Calling All Writers: Here’s How To Finally Choose a Freelance Writing Niche
If you’ve been following my Calling All Writers series for the last several months, you’ll wonder why this wasn’t the first post. Truth be told, I wondered the same thing. This probably should have been the first post.
But it just fell out onto my keyboard today so someone out there must need to hear it. If that’s you, stick with me and I’ll give you 5 more markets that pay writers and your bonus resource afterwards.
If you’re confident you’ve already chosen a niche you’re happy with, you can skip to the bottom for your 5 paying markets for writers and the bonus resource.
Without further ado, here are the steps I took to FINALLY choose a freelance writing niche. Those of you who are groaning at choosing a niche, stay with me just a bit longer, don’t give up yet.
What’s Your Why?
Why do you want to be a freelance writer? One of the first things that motivated me to become a freelance writer was identifying my why. After some soul searching that first year, I decided I wanted to become a freelance writer so I could:
- Ditch the 9 to 5 p.m. rat race for good.
- earn a living through something I enjoyed — writing.
- be more available to my family.
Your why might be similar or it could be completely different. Listing your whys might be easier than the next step. But figure out your why first. Knowing why you are choosing freelancing is usually easier to do. And it’s okay to have more than one why. Really it is. I promise. We’ll tie them all in later.
What’s Your Passion?
If you’ve been reading about freelance writing for any amount of time, you’ve heard this question before. What’s your passion? All the experts will tell you that this is how you determine your niche. This is how you figure out what you should be writing about. This is how you specialize and position yourself as an expert.
Are you groaning? I can hear you.
And I have to admit for many years I didn’t really agree with those experts either. I balked at doing this. I groaned every time I heard this question.
I just knew the experts were wrong. I really struggled with it.
And I resisted choosing a niche.
Most of the time I just skipped it. But eventually my attempt to move my business forward would stall out. I’d go back to my Upwork comfort zone. Because I couldn’t identify just one passion. I couldn’t narrow it down and find my niche like I was “supposed” to do.
What I discovered recently is that although I’m a Generation Xer by birth, I have and probably always will be a true member of Generation Flux when it comes to my work.
My interests are flexible and ever changing. I get bored easily if I’m not challenged. And for me challenging often means doing something new. I thrive in situations where my work changes constantly. I love setting up systems and training people to use them but maintenance isn’t my thing. If everything’s working well, I’m bored and I’m ready for the next project.
I’m in good company so I’m cool with it. Data scientist, DJ Patil, is a GenFluxer too. So is Pete Cashmore, Founder of Mashable and so are many other people I’ve discovered lately.
I loathe status quo. My pet peeve is when someone responds “this is how we’ve always done it.” as the justification for why a policy or procedure is in place.
I love learning new skills. I’ve always told people I was a lifetime learner. I’m not a huge risk taker like most GenFluxers but I do love learning new things and doing things differently than they’ve always been done. In truth, I’ve discovered I’m a skill hoarder. Getting my resume to one page was always simply impossible to do.
The freelance experts were telling me I MUST choose a niche to position myself as an expert. A part of me knew they were right.
But my entire being rebelled at choosing a niche. Just the idea of putting myself into a box was abhorrent. And it’s always been this way for me.
In high school I hated the “career tests” that told you what careers you’d be good at. I’m with the “Bee Movie” guy. I’ve never felt doing just one thing for your whole life sounded like much fun. Shaking things up a little is great for me.
In the brick and mortar job world I was always the jill of all trades and the go to gal. It didn’t matter what my job description was, I eventually ended up helping my co-workers and colleagues do their work more efficiently, solve a problem, or set up a new system. If someone didn’t know how to do something, they’d ask me to figure it out and I was happy to help.
So, when it came to freelance writing, I don’t know why I was surprised that I didn’t want to write about just one thing. I didn’t want to help just one type of person either. I still wanted to do it all.
But to find your niche you’re supposed to list the things you’re good at and the things you enjoy doing and narrow it down to your one niche. My lists were never ending. Every time I tried, I’d give up and get bored when the list would go to the second page.
All I kept thinking was, “But I want to do it all.” After much soul-searching though, I realized very recently this was only partially right.
I don’t want to do it all. I discovered there were plenty of things I DON’T want to do. So I started by making that list instead. I listed the things I knew I didn’t want to do or wasn’t interested in.
After I did that, I went back through everything I had done in previous jobs, projects, etc. and made a list of the experiences I LOVED. And it was a very VARIED list of things. Before I even got to the second page, I realize that those things, all those projects and experiences, had one thing in common.
All the things in my life that I loved, involved helping someone else reach their potential or goals. (Insert Hallelujah music here.)
My true passion is helping others to reach THEIR potential, to reach their goals. I love helping people work smarter not harder to get to their goals. What I’m doing or who I’m working with doesn’t matter for me as much. I have a special place in my heart for single parents and solo entrepreneurs trying to meet their goals.
But the experiences I hated were the ones where I didn’t feel like I was helping anyone. Since I love writing, and we now have the Internet, (can you believe it hasn’t always been here?), writing is the mechanism I use to help people reach their potential and their goals.
Writing is my tool. And helping others reach their goals is my passion. Getting paid is my job. You can read more about this mindset shift in my post below:
Okay so over the last 5 weeks, I’ve harped on the fact that if you’re going to get paid to write, you have to take off…writingcooperative.com
I hope this helps you figure out what your niche truly is. Because I have to admit.
The experts are right. It’s a must do if you want to become a successful freelance writer. Once you truly figure this out, the only thing that can stop you from being successful, is you.
Which brings me to the next question.
If you know your why and you know your niche, do you know your goal? Read more about setting your financial goal and using that to manage projects in my previous post below:
How Much Money Do You Need?writingcooperative.com
Okay thanks for sticking with me. I hope you found some of what I’ve shared helpful in your journey as a freelance writer.
If you’re one of my regular readers who has skipped to the bottom for the paying markets list and resource, thanks a bunch for sticking with me.
Here’s Your 5 Markets That Pay Writers
We're looking for bikers and writers to write about cool stuff like travel, motorcycles, and road trips.www.openroadjourney.com
Our mission is to create fresh, immersive articles on equestrian lifestyle and sport, current events, health and…horsenetwork.com
Thank you for your interest in contributing to The Penny Hoarder! We're looking for freelance writers who have fun…www.thepennyhoarder.com
Guidelines: Lightspeedis seeking original science fiction and fantasy stories. All types of science fiction and fantasy…johnjosephadams.moksha.io
HowlRound is a knowledge commons that's produced by and for you! Participate! WRITE FOR THE JOURNALWe accept queries…howlround.com
Your bonus resource this week is a little trick I learned thanks to Darren Rowse. Those of you who are Twitter gurus probably already know this. But for anyone who like me has barely scratched the surface of what Twitter can do, here’s a trick for finding those markets that are looking for writers:
- Start out by going to twitter.com/search-advanced.
- Search for phrases such as “seeking writers”, “write for us”, “seeking ‘your niche name’ writers”, “submission guidelines”, “writer guidelines”, etc. Play around with the phrasing until you get exactly the results you need. To get more specific or try finding local options, add your town, state, or county, etc to your search phrase.
- You can also set the Advanced Twitter Search to pull up everything from a specific period using the calendar.
- So you can set up a daily search and check it once a day or a weekly search and check it once a week, etc.
- Make sure to comb the list you get so you only pitch to markets seeking writers who are ALSO willing to PAY you to write. You may have to check their guidelines or contributors page or Who Pays Writers to make sure they are a paid market.
Now, go get those paid writing gigs!