I know the importance of niching down for writers, especially if they’re planning on making money.
It builds expertise, and shows potential clients that, I don’t know, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers are your crack. There isn’t anyone who knows more about greater spotted woodpeckers than you. So it’s you that they call when they need that knowledge, and they’ll pay you the big bucks because you’re the expert.
It can be difficult for writers to niche down for two main reasons:
1 — In the beginning it can be tempted to take money from anyone who’s willing to give it to you in exchange for words. Then you can call yourself a real writer.
Once upon a time I wrote for TextBroker, and when some dude gave me thirty quid to write an essay detailing the pros and cons of certain cordless vacuum cleaners I was BUZZING.
I could officially call myself a professional writer!
And all it had taken was a couple of hours sitting on the sofa in my jim jams scanning through reviews.
When was even more exciting was that that same person hired me multiple times. As it turns out, I was as good as was required to write pro and con listicles for common household appliances.
I HAD MADE IT!
Except obviously I hadn’t.
It’s not, I’m afraid, as easy as that, especially when you put in as little effort as I do.
Because I hadn’t dug myself a big hole and sat myself down in it, refusing to move until someone needed my specific, er, hole. I was digging shallow holes all over the place, because if someone wanted to buy a hole, I’d rather they paid less for a shallower hole.
At least they paid me for it.
Ok, that analogy wasn’t great. Let’s just say the more you know about a subject the more people will pay you to write about it.
If you know a lot about email marketing for B2B tech companies, you can probs build your career faster than if your chosen niche is the greater spotted woodpecker, but there’ll also be hella competition. It’s swings and roundabouts.
But not having a niche wasn’t really my problem. I specialise in helping people adopt a vegan lifestyle (for the animals, you know), so I have a website about how to do it and a separate (crap) website about how I can create content for vegan brands and ultimately help them shift sales.
I like writing about being vegan (if you just talk about it you’re immediately a massive cliche — cry cry cry) so I would enjoy being paid to write about it. But obviously I got distracted writing about other things and trying to build traffic to my website that I’ve not actually pursued the being paid for it part. One day!
2 — A lot of writers want to write about lots of things. And that’s ok.
I have only recently (last Tuesday, specifically) gotten to grips with this. I’m trying, slightly more actively than useful, to pave a path towards building an income from writing (I was going to put ‘reliable’ in front of income, but I realise that’s an oxymoron for most of us).
So I’m writing outside of my niche. I know you’d think I should be upping my cold email game, and that is one the agenda, but the purpose of writing in different niches is really to build my writing habit. I didn’t want to get up at 6.30 and write for an hour about veganism every day.
So some days I don’t.
I started another website, for me, on houseplants. I’ve not bothered with social media or Pinterest with it, I’ve been relying completely on SEO (by writing fucking LONG, relevant articles — as it turns out, that’s the crux of SEO, there’s no need to fanny about with dodgy backlinks).
It’s getting a tiny bit of traction, which for a brand new blog is pretty exciting.
It’s not always easy to have bits of writing strewn throughout the internet, and I struggle to fight the desire to consolidate them all onto one painfully slow website, bogged down with redirects. I tell myself that I like things to be tidy and well organised, but in reality, it’s just easier to have all of my articles in the backend of one website.
I’m entering a few short story competitions (you never know), because I have a novel (well, two drafts of one) that has nothing to do with either plants or vegans (although to be fair, they do crop up a couple of times). I like writing random chapters from non-existent sequels and prequels that could be rejigged as short stories.
I love writing them, so why not?
Medium, I’m afraid, is where I’ll post everything else. Everything my tiny brain can spew onto the page. A few things that are currently rattling around my brain are:
- Why do people complain about having to iron when I’ve not ironed in years without anyone save my mother noticing. It’s optional, kids.
- Why rabbits are fucking SWELL house pets, that are better than cats (that get run over, eat birds, do smelly poos) or dogs (need walking, make noise, can’t be left very long) for busy people
- How our parents mould us without us even knowing, and how to break free of that mould (I had a very stressful epiphany that rabbits are no less of a proper pet than a dog).
- Just how good Horrible Histories was. I’m currently rewatching it, and then I’m doing Yonderland. Both shows are GLORIOUS. As is Ghosts, but I watched that last week.
So what’s the point of this stream of consciousness?
Who fucking knows.
To tell myself that niching down as the owner of a freelance writing business is only necessary for that part of your life. Just because you’re writing in another niche for fun doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time or procrastinating. You’re exercising different muscles.
And once you’ve got a steady (lol) stream of income, a portfolio, maybe a few testimonials, add another couple of strings to your bow. Or win that short story competition and become the next JK.
If you want to be a writer, just write.