“What’s my niche again?” Specialization vs. Generalization vs. Following Your Heart
“You can never earn a living wage from writing if you write about everything.”
“No one wants a jack of all trades.”
Three pieces of advice above are very valuable and realistic.
If you can specialize, it is wonderful. I’m happy for you. Please do. This post is for the rest of us: Folk who feel like life can get pretty bland pretty fast if you get to write to about one thing.
Now, of course, specialization doesn’t have to be too specific. If you write about health for instance, that is one large umbrella right there. Same goes for lifestyle, which might even include health.
I write about health. What I can’t be is, for instance, “a B2B copywriter for the healthcare industry.” Yes, I can research. I can interview people and talk to businesses. But the education process required for me to get on an even playing field with writers who know that niche will take so long that the amount of money I can make, and it is a niche that pays well if you reach the right clients and deliver, will never make up for the lost hours, or the boredom.
I love variety. I am a monogamist in my romantic life. I just can’t be one in my professional writing life. My good and successful writer friend Olga Mecking agrees.
But let’s talk about variety in another setting, to give you a clearer picture. I’m not telling you to write about all the topics humans have ever been involved with. I’m talking about writing what makes you happy to get up in the morning, the niches that will make you wanna twist and shout.
Picking up from The Beatles reference, let’s talk about niches in music terms:
My favorite band is Bon Jovi. They have been since I was about 12. They introduced me to rock music and “glam metal.” I love them to bits. I have written about them, and I will continue to write about them.
But if you told me I could only listen to Bon Jovi, and only Bon Jovi for the rest of my life, I’d tell you it was a very crappy deal. Because I can’t survive on one band.
Too narrow? Let’s expand to glam metal.
If you told me I could listen to only glam metal (bands with (formerly) big hair, catchiest guitar riffs and fun lyrics. Bands like Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Motley Crue,Poison), I’d be a little happier, but still not feel satisfied.
Because what about hard rock? Classic rock? Punk rock? Pop rock? The occasional Indie rock?
If you gave me the entire rock genre, including all its sub-genres and maybe throw in some soft metal, I’d still not be pleased.
“Because what about movie soundtracks,” I’d ask. Or the occasional awesome pop from Michael Jackson? That annoyingly addictive dance tune that is 4 minutes from Madonna and Justin? What about jazz? Frank Sinatra?
You could tell me I could have all the music in the world, but just music, and I’d still sulk.
Because what about movies? Books? Writing? Traveling? Psychology? Relationships? Style tips for women who hate fashion (aka women like me)? The occasional political post because the world is pretty much screwed right now?
Then there are the business topics I love. I’m a business major, and I adore some of the topics under the business umbrella.
However, it is unlikely that I’ll give cooking tips and churn out delicious recipes as a regular columnist because….well, I rarely cook. I don’t care about competitive sports or leagues. I don’t like religion. I’m not good at following trends; I love creating evergreen pieces. French is a beautiful language, but I don’t speak it. I wouldn’t know where to start learning or teaching it, so I’d probably not write about that.
There are a billion topics I’m not interested in, good at or know much about. Then there are topics I’d rather read about but not write about.
But I believe, as a 32-year-old writer with 7+ years of professional writing experience under her belt, I believe I’ve earned the right to follow my heart.
I’m not going to lie to you. When you follow this route, you might go through the feast or famine cycle more often. You might not be pleased with the rates, or might not know where to start looking for higher paying clients because it will be hard to prioritize and focus.
You might want to or have to supplement your writing income with other endeavors.
But the thing I can promise you is fun, variety, and less therapy.
And keep it at efficiently enough, you might just land work that you love and pays well. Trust me, you are not alone on this path.
An important note:
When you are blogging, and you are a complete newbie, I’d recommend keeping your “business” blog and personal blog separate. You need to attract clients, so it’d be hard to convince them (or Google) that you are an authority on anything. My writing blog and dating blog and entertainment blog are separate.
But, Pinar, what about all the stuff you just said?
Look, I mean every word. But when you’re sending samples, it is wiser to send relevant stuff. If I’m running a small business that has nothing to do with hair, you wouldn’t want to send me clips about how to keep my hair shiny. (If that is your only clip, creating other clips would be the subject of another post.)
I wish it wasn’t this way. I wish I didn’t have 35 favorite bloggers in separate niches I’m trying to improve myself on. (OK, it’s way fewer than 35 niches. But you get the idea.)
But my dating and relationship blog covers everything about dating and relationships, including parenting (or not being a parent), friendships and other non-romantic relationships.
My entertainment blog covers movies, TV series, music and celebrities.
My writing blog covers fiction and non-fiction together, and you do know how broad those two are.
So keep relevant stuff together, even if you are interested in other things.
Combine several niches into one: psychology and dating, personal finance and dating, fitness and finance, traveling and raising kids abroad (as Olga does)….
Too long, didn’t read?
· Specialize if you can. It is a great idea, from both a professional and financial standpoint.
· When you are beginning, try not to spread too wide, or you’ll get more confused. You want to write about fitness? Write about fitness. That niche can keep you prolific until you can move on to others.
· If you can’t keep it just about fitness, combine it with other relevant and fun niches: how to keep fit on a budget, how to keep fit when you are sick all the time, how to cook a healthy meal in 10 minutes, etc….
· You can become an authority (or at least a writer with decent clips) in multiple niches.
· You don’t have to write case studies or do copywriting to make money from writing, but it really helps if you do know how to write them.