well: before I had written any meaningful copy — before I had even received a draft of my design! — Google had indexed me and I was on Page 2. Eeek!

To improvise, I published some good-enough copy. We finished my design. I created a To Do list for my site. I even drafted some blog posts.

Change Your Freelance Life

Just as I sat down to attack Item #1 on my To Do list, my first dream prospect emailed. Then another and another. It’s been a steady stream ever since.

Now, a year after deciding to change my freelancing life, I realize that my life in freelancing has changed.

Every one of my current clients is a dream client. I LOVE what I’m doing. I am passionate about every project. (I even dream about the copy I’ll write the next day.)

And I’m thrilled to be paid well — finally! — for a job well done.

How are you working toward your dream freelance life? Tell us in the comments below.

Erin Raub is a passionate world traveler currently based in Costa Rica. She’s a travel copywriter and hospitality blogger who specializes in website copy and marketing materials for the tourism industry.

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57 comments on “How I Supercharged My Writing Income with a Niche Website
  1. Xover says:

    I am into video games, travel, and fashion. Should-
    1.) I write spec ads?
    2.) I create separate online portfolios or put them all in one site?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Xover, I always say to start with one site that presents all your niches, and see if you can make that work. Because operating multiple sites is a lot of work — take it from me!

      I don’t know what you mean by “spec ads” — but I’ve never had to place an ad for my writing. That’s not usually how writers get gigs — they get them through proactive targeting and marketing to the clients they want.

      • Xover says:

        “Spec ads”, as in “mock ads”. I got this idea from Michel Fortin’s site, where he says that it’s better to have “mock ads” than to have no ads at all so that you can show your potential clients your skills. Hey, do you think it’s better to niche or not to niche? I constantly run into this advice of picking three or less, preferably one, niche and I sorta understand why, but I keep getting this feeling that I should generalise…like Gary Halbert. With enough research I feel like I can write about any product or service. But I don’t know, I’m just starting out. Preparing for the future, since at the moment I’m under 18.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Well…are you planning to write ads? I don’t know a lot of writers who get those gigs.

          In general, I’m not a fan of creating pretend samples — instead, find a real client and do a pro bono project for them. When you self-create samples, you have no client you pleased, who can recommend you.

          My joke about being a generalist is that when I meet one who makes as much as a niche specialist, I’ll start recommending it. Except that in 8 years of coaching and mentoring writers, I never have.

          Generalists always seem to be broke and struggling. It’s the hard way to build your career — you never build up expertise and have to start from scratch learning the biz and finding experts, every assignment. It’s very inefficient and also doesn’t allow you to command higher rates as you go, as you’re not leveraging the expertise you’ve gained.

  2. Matt says:

    If you’re going to become a niche copywriter (which I think is a great way to go, if you truly know the subject matter), I believe it is very important to pick a good domain name.

    Erin, I actually talked with you via email before deciding exactly which niche to enter, and you gave me some valuable insights on niching my business as well as which domain to select.

    So…thanks! And great article…
    Matt recently posted…17 Golf Content Marketing Ideas that Get New Customers!My Profile

  3. I wonder how time consuming it is to maintain the general writer site and the specialty site.

  4. Arianna says:

    Wow! A kindred spirit I see. I wasn’t expecting there were many others, but I have a niche copywriting business as well: I write hip, humorous copy for clients and offer comedy writing and joke services as well. Glad to hear that travel copy sells!
    Arianna recently posted…SEO Content Mills: If Content is King Then Content Mills Are Its Starving, Backwards PeasantsMy Profile

  5. That’s rather incredible. Mine started with a dream. I have my own blog and I know what I want to do as an individual writer and strategist, but I also know what else I’m passionate about. LittleMissScooter, a blog for eco-friendly arts and green living, came from that and it’s growing steadily. It’s amazing to watch that gradual lift off.

  6. Stacy Sare says:

    Erin,

    Great job on your niche website and SEO!

    You also accomplish two additional smart things in your web copy:

    1) You establish yourself as an authority in your industry. This is clear and convincing in your writing.

    2) Your copy targets each audience, for example, spa copywriting, hotel copywriting. Each page lets your prospects know you understand the specific business challenges of that niche. It shows that the hard work of revising and rewriting pays off!

