To Niche or Not to Niche?

by Terreece Clarke

Much ado is made about niches – where to find one, how to break into one, who has them on sale, etc. Writing experts, in making their cases for and instructing about niches, often don’t talk about when writers and niches don’t mix.

Curiosity Killed the Niche

Ravenous curiosity is one reason writers may decide to forgo having a niche. There are writers who are very passionate about one or a few subjects. They could spend hundreds of years researching and writing about them. Other writers are curious about and are able to research a wide variety of subjects and while one may love to garden, the thought of spending the next 30 years of their career writing about it makes them want to run back to a cubicle – at Enron.

Versatility Cape, er, Clause

There are both striking and subtle differences between types of writing. For example, journalism is stylistically and tonally different from magazine writing. The same holds true for business writing versus blogging and the list goes on. There will always be a core groups of writers who concentrate on one particular style. It is their blue-ribbon signature dish so to speak. While often difficult, there are writers who can cross freely between the genres with equitable skill. They are brilliant at blogging and can write the pants off of a press release and more importantly, they choose to do both.

About Gigs

One of the valuable reasons why niches are important is that they establish a clip foundation writers can use to get other gigs. Sometimes writers feel that having too many different types of clips will make their body of work look scattered. It’s all in the presentation.
For example, if you’re interested in a gig that calls for celebrity gossip bloggers, highlight your clips on going green and home décor with correlating blog ideas.

Which stars are sporting the latest green gear?
Which stars’ home is the best decorated, has the cutest nursery or is being renovated?

(Jodee just wrote a great post on choosing clips.)

A lot of writers think that niches are among the must haves – computer, Internet connection, and niche. Not so. Before you figure out which one is right for you, figure out if having one is the right move or if the niche you currently have is working for you. Don’t feel obliged to write on a subject just because you happen to know a lot about it. Freelance writers need to remember there is passion in what we do and being freelance means being “free” to control your career.

What do you think FWJ community? Are niches a must do or a do if you like? What’s your niche?






11 responses
  1. Donna Avatar

    I started a nicheless blog last month – not a moneymaking project but just something to help me gather my ideas and put them someplace. Yours is the first post – the first anything- I’ve read defending the nichelessness brought on by “ravenous curiosity.” Thanks.

  2. Fiona Avatar

    Although I have a few areas I could specialize in if I wanted, I’m also a person of “ravenous curiosity.” Niches work for some and not for others so I think it’s important not to feel constrained by your niche.
    Good post!

  3. Andrew Hayes Avatar

    While I don’t feel constrainted by my niche, I only work on writing part-time (hopefully full-time someday) so if I applied for everything that struck my fancy, I’d be one hell of a busy man!

  4. Dobby Avatar

    Donna Thank you and you’re welcome. We do a lot of talking about niches, I felt it was a good idea to bring up the other side.

    Fiona Exactly, you can always expand outside of your niche and you never know, it may give you new inspiration and contacts for your niche.

    AndrewKeep working and you’ll get full time and there’s nothing wrong with being busy :0). But I definitely get your point – sometimes we need to temper our curiosity.

  5. jennydecki Avatar

    An expert will always make more. But until you decide what you love to write and what your niche is going to be, yeah, be a rolling stone gathering no moss. Why not? Better projects in something than niching and getting nothing.

    You can also be an expert in several niches over time, can’t you. Again, being an expert is a recipe for more $ and a better chance of scoring gigs in that niche.

    I have a niche but it’s not a business niche, it’s a “type of writing” niche. It’s a differentiator that helps me stand out.

    Bottom line, I’m on the fence…I kind of agree with you tho 🙂

  6. Mike Avatar

    My toe-tipping into freelance writing was a flyer for my church. Having been to a religious college and grown up thoroughly immersed in my religion, that became an easy niche for me. My first magazine articles were for a Christian-based general interest e-zine. Those were the kind of publications I gravitated to because that’s what was most natural to me. I started blogging about my faith. But, I have also done articles on everything from cars and tech reviews to health and fitness. There is one caveat when it comes to controversial niches like politics or religion. I’ve found that a lot of these types of publications inquire about a “statement of faith” and if yours doesn’t quite fit theirs—then oh well.

  7. Jenny B Avatar
    Jenny B

    @Dobby Thank you for your well written post.

    I guess I probably have a variety of niches. I don’t want to be a writer of just one niche because I like to keep my options open. By expoloring I’m learning what I like to write and what I’m not as interested in writing.

    All the best in the competition and in your writing career.

  8. Hazel Avatar

    Interesting discussion, and an important one for freelancers (IMHO).

    My niche is writing articles about business, and particularly when it requires data analysis. I frequently do some of the analysis in Excel and sometimes provide graphics to go with the articles. I also know how to find and read financial information about companies.

    I’m not locked into writing about a particular industry or subject, and that allows me to feed that ravenous curiosity! Best of both worlds for me.

  9. Damaria Senne Avatar

    The problem that I encountered as a generalist writer is that I was continously having to sell myself and my services to editors.

    Having a niche has helped me to sell more consistently, and to build a name in a specific field. As a result, my querying process has become more informal, responses come more quickly, sources are also more receptive to being interviewed by me, and I am better able to negotiate pay.

    That said, I don’t believe a writer must have a niche. There are writers who do very well writing on a variety of subjects, and they gain a following due to their mastery of words, rather than based on a subject. Then there are writers who write under different pen names for varied niches.

    I also don’t think that writers who choose to have a niche should necessarily allow themselves to be pigeon-holed. I try out new subjects and writing forms, so I can learn new things and expand my repertoire. Sometimes the new subject/form works out wonderfully well, and I acquire another niche to write for.

  10. Dobby Avatar

    Damaria – Different pen names for different niches, that’s a very good point.

    Hazel – You have a very specialized skill and that’s a terrific selling point. I for one hate math and numbers etc. I do like money however, so I never have a problem with that :0) It’s great you can utilize your specialty and branch out when you want to – the best of both world indeed!

    Jenny B – Thank you! I think it’s really important to find out what you don’t like to write about. I have one subject in particular that drives me barking mad and though I always have issue with turning down work :0) I never have one with saying no thank you to this particular subject. (boy it’s hard to interact and keep identifying comments a secret!)

    Mike – You’re another one with specialized training/experience. I have also experienced the “statement of leanings” thing. It’s interesting that people don’t believe you’re able to write a piece from a neutral standpoint.

    Jenny D – I think the standout point in your comment was “something that makes a writer stand out.” That is so important. Whether it’s standing out in a niche as an expert to standing out with kick-butt writing, or well known publication names beside your articles, separating yourself from the pack is key.

  11. Mike Avatar

    I have been able to cut into a couple of niches that I feel I have given me a leg up over other writers. I just landed a job writing articles about manufacturing issues (I’ve worked in manufacturing for 10+ years) I am also an EMT and former volunteer firefighter. The EMT side has helped me out on some medical-related work. The firefighting experience has come in handy a few times. But some niches can be few and far between. What I would like though is to be able to cut into a few specialized markets. Real Estate and Investing are two really hot markets that although I am interested in those subjects, most clients want somebody already experienced in those areas and thus begins the conundrum

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