Business Writing Copywriting 2020-11-09 00:00

To Niche or Not to Niche: How to Specialize as a Freelance Copywriter

feet stood in front of three arrows pointing in different directions

If you’ve ever dipped your toe into the world of freelance writing, you’ve heard experts talking about niches.

For the uninitiated, a niche is a specialty—and there are conflicting opinions about whether or not you should pick one.

Here’s how it works: one side says you should not limit yourself to a specialty. Rather, you should just take whatever work you can get.

The other side of the argument says that niching down your writing expertise allows you to make more money with less work.

Honestly, I think there’s merit to both sides of the argument. And I do think that niching down helps you—but only if you don’t limit yourself too much.

  1. Pick 2 or 3 niches
  2. How do you choose?
  3. Types of writing
  4. Industries that pay
  5. How to get started

Pick 2 or 3 niches

Instead of just saying, “Okay, I’m a person who only writes email copy for alternative health clients now,” I think a “Best of Both Worlds” approach is valuable.

This approach allows you to take the benefits from both sides of the argument.

Having a wide range of specialties expands your potential client base. Especially when you’re starting out, this is super important. You don’t want to make things harder on you than they have to be.

By that same token, niching down brings focus to your career. You can put in the time and effort to master your craft more quickly, market yourself to the right types of clients, and make it easier to get more clients if you address a very specific niche.

Plus, specialized writers can charge higher rates—and that’s what we’re after, right?

It’s why you are okay spending $50 on a steak at a nice steakhouse but not at a diner. You want someone who specializes in cooking the steak to perfection, not a cook who is flipping your steak with one hand and grilling a cheese sandwich with the other.

Pick two or three niches, sell yourself, do good work, and you will get more clients easily.

How do you choose?

With so many niches out there, how do you decide which niches to build a career on?

Well, first, let’s get one thing straight: you’re not getting married to this. You can change niches whenever you want. If you find you aren’t enjoying a particular kind of writing work, or the market just isn’t there for what you picked, you can go back to the drawing board and pick another niche. The important thing is to get going. Don’t waste a lot of time planning.

But if you aren’t sure what niches to go with, ask yourself a few questions:

1. What do you like to write?

Are there kinds of writing that pull you in? Maybe you love to craft a nice series of interconnected emails. Maybe you relish diving into long-form sales letters. Or you love the casualness of a blog post. Whatever it is, make a note. You don’t want a career full of work you hate doing.

2. What topics interest you or are you passionate about?

I’m not a big proponent of “following your passion” on everything, but there are times when asking yourself that question can put you on the right track. If you’re really interested in natural health solutions, you probably won’t be that interested in writing copy about the stock market, for example.

3. Where is the most profit potential?

I put this one last for a reason. You can build a respectable and profitable career on almost anything. But you do want to consider writing projects that will, you know, make you money. Maybe you’re really passionate about the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon from the ’80s, but there probably isn’t much of a market for someone who wants email funnels based on it. Try to marry passion with practicality here.

Now, if you want a starting point to answer #3, you can cheat and work off of a list.

Fortunately, I’ve got a list for you. Two of them, actually. One is focused on types of writing that clients pay for, and the other on industries that often hire writers at decent rates.

If you can pick one or two from each list and put them together, you’ll probably be able to have a solid starting base for a profitable career.

Vision board

Types of writing

1. Direct response

This is an umbrella term that captures a whole lot of different types of writing. It’s my preferred niche, and one that I’ve been able to do successfully for a long time.

With direct response, you’re not messing around: your job is to get the reader to do something. That might be click a link, try out a product, or subscribe to a service. Your writing directly leads to sales and conversions. No blog posts here—this is a discipline. But it pays off if you’re willing and able to learn it. Even an average direct response copywriter can make $3,000–$5,000 a month.

2. Email

This is another one of those “future-proof” niches. There will be a need for email copy for a long time yet.

Most companies, if they are doing email marketing the right way, will tell you that email is the source of the majority of their sales. It is still one of the most effective methods of marketing, and that’s why there’s a need for it. Email copy is short, but you can charge anywhere from $100–$300 per email, and more if the email is a longer piece.

