As a freelancer, you’ll regularly be told, “you’ve got to have a writing niche”. If you don’t know your writing niche, you can’t know your “target audience” or your “target client” and that’s just bad for business.
Well, maybe not.
As a freelance writer, I started out by sticking to what I knew. Namely topics related to my work in careers guidance, careers coaching and employment skills. As a new writer, this suited me really well. I was able to use tangible real-life examples and my own work experience to write content that was relatable and engaging.
As my work experience has developed, so have my writing topics. As I progressed into leadership roles, I started writing more about leadership and team management. I have an educational background and passion for psychology, so I started writing about emotional intelligence and positive psychology in the workplace. I work with a lot of young people on careers, so I also branched into writing about the future of work and future skills. I was confident I had found my writing niche, and was happy to get stuck in, writing what I knew about.
Then something weird started happening.
Editors and business owners who saw my writing and liked it asked me to write some posts for them too. The thing was that some of the websites I was getting asked to write for weren’t really related to my work or what I had been writing about previously. They didn’t match the writing niche I was trying to carve out for myself. There were some loose connections and crossovers, but not always, and not consistently.
I started getting requests to write about camping holidays, early infant education, female fertility, health and well-being, and business communications. Start-ups were contacting me to write staff profiles and client success stories. I got asked to ghost write blog entries for a CEO in the tech industry.
What do you do?
I spent a while deliberating about whether I should take on the requests. They weren’t, after all, directly related to my own experience, and I wasn’t sure I could deliver what they wanted. As I mentioned, I’d read a lot of articles telling me that I needed a “niche” as a writer, and that this would be key to my success. The advice said I had to know who my clients were and approach them with tangible evidence of my work in order to secure new clients to write for. Only, I had no difficulty finding new clients. They just weren’t all fitting into the writing niche I was supposed to have!
That’s when I realized: the advice I had been devouring? It wasn’t going to work for me.
I realized I could be a writer who didn’t have a niche at all.
And I think that you can, too.
How does that work exactly?
There’s nothing wrong with having a niche, but when it comes to writing, I’ve found it’s not so much what you’re writing about, but how well you can write. It’s about creating a voice and engaging the reader. That’s why many writers who are able to do this are embracing writing across a wide variety of topics and genres.
Many businesses want to run a blog, and they want content that’s engaging and proactive for their audience. They just don’t know how to write it. That’s why when they come across writing they’ve been engaged by, they’re inclined to seek out who wrote it and ask them to help out.
There are some pretty great benefits to writing about a wide variety of topics:
1. You can build a solid network
I’m at a point now that if an article topic takes my fancy, I can write it and know who to pitch it to with a good chance of success. Because I work with different editors who know I can deliver, they’ve started to put the ball into my court more; asking me what topics that I think will be good for their audience or that I’d like to write about (which is great for me as a writer).
They’re also happy to refer me to other people in their network who are looking for an article or two (even better for me as a writer).
2. It challenges you
It’s definitely taught me to be a bit more thick-skinned!
Some editors are great and will give constructive guidance and work with you collaboratively to get a piece right. Others? Not so much.
But it all makes for great life and writing experience. It’s helped me to develop a pretty thick skin, know when criticism is productive for me, and know what I need to do to take it on board. It’s also taught me to know when to walk away from a client.
3. It makes you a better writer
It’s given me the opportunity to work with different editors and other professionals, like marketing experts and content strategists, who’ve all given me valuable advice and lessons that have helped to shape me as a better writer. These are people I wouldn’t have engaged with if I had stuck to my niche, and I’ve really learnt a lot about what great content versus great writing looks like.
It’s also helped me learn what questions I need to ask when a new client approaches me to determine if it’s really going to be a good fit—for both of us.
I covered a few of the truths about being a freelance writer in my last post, and in that I mentioned how you’ll often get approached to write some weird stuff. I’ve learned as a writer not to view it as “weird” anymore, but as a great indication that my writing is doing what I want it to do; engaging the reader.
Ditching the writing niche advice and embracing new topics has been great for me, both professionally and personally.
It might be a great move for you, too.