A new writing niche can take your freelance writing career in dynamic, new directions, from opening up revenue streams to new creative challenges to building a larger platform and audience for your work. Yet in a world where clients want to hire an expert who really understands their industry and point of view, how can you add a new niche to your freelance writing career? Can you write about technology and hospitality, for example, or insurance and parenting, and be taken seriously in each—or both—in terms of the client relationships you want to build?
To learn more about developing a new writing niche, I talked with Doug Bonderud, a freelance writer who specializes in technology and also writes about finance, HR, innovation, and more.
Image attribution: Rob Bates
Doug Bonderud started out as a tech writer five years ago, after a career in law enforcement and studies in religion. Developing a sustainable client flow and hitting financial targets required an open mind and diversifying into multiple niches. “My transition to multiple niches was business driven—I’m a full-time freelance writer, so I need to ensure I have as much steady work as reasonably possible. As a result, I created a website, applied to every program I could, and said ‘yes’ to just about every opportunity that came my way,” he says.
It has paid off with many different opportunities. “Right now, I’m doing work for IT service companies, analytics firms, insurance companies, HR organizations, and even math tutoring websites,” Bonderud notes.
Marketing yourself in multiple niches can come in many different forms, from an active social presence to how you focus your portfolio. However, as Bonderud explains, there are many paths to take. Providing quality writing and building a good reputation—and focusing on raising your visibility—ultimately pay off. “I’ve been doing this for long enough that I’m often approached about new opportunities. [. . .] I’m also a member of several freelance writing marketplaces which have a larger range of potential niches.”
One of the biggest challenges when building a freelance career in multiple niches is managing client expectations. Your earliest pieces must demonstrate command of both the subject matter and voice of a client’s particular industry and positioning. “Connecting with clients across niches does take some thought and preparation. I find that it’s mostly about showing that you’re knowledgeable when transitioning to a new client,” Bonderud says.
After writing for some of the world’s biggest brands, Bonderud has some fantastic advice for writers who are thinking about adding new niches to their lineup: Be willing to take risks. “My advice? Don’t self-isolate. Even if a niche seems daunting or out of your comfort zone, it’s an opportunity to diversify—and if you make the right impact, you’ve both built up your network and (hopefully) landed another steady client,” he concludes.
Another important element of succeeding with a multiple niche strategy is building relationships with editors and always delivering on the opportunities that you’re given. When editors trust you to successfully deliver on any opportunity that they’re giving you, it’s much easier to transition