In today’s post, I share my experience as a generalist freelance writer. At the end of the article follow the hyperlink for part two, where Richard shares his experience as a specialist. Let’s get to it.
Niching. The holy grail of freelance writing. Or is it?
When I started my freelance writing career I didn’t select a freelance writing niche. Granted I did specialise by service i.e. guest posts, blog posts and ghost-writing, but I didn’t choose a specific industry to focus on.
But why? And more importantly was the choice of not choosing a niche detrimental?
When I started taking freelance writing seriously, I followed a proven strategy that works, one laid out by Bamidele Onibalusi. As part of the strategy, I decided on my positioning (niche-selection), created a writer’s website, guest posted to establish credibility, and built up a prospect list of publications and websites to pitch to.
There was a lot to think about. If you’re someone who’s engaging in a similar process, I’m sure you can relate. The problem is if you think too much, you procrastinate, – and if you procrastinate – you delay taking action to achieve your freelance writing dreams.
Procrastination often kicks in when choosing a freelance writing niche. The reason is because they see niching as the holy grail. The be and end all. And so, they knock their heads against a brick wall – every time.
Just to show you the difficulty people have with the niche topic, I hand-picked a few – there are many more – Facebook posts from a writing group I’m part of:
Yip, selecting a niche is a headache for many. It’s a topic that will no doubt continue to be debated for a long time. But one thing I stand by as someone who’s been freelance writing since July last year is: when starting out, don’t get hung up on selecting a niche – it’s only another stumbling block.
Instead, just take action.
Here’s the action I took to overcome the fact that I couldn’t choose a niche.
How I Overcame The Dreaded Niche Selection
- I positioned myself by service to start with. I didn’t worry about focusing on a specific industry. By doing this I was able to take action, fast.
- I chose several writing niches to start. I used Google and LinkedIn to search for websites that specialised in marketing, business, technology, health etc., and built up a prospect list I could pitch to.
- I chose my freelance writing niches based on my interest in these topics and the confidence that I could deliver. For example, I didn’t choose law as an industry because I didn’t feel confident writing about it at the time.
This brings me to the next point. Often clarity is only achieved through action. Walter Akolo – of FreelancerKenya – recently discussed this topic by referencing a company called Social Triggers.
Founder, Derek Halpern procrastinated for two years before launching what is now a multi-million dollar company because he didn’t feel ready. So, as it relates to niching – take solace in the fact that your niche may very well find you over time.
And if it doesn’t find you and you still can’t find it, what’s wrong with being a specialist in many? Nothing. Besides, there’s a new wave of acceptance for what people refer to as multipotentialites or polymaths (I’m one).
These are people with many interests and passions. Being a generalist works for me. I enjoy it. I get to write about a host of topics. And I get to learn a lot in the process.
If you’re interested in many niches, so what? It’s these exact generalist tendencies that actually set you apart. As a generalist, I demonstrated this in my article, “How to Land High-Paying Freelance Writing Jobs Online, Fast“.
I drew from my experience writing across different niches to land my highest paid blogging gig, yet. In an email exchange, I suggested an article idea to a content director based on my experience writing for law and marketing.
That’s the thing with writing for different industries, you are often able to find new article ideas at the intersection. Ultimately your ability to deliver value to clients is all that matters.
Being able to deliver is something I’ve achieved time and time again, despite not nailing down a niche. I’ve managed to earn well each month as a generalist, writing feature articles for a magazine, blogging for a small business about SEO, marketing etc., and writing for a website about language learning. I’ve even written about garage doors in the past. If you want to know the history of garage doors, hit me up.
In the long run, selecting a freelance writing niche may well allow you to command higher rates. People love using the argument of a GP vs. a brain surgeon. And it makes sense, brain surgeons do earn more.
But in freelance writing, it’s different because you have control over how much you earn whether you’re a generalist or specialist. It depends on you putting in the work to find clients who are willing to pay you a “pretty penny”.
Sure you may find that clients in a specific industry often don’t want to waste their time with a writer who’s not experienced in their niche. That’s the thing, it’s all about perception.
If someone calls me out on not being able to write in their niche I tell them I’ll write an article for them on the topic at an agreed rate. If they like it, they publish it, if not, nothing lost.
You can apply the same principle to having no writing samples and it’s a win-win for everyone. Once you have that sample and the client’s happy, you then have the expertise to draw from for future clients.
In the end, decide what works for you. By all means, niche if you’re comfortable with it. For me right now I’ll continue writing about SEO, small business, languages, marketing, technology etc. until it pours out of every morsel of my body.
Until I can’t breathe due to the excitement that overcomes my body each time I learn something new. One because I can. Two because I deliver. Three because I enjoy it, and four because I still get paid well. What’s enough money anyways?
If I hadn’t decided to forge ahead, despite not nailing down a niche, I’d still be twiddling my thumbs feeling sorry for myself.
Are you a generalist or specialist? Please share your comments below.