Pretend you just contracted a strange illness that caused your hands to turn purple. You go see your doctor, and he refers you to another doctor that specializes in curing weird hand pigment diseases. You breathe a huge sigh of relief, knowing that you’ve found the perfect person to solve this very unsightly issue.
In that way, brands are a lot like patients. They have specific content writing needs and want to find writers who can do the best job meeting them.
What we’re talking about here is a content writing niche. In a recent piece on personal branding, I addressed the importance of identifying your niche with a quote from John Gordon: “Experts are not called upon because they are the smartest person in every room; they are called upon because they are the smartest person in a specific room.”
Finding your niche, or your areas of expertise, will do wonders for your personal brand and your wallet. That’s because brands aren’t just looking for good writers; they’re looking for good writers with very particular areas of expertise. By carving out a content writing niche and becoming a subject matter expert, you’ll see more freelance job opportunities and higher paychecks.
(Create a writer portfolio today to showcase your talents and earn writing opportunities from name brands.)
So, how does one go about figuring out their niche? Here are five ways to get started:
Leverage Your Experience
If you have a day job, or used to work in a particular industry, you can leverage that experience to your advantage. And be creative! Let’s say you worked at a Verizon store, where you sold customers mobile devices and accessories. That kind of experience can give you authority on a range of topics: consumer mobile technology, technology retail, contract sales, retail management, window displays, and more. List out topics you know about from jobs, hobbies, and school, and then identify the ones that get you most excited. If you’re not passionate about the topic, it’s probably not the niche for you.
Let’s say you want your content writing niche to be “finance.” That’s a good place to start, but there are millions of other writers out there doing the same thing. So force yourself to be more specific. “Living on a budget” is a step in the right direction. Even better: “Living on a budget in college.” The more specific you get (within reason), the more likely you are to be a top choice for brands and recruiters. This list gives you a sense of the type of specificity to shoot for, and might even inspire you to find your niche.
Align with an Industry
When you’re thinking about your niche, think about topics that major brands might be interested in writing about. Let’s say you’re debating between automobile insurance and poets from the 1800s. While the latter may be valuable on trivia night, it probably won’t be terribly lucrative for your content writing career. To get a better idea of what types of content brands look for, make a list of companies that align with your experience and spend some time browsing their blogs or media sites.
Think About Your Audience
If you have a broader niche, you can differentiate yourself by defining your audience. Brands are thrilled when they find writers who are already speaking to their target market. Whether it’s young moms, stay-at-home dads, Latina women, or high school students, knowing who you reach is an important part of carving out your niche.
Still stuck? One way to get inspired is to channel your listening skills. Read blogs that interest you. Participate in conversations on social media. Attend events you find intriguing. The more you engage, the more you will naturally stumble upon (and develop knowledge about) the topics that resonate most. Plus, when you spend time listening, you’ll develop a keen sense of what people are talking about and where the gaps are, two things that can help guide you toward your niche.
A final tip? Keep writing. By joining a writing community like Skyword’s (which you can do here), you’ll expose yourself to more opportunities that help you unleash your inner expert.