3. Blogs and content marketing

Some say you can’t build a career on blog writing. I say, if you can write fast and develop your ideas efficiently, it can be a great career.

Blog posts run between $50 and $250 per post, depending on industry, length, and expertise. Consistent blog content is a must for every company, and they need writers to do it.

4. Ghostwriting books

While it wasn’t a great fit for me long-term, I was able to recover from the mess of 2018’s wood shop efforts by taking up ghostwriting. With ghostwriting, I was making between $4,000 and $8,000 per month with even just two clients.

It was exhausting for me, which ultimately led to me walking away from it. But if you have the energy and the creativity, there are publishing firms out there who hire ghostwriters regularly to write a book a month for them to publish.

5. Case studies

I don’t have a lot of experience in case studies myself, but they constantly come up when you are looking at writing niches.

Case studies involve long-form storytelling of success stories for companies. It’s a pretty cool way to make a living, as you are creating a lot of positive copy. Depending on the length, you could make up to $2,000 per case study.

6. Video scripts

This also depends on the length. But with the push for many companies to develop video content (especially on YouTube), you might find that brands are willing to pony up for help in creating that content for them.

7. Social media content

While brands are looking at blog content multiple times a week, they need social media content multiple times per day. You can easily build a full-time income if you can put together a retainer agreement that allows you to write that content for the client.

Industries that pay

1. Local clients

If you don’t know where to start, just look around you. There are small businesses everywhere, and they need help building their customer base. Find your favorite local companies and see what kind of help they need. You might be able to work out a deal.

2. Finance

In my experience, this is the best-paying niche for writers. Writing about the stock market is a constant need, as there are those who study the stock market and teach it to aspiring traders. That means they are developing content regularly. This is also a great industry to go to if you’re looking for a retainer agreement, which is how I work.

3. Alternative health

Another great industry with lots of copy needs, alternative health involves mostly natural solutions to health issues. It’s a booming industry and has been for years, so they need writers.

4. Digital marketing

There will never not be a need for marketing writers. It’s the evergreen industry.

5. Technology

The same goes for technology, which is an always-evolving industry. And with technology, you are also trying to help the average reader understand complex descriptions and data. If you are good at breaking down concepts, tech writing could be a great industry for you.

6. SaaS

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is something that nearly everyone uses but doesn’t realize it. Some companies provide software for users to take advantage of without having to manage it. Think ProWritingAid, for example. There are loads of companies across all industries in this niche.

7. Real estate

People are always buying property, and real estate companies are always looking to create content surrounding their properties. Because it’s a niche so many people read about, there’s great opportunity here.

8. Travel

The same concept as real estate—it’s an area lots of people read about, so they are always looking for new content. The bonus with the travel niche is that many read about travel just for fun, so there’s an even greater demand for it.

9. Parenting

As long as people keep having kids, there will be parents online looking for advice, product reviews, and solutions to their parenting problems. It’s as evergreen an industry as technology is.

10. Beauty and fashion

Another great niche, many people are highly engaged in content surrounding beauty and fashion. If you want to write for a passionate audience, this would be it.

11. Sports and entertainment writing

Finally, there are always opportunities to join teams of content creators who write about the sports and entertainment industries. Shows, events, and personalities are all ripe for content, and if you enjoy that sort of thing, you can see an endless supply of work.

How to get started

Pick a couple niches. Focus your LinkedIn page on them, demonstrating that you are a writer that serves these kinds of companies. Then, start searching for potential clients and reach out to them.

Create related content on LinkedIn and share it. Offer to write for free for a few clients for starters. Create a few pieces for your portfolio.

That’s an entirely different guide. But here’s what it comes down to: don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. Just start taking action.

The more action you take on your niche(s), the closer you’ll be to getting the work and the career that you want.

Now is a wonderful time to be a copywriter. Download this free book to learn how:

Turn Yourself Into a Prosperous Copywriter

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With the advent of the internet, the copywriting industry is exploding. Content is now seen as critical for all online businesses.

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