A new freelancing friend and I have been exchanging emails for the past few weeks, and the one topic that keeps coming up is finding your specialty as a freelancer. Interesting question. It wasn’t until a few months ago, when I was putting together a quick little brochure listing my services for an upcoming client meeting, that I really had to give this topic some thought.
It seems as though freelancers are of two minds on this one—on one hand, there are those freelancers who are completely focused on certain kinds of writing, whether it’s features, blogs, or full-time copywriting. And then there are those who are believers in dabbling, and trying out all kinds of projects. I think that it’s very difficult to know what other kinds of writing you can do (or like to do) without dabbling a little, just as I think it’s hard to be a freelance writer who sticks to strictly one type of writing (I could be wrong here—if I am, please call me on it). But it also seems as if finding a niche is important, too.
So how do we do it? How do we know what services we can comfortably offer possible clients? Here are a few ways to narrow it down:
Consider your interests. If I hear one more non-writer throw out the “Write what you know” saying, I really might puke, but in this case, it’s good advice. What are your hobbies? What do you read up on or do on the weekends? These interests could easily lead to ideas for features, blog topics, or paid projects for similarly-minded organizations. Your passion for and interest in your topic should be very clear, making it easier to land assignments.
Consider your skills. What do you already know how to do? Can you use desktop publishing programs like a pro? This is an invaluable skill for a graphic designer. Are you an expert at translating complicated technical computer jargon into easy-to-understand lingo? This is a must-have for a technical writer. Skills you take for granted every day could lead to some very lucrative freelance work.
What do you want to know more about? Are you learning to knit? Cook? Taking courses in wine tasting or ballroom dancing? Besides enjoying the experience when you’re in the moment, start looking at these things differently. Where’s the story? What have you learned that might be of interest to others?
Learn more about others’ interests. During one of the conferences I attended recently, one of the workshop facilitators said she’s branching out into a new niche because of her husband’s love of classic cars. She’s been tagging along to car shows and learning more about the industry, and in turn helping other “track widows” understand their husband’s hobby and making some money at it through her writing assignments.
How did you home in on your niche? What process did you follow, and how long did it take before you settled on your specialty?