    Stacy

  7. Tanya says:

    This post was truly inspiring. I’m just beginning, but maybe, after time of freelancing and working with clients, I will be able to come up with a niche that is lucrative and fun as this has been for you. Well done!

  8. Ghautham says:

    I am so pleased, I came across your site. Having been blogging for a few months now I have been wanting to find other avenues online where I could be making money and potentially faster. I will be following this formula and have loved the language in which you have put it in, perfect for newbies like me! Thank you so much.
    Ghautham recently posted…Download Ninjump for PC Free (Windows 7/8/XP)My Profile

  9. Tom says:

    I agree Erin, quality niche sites can really drive traffic and targeted leads to your business.

    You can use Google’s keyword planner tool to brainstorm relevant keyword phrases.

    Or test drive tools such as Long Tail Pro which can help users match long tail keyword phrases in your niche with available domain names.

    Some quality content, a reliable hosting provider, social interaction and a few relevant backlinks and you can often find your site in the top 10 of google, yahoo and bing search results if the keyword is low to medium competition.

  10. Sofie says:

    SO timely. I’ve just spent the last two weekns pondering about setting up my freelance side gig. I’ve been travel blogging for over a year now but I want to take my activities a step further. ‘The Travel Copywriter’, such a great idea and food for thought for me!
    Sofie recently posted…Quinta da Regaleira: my favorite Sintra monumentMy Profile

  11. Erin I am not in the free lance business but I found your post very informative. It shows how choosing the right niche and some thought going into developing it can go a long way. It also gave me some ideas for my blog or additional blogs that I had not thought about. Thanks.
    STEVEN J. FROMM, ATTORNEY, LL.M. (TAXATION) recently posted…IRS Tax Scam Alert and What To Do To Protect Yourself: Scary and Disturbing Tactics By Phony IRS AgentsMy Profile

  12. Erin, this post is very inspiring. I’ve just this week decided to switch my blog niche to an area I’m quite passionate about – green living (haven’t carried thru yet). It never dawned on me to consider a niche for my freelance business. What a great idea! I’ll have to give this some serious consideration. I will do some googling, as you mentioned, to see what I come up with.

    My site is a work in progress. It’s only been up since August. I’m currently in the Den’s website boot camp. Lots and lots of tweaking and still not finished. I will combine the steps you mention in this article with Carol’s great advice and hopefully I can start getting freelance trickles also. Actually, I have been getting some nibbles and offers, but they are coming through Facebook and LinkedIn. I’m certainly not complaining! 🙂
    Shauna L Bowling recently posted…5 Warning Signs That You Are Slipping Into a FunkMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Shauna, you’ll get even more hits coming to you through your social media profiles if you have a strong website they can click through and look at. Those two online tools really work together, your LinkedIn profile especially, and your writer website.

  13. Mary Clark says:

    Well done! I am a freelance writer in Costa Rica as well. I just started in July as a part-time source of income. Your success gives me hope that I can go full time in a few years. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us all.
    Mary Clark recently posted…How-To Go From Freelance Novice to Writing ProMy Profile

    • Erin says:

      Very cool, Mary! Freelance writing has great potential in Costa Rica & abroad. Try a little bit of everything and have fun growing your business!

  14. Jordan Clary says:

    Loved this post, Erin! I feel like I’m pretty much where you were a year or so ago and this is exactly what I needed to read right now.

  15. Kathy says:

    Erin – what a knockout writer’s site and copy that sings! This is by far the best writer’s site for your niche. The colors, the brand – the copy; the message is so joyful.

    Thank you Carol for the writer’s site tutorial and bravo, Erin for truly creating your colorful niche!

    Kathy

  16. Willi Morris says:

    Wow, travel copy writing would be the ultimate dream for me. Thank you SO much for opening my eyes to this niche and reminding me that hiring a good web designer means a lot.

    Right now I’m working towards my dream by chatting about my services with really interesting people I’ve met. I may not know a lot about their particular industry, but I already have a rapport with them, and so working with them has been really great.

    My not-so-secret dream niche (other than travel writing) is to become a professional corporate biographer or someone who profiles companies or entrepreneurs. Features writing has been my best writing for many years, so I think I’d love to do that on a regular basis.

