Choosing one or more niches/specialties is the best way to make a good living as a freelance writer. I’m proud to announce that I’ve created a comprehensive course to help you do just that…
Course Details Are…
Over at this page. I discuss:
- Exactly what’s in the course
- The 30-day money-back guarantee
- Future editions free
- The cost: 20 bucks!
Freelance Writing Niches: Your Questions Answered
I had over two dozen questions on last week’s post and in e-mails. I answer the most important questions below.
How Much Expertise Do I Need?
The amount of expertise varies depending on the particular specialty. I’m a higher education writer, and that does require substantial expertise for many college subjects, although I’ve seen writers without a college degree get hired to work on supplements in certain subjects that are easy to understand, like sociology.
It’s important to remember that you can learn quickly about a given area. I devote a large section to developing expertise in Part Three of the course: What to Do Now.
How Do I Find My Niches Based on My Interests and Background?
I’ve identified seven different sources. Part Two of the course guides you through the process in detail and includes two exercises:
- Creating My List of Potential Niches
- Choosing My Primary and Secondary Niches
What Do I Do After I’ve Chosen a Specialty?
I address this in Part Three: What to Do Now, and I include exercises on creating “action plans” to help you succeed.
That said, the course focuses on picking your specialties, not on all the things you need to do to be successful as a freelance writer. The latter is a large subject that is beyond the scope of the course. I recommend books and other helpful materials for that on the Success Resources part of the blog.
How Do I Rebrand Myself If I’ve Chosen the Wrong Field?
One point I make in Part Three: What to Do Now, is the need to keep exploring new areas until you find one or more that suit you and pay well.
If you’re in the “wrong” one, keep mining your experience and knowledge until you find more suitable ones. You’ll need to change your website and other marketing materials to reflect your new focus.
Will Specializing in One Area of Freelance Writing Limit My Income?
Jenn Mattern is a long-time professional freelancer. Here’s her comment in its entirety from last week’s post:
Not a question of my own, but one I get frequently:
Isn’t choosing a specialty too limiting and going to decrease the amount of work I get?
I’m not sure what your take on it is, but I usually focus on the fact that fewer gigs available in general doesn’t mean you’ll land fewer of them (fewer writers vying for them), and because specialists often get paid more they don’t need as many gigs to make the same amount of money. And I usually note that it’s fine to choose multiple specialties (which can be a type of writing too, not just niche-centered), but it’s a good idea to keep them tied to similar markets so they don’t have to market to completely different groups, which takes far more time, but isn’t impossible.
I agree completely with Jenn.
How Easy Is It to Break into a Given Concentration?
Some are easier to enter than others, but it all depends on your skills and how well you market yourself.
Luck can also be a factor. Some people happen to be in the right place at the right time and get hired by a company for a specific project. That can lead to more work for the company, plus the experience to do similar work for similar companies.
What Is the Typical Compensation?
Pay rates range from $50 per hour on up to $200 per hour for people that are at the top of a field that pays really well. I know writers who make over $100,000 per year, but that definitely isn’t typical.
The most I made in one year was $97,000 gross, adjusted for inflation to today’s dollars.
How Much Work Is Available?
This varies by the specialty. Many see tens of billions of dollars in revenue annually, so those obviously have a lot of work for freelance writers.
I discuss how to determine if a given niche is lucrative in Part Three: What to Do Now.
Which Fields Aren’t Over-Saturated?
Most areas have ample room for quality writers willing to put in the time to learn specific and who market themselves well and follow through on projects.
There are some fields that are definitely more crowded, for both business writing and consumer and trade magazines. Two crowded fields: travel and outdoors.
Should I Pick a Niche or Stumble Into One?
Veteran writer Anne Wayman wrote:
John, here’s a question I might have asked back in the day if I’d known enough to ask it: Is it better to stumble into a niche or to pick and plan one?
Anne, in the course I talk about generalists versus specialists. One good thing about being a generalist is getting to write in many different areas. This can allow us to “stumble” into a specialty we love and that pays well. However, I think it’s best to pick a niche that you really want to be in rather than to get picked by one you don’t like so much.
How Do You Define the Parameters of a Niche?
It’s important to distinguish between a broad sector, like health care, and more narrow sectors, like hospital/medical supplies. You will usually be better off with a narrower focus than a broad focus, as long as the sector is big enough so that it needs substantial amounts of writing.
What If a Lucrative Specialty Isn’t Interesting?
…what do you do when the niche that has supplied the most income (business copywriting for tech companies) is no longer interesting, but what you find interesting (freelancing for magazines and other publications) can’t pay the bills? I can’t fully say that I really have a specialty, since I edit novels and business books too and write marketing collateral, but the question above gets to the heart of it: love or money.
Tom, there’s no set answer for every situation. Some people are fortunate to find a field that they absolutely love and that pays very well. I write supplements for college textbooks in a variety of subjects and overall I really like the challenge of creating great lecture outlines, study guides, and test questions, and I always love getting to learn more. However, there are times when some of the work is tedious.
- Work on improving your attitude about the work that pays well but isn’t all that fun. Think about how that money helps you live your life and meet your obligations. This isn’t easy, but the mental shift can help.
- Work harder at breaking into the top-paying magazines. I know you are likely already doing this, and I know it isn’t easy. (I spent time writing for magazines in the 1990s.)
- Move into one or two other niches that do jazz you.
I also address this issue in Part One: Why You Should Specialize.
How Do I Know If a Niche Pays Well?
A good one will pay $50/hour minimum, if it contains businesses that generate a lot of revenue or if it requires skills that most writers don’t have.
There are thousands of business sectors that need writers: just have a look at your local Yellow Pages to get an idea. High tech, health care, and transportation are examples.
In addition, specific types of writing can be very lucrative. These include writing business brochures, sales copy, white papers, case studies, and more. Some of these pay $100/hour and up.
You can find typical pay rates in publications like Writer’s Market and on specific websites and online forums.
And the Winner Is…
I promised that I’d give a free course to one person who left a question.
Congrats to Janet Thomson! I’m sending you an e-mail with details on how to download the course.
You Can Buy the Course!
More questions you’d like answered? Any questions about the course that aren’t addressed in this post or over on the main sales page? Any other thoughts or comments?