I’m a strong advocate of freelance writers specializing in one or more niches that pay good rates. (That’s why I created a quick and effective course about how to do it.)
Because you’ll get a higher rate of return on the total investment of the time you spend marketing your services and completing your projects.
Most freelance writing specialties fall in the $50-$100 per hour range, with some ranging up to $200 per hour and beyond to $300 per hour and more. The upper figures apply to people who excel in a field where clients pay premium rates for the highest-quality work.
Most writers begin as generalists; however, I’m one of the writers who actually started out as a specialist. Here’s my story.
My First Niche: Outdoors Writing
I’ve always been an avid hiker who loved to spend as much time outside as possible, so I started my freelance career in outdoors writing.
I leapfrogged straight into writing books by landing a contract with The Mountaineers Books in Seattle for my first title, Best Short Hikes in and around the North Sacramento Valley. It was published in 1992 and finally went out of print in 2009.
I leveraged that first book into two more books I wrote in the 1990s for the same publisher: 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California, (now in its fourth edition), and 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions, (revised edition). These two are still in print, and my hiking books have sold a combined total of about 70,000 copies.
My status as a book author with one of the top publishers in the field greatly boosted my ability to market myself. I initially focused on the periodical market by writing over 100 articles about hiking, backpacking, and other outdoors activities for magazines such as Sunset and VIA, and also for a half-dozen newspapers. I was still a part-time freelancer at this point; much of my income came from teaching college-level political science courses.
And college teaching quickly led to my main niche, the one that’s made me nearly all of my income since the mid-1990s…
My Second and Main Niche: Freelancing for Higher Education Companies
Even as I started my freelance career in outdoors writing, I was also developing my second and by far more lucrative niche: freelance writing for college textbook publishers.
As a college instructor, I was frequently approached by college textbook sales people. These reps sought to convince me to adopt their books for my classes, and during a conversation with one, I asked who wrote the instructor’s manuals, lecture outlines, and test questions that the publishers provided to the profs who adopt their books. She said, “People like you. Interested?”
I was! She connected me with an editor at her company. I sent in my résumé and some test questions I’d written for one of my own classes. That summer I landed a $4000 project to write multiple-choice, true-false, and essay questions for a new American government textbook. I loved it, it paid well, and I was launched into my main niche.
I got more and more assignments from her company and from others I contacted. By 1994 I was ready to leave teaching and launch into freelancing full-time. Writing curriculum for college textbook publishing companies has provided my main income ever since, augmented by book royalties and a few outdoors and travel articles.
What I Make in My Main Niche
My per-hour pay for creating supplements for college textbooks ranges from $50-$100 for most projects, although I’ve had some assignments that paid $150 per hour. Other niches pay more, but I love what I do because I love learning and helping students learn. (Details on how to succeed in this particular niche are in my ebook Writing College Textbook Supplements.)
Ready to Step Up?
Then get my course Find Your Freelance Writing Niches: Make More Money for Less Work. It’s only 20 bucks, and it contains several exercises that guide you to the niches most likely to boost your earnings.
Do you specialize in one or more areas? Which ones? Any other thoughts?