    Congrats!
    Willi Morris recently posted…3 Reasons Writing Every Day Can Be a Useless SnoozefestMy Profile

    • Erin says:

      My pleasure! It’s awesome that you’re looking toward your interests and thinking about niches. Networking and dabbling and writing about this, that and everything is the perfect way to hone your skills and your interest. Have fun with it and good luck!

  17. Joe says:

    Hi Erin,

    Fantastic post- I love a case study that gives details of the thought process, like you have done here.
    I’m writing in the health & fitness niche, mainly articles for trade and consumer magazines, but I’ve always wanted to dabble with copywriting. The problem is I’ve never actually done it before. So to be honest I’m SCARED to market myself as a copywriter or apply for copywriting work!

    How did you make the transition from travel writing to copywriting? Had you prior experience, any tips?

    Cheers
    Joe

    • Erin says:

      Everyone has to start somewhere, right? There is always the first job: the first blogging gig, the first copywriting client, the first whatever. Don’t be afraid of the first. (But don’t price it like it’s the hundredth.)

      If copywriting is something that interests you, go for it. Combat your inexperience with expertise: there are many, many awesome copywriting blogs and informative books on the subject. Read the greats, even the ones from decades ago. Understand the principles and think about how you can adapt them to the web. If you’re a member of the Den, there are great copywriting resources there, too. Talk with Chris Marlow. Good luck!
      Erin recently posted…7 Reasons Why You Absolutely, Positively Need a Travel Business BlogMy Profile

  18. I’m happy it worked out well for you Erin. Congrats. 🙂

    This is something I’m still trying to figure out – which niche to focus on. Right now, I love pitching personal essay ideas but still it’s on general topics. That’s the problem with having too many interests.
    Jovell Alingod recently posted…Do You Really Need To Blog? How Jovell Found the AnswerMy Profile

  19. Timely, oh so timely! I’ve been narrowing down my site. As I mentioned elsewhere, it’s still small enough and has few followers so that I can experiment a bit. I’d been looking into niche writing, but almost everything I’ve read said, “Find what everyone is talking about and write about that!”

    They had to be kidding; they just had to be… If I’m not passionate about said subject, then what? Go against my grain just for the money? I don’t think so! The info I kept running into was worse than useless, since it took up my time to read about nothing I wanted to do.

    Then, along comes your article. In clear, succinct language, you explained

    ** How you found a way to write about YOUR passion, about the niche YOU liked to do and what you did about it
    ** How the specific keywords you used took you out of the huge field of 2 million competitors down to 4,000 (quite the difference) and to those looking specifically for what you offer

    It’s quite the article. And, because it’s so relevant to what I wanted to learn in the first place, it’s going into my sparsely-populated “Particularly Useful” folder on the toolbar.

    Thank you!
    D Kendra Francesco recently posted…Strategy and SimplifyMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I loved the stats in this piece too — great case study on identifying what they call “long tail” key words.

    • Erin says:

      That’s high praise, thank you! And I couldn’t agree with you more: no way should you write about something that doesn’t interest you, just because it’s potentially profitable. That’s a one-way street to boring, uninspired writing – something your clients wouldn’t want and definitely wouldn’t pay for, don’t you think?

      Find something(s) you love and figure out how to make them work. Good luck!
      Erin recently posted…7 Reasons Why You Absolutely, Positively Need a Travel Business BlogMy Profile

  20. Janice says:

    Hi Erin – great post! I am a travel/tourism copywriter too, but working more with blog posts, social media and emails. I also just started my freelance writing last year. So you are definitely an inspiration to me! I love your website and learn from it and others like yours that rank high in Google. Thanks for detailing your story here.
    Janice recently posted…Getting my (writing) fill in Delray BeachMy Profile

  21. Thanks Erin! As I’m about to quit my job and go freelance, posts like these really do help and give me the courage to make the jump!

  22. Ruth says:

    Great article, Erin! I hope we can meet in person sometime 🙂
    Ruth recently posted…5 Ways Freelance Writers Can Use the iPhone 5My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hey Ruth — great to see you on here! Been a while. Hope you’re doing well.

      • Ruth says:

        Hi Carol!

        Doing well. Took some time off while in Cameroon — got kinda sick there — and now rebuilding my biz in Costa Rica, where I just moved. Planning on rejoining the Den after I recover from relocation 🙂

        @Erin: Love your travel copywriter site! I’ve always struggled with marketing my “niche” because I am all. over. the. board.

        My best clients have been in-flights and design/identity firms, but I also write for INGOs and NPOs.

        Lifestyle journalist, brand reporter and nonprofit fundwriter? “Lifestyle” seems to encompass pretty much everything I write about but I think it may be too broad… And here I go thinking “out loud” again… 😉

        • Carol Tice says:

          Aha…so you and Erin are neighbors now…as Eastern European Jews used to say when they were moving to Chicago and heard their friend was moving to New York. 😉

    • Erin says:

      Thanks, Ruth! For sure. I’ll email you.
      Erin recently posted…4 Tired Travel Clichés that are Killing Your Sales (and What to Say Instead)My Profile

  23. Allen Taylor says:

    I’m envious – that you live in Costa Rica. Your story is a great example of how to build a niche writing website. I’m going to have to give that consideration for myself. Thanks!
    Allen Taylor recently posted…Do Your Blog Posts Need A Story Structure?My Profile

  24. This is such an inspiring story, Erin! I’ve just been cruising around your website–very well done. Yes, you’re in a ‘niche,’ but you’ve mined a number of veins within that niche in a very clever way. Your post has prompted me to take a step back and look at what I’m doing with my business to see if I might be able to put a new spin on things. Thank you, and best of luck for continued success!

  25. John Soares says:

    Erin, you’ve done such a good job of creating a great website and targeting it so you show up well in Google searches. Very impressive!

    I’ve enjoyed following the course of your career through your posts in the Freelance Writers Den, and I’m especially impressed that you’re living in Costa Rica. What a beautiful place!
    John Soares recently posted…Comprehensive Guide to Setting Freelance Writing GoalsMy Profile

  26. Daryl says:

    Love your story Erin!

    I’m definitely in the camp of “niching down” and selecting one specific area that best suits you…even though it’s something I’m still struggling with myself!

    One question though: now that you’ve identified yourself as a copywriter, do you mainly get copyrighting gigs, or do you still get a good flow of Costa Rican travel writing requests?

    Thanks!
    Daryl recently posted…October Freelance Writing Income ReportMy Profile

    • Erin says:

      I’d say I’m about 50/50 on Costa Rica copywriting and international travel copywriting. I do mention my location on The Travel Copywriter and eventually, I will probably add a tab (or blog) about my Costa Rica sub-niche. I also have my general writer site (erinraub.com), which is more targeted to the Costa Rican market and pulls in inquiries for me, too.
      Erin recently posted…Low Season: The Best Time for Travel MarketingMy Profile

  27. Erin, this is almost exactly my own story word for word.

    When I finally had enough funds to stump up the cost of a professional web designer, I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance in search by targeting the general term ‘copywriter’.

    So I decided to narrow it down to ‘website copywriter’ and then target niche keyword terms such as ‘website copywriting services’. Within a month I was #1 in google.co.uk for that particular search term (not just Page 1 BUT #1 position).

    Sure, it only gets me a trickle of queries. But it’s far better being first choice for the odd query than 350th choice for every single search on the term ‘copywriter’.

    I also did what Carol recommends – targeting niche areas in individual service pages. And they’re ranking pretty well too.

    Also if you’ve got the cash then go for a pro web designer. Although, in my case, I did end up with a tiddly font size, which I’m kinda stuck with for now.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted…The common-sense way to edit your writing (without going OTT)My Profile

  28. Hey Erin,

    Fantastic job positioning yourself in a great market. I think if I ever want to get paid more for my writing I’ll need to do something similar.

    I blog in a niche market at the moment and even if I could I still wouldn’t want to compete against myself. There isn’t much information on the web about it and I have to invent it all.

    Do you think I should still stick a ‘hire me’ page on my site aimed at general PD, or would it be better to create a new mini-blog that’s more focused?

    Cheers
    Jamie Alexander recently posted…You Were Born To Lucid Dream And You’ll Get That Ability BackMy Profile

    • Erin says:

      I think if you enjoy the niche and it has good marketing potential, you should consider it. The Hire Me tab is up to you (personally, I have one and I like it), but you should definitely display your email address. Contacting you should be easy – don’t make potential clients jump through hoops. Good luck!
      Erin recently posted…26 Inspiring Ideas for Evergreen Travel Blog ContentMy Profile