It feels like you can’t discuss freelancing these days without the topic of niches coming up. “But what’s your niche?” people ask. “How can you make money if you don’t have a niche?!”
Sure, your career as a freelance writer can benefit if you have a niche, but in my most humble opinion, they’re not completely necessary. Here are my thoughts on freelance writing niches, straight from a self-proclaimed generalist.
What Is a Niche?
#FunFact: To this day, I don’t know the proper pronunciation of “niche.”
Anyway, if you’re wondering what the heck a niche is, it’s basically a fancy word for specialty. Like doctors specialize in one type of medicine, freelance writers tend to specialize in one type of writing. Writers without a niche are referred to as “generalists.”
Writers without a niche are referred to as “generalists.”
There are so many niches out there that it would be impossible to list them all. However, I’ll give you a few examples to help you get a better idea of what a niche is:
⇒ Personal essays
⇒ Healthcare reporting
⇒ Technology/IT reporting
⇒ Landing page writing
⇒ Sales page writing
⇒ Social media marketing
⇒ Video scripts
⇒ Case studies
⇒ Email copywriting
⇒ Resume writing
⇒ Content marketing
⇒ Brand journalism
The list goes on and on. Basically, if there are words somewhere on the internet—or in the real world—there’s a writer who specializes in those particular words.
Do You Need a Writing Niche?
It depends on who you ask. Like I said, there are some people who live and die by their niches, and they will swear up and down that you simply must have a niche to succeed as a freelancer. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I think niches are overhyped. We’ll get to that in a second.)
Pros of Having a Niche
To give niche-pushers credit, there are some distinct benefits of having a niche, the most important and compelling of which is money.
Basically, it comes down to this: If you can establish yourself as an expert in a niche, you can command higher prices. Further, more technical niches, such as SaaS and healthcare, tend to pay better, as they’re more complicated and require more in-depth knowledge.
You could also make the argument that when you work predominantly in one subject matter, you’ll become more efficient at writing, which will help you turn out better results in less time. Finally, if you choose a niche that you’re genuinely interested in, you’ll get to write about stuff you like all the time, so that’s always a plus.
Cons of Having a Niche
However, if you ask me, I don’t think niches are totally necessarily. Why? I dabble in several niches—and have for most of my career—and I do quite well for myself.
On a regular basis, I do a little bit of lifestyle reporting, content marketing, infographic copywriting, product reviews and even social media marketing. I wouldn’t really call myself an “expert” in anything—I guess you can say I’m a generalist—yet I still price my work quite high.
I think when you firmly plant yourself in one niche, especially as a new freelancer, you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities to grow and expand your career. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a specialty, but don’t say no to other opportunities just because they’re not in your wheelhouse. Put yourself out there; try new things! You never know what you’ll fall in love with, and for me at least, variety is always welcome.
“But I want to make more money,” you say. Personally, I’m a firm believer that your ability to command higher rates depends more on your skill than your level of expertise. If you’re a strong writer and have top-notch research abilities, your clients are going to recognize the value you provide and compensate you accordingly.
Look, if you have a niche and it works for you, that’s awesome. Keep doing your thing. But if you’re just starting out or having trouble finding enough work to sustain a freelance career, your niche may be hurting more than it’s helping.