Don’t misunderstand: I really enjoy my main freelance writing specialty. Creating college textbook curriculum components that help students learn better and instructors teach better is interesting and challenging, and it ultimately helps college students learn more about the world and their role in it.
But I wouldn’t do it for free, or for low pay.
You’ll get the most writing done in the shortest amount of time, and you’ll likely make the most money per hour, when you specialize in one or more freelance writing niches.
Four Reasons a Freelance Writer Should Choose a Specialty
1. You’ll become known as an expert in your specialty. Your publications list will impress editors and business owners, and many of them will contact you with choice projects they know you’re perfect for.
2. Since you have a high level of background information in your specialty, you won’t need to spend as much time doing research. Plus staying current with trends and changing information is much easier when you focus on one niche.
3. You’ll be able to do projects faster because you’ve done the same thing many times before.
4. Editors will pay you higher rates because they know you have a proven track record and will deliver the goods. Editors want high-quality work delivered on time, and they will pay you well to get it. As noted above, for most of my freelance writing career I’ve specialized in writing supplements and ancillaries for college textbooks (instructor’s manuals, test questions, student study guides, Internet exercises, etc). As I built up my publications list and my contacts list, I won more and more projects, and those projects typically had higher per-hour pay rates. For many years I’ve made $50-$100 per hour. (See the new third edition of my e-book Writing College Textbook Supplements: Developing Test Questions, Quiz Questions, Instructor Manuals, Lecture Outlines, and Other Curriculum Components.)
Develop One or Two Sub-Specialties
I actually started my writing career as an outdoor writer. I’ve written several hiking guidebooks on Northern California, along with a hundred or so magazine and newspaper articles. Two new books came out in 2018:
100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition
And Hike the Parks: Redwood National & State Parks is coming out in late May of 2019.
I also write the Northern California Hiking Trails blog to publicize the books and to promote hiking and outdoors recreation, and also protection of the environment.
Sub-specialties can be related to your main specialty, or they can be in totally different areas. Of course, it’s easier to develop a sub-specialty that is similar to your main specialty.
It’s OK to Shift Freelance Writing Specialties
For example, I still work on textbook supplements and in outdoor writing, but in recent years I’ve done more writing for nonprofits, including website content and annual reports.
The Problems with Being a Freelance Writing Generalist
Some freelance writers can pay the bills by being generalists, meaning they seek any writing assignment that meets their personal payment and interest criteria. However, most generalist freelancers don’t do very well. Editors and businesses will be wary of hiring someone without a high level of subject expertise, and when they do occasionally hire a generalist, they typically won’t pay as much as they would for a specialist.
Need Help on How to Pick Your Freelance Writing Specialties?
Then check out my self-guided course Find Your Freelance Writing Niches: Make More Money For Less Work. I go into much more detail about the advantages of specialization and I lay out detailed methods that help you pick the niches that best suit you and will make you the most money.
Your Take on Freelance Writing Specialties
Do you have a specific writing specialty? What is it? How has specialization helped you in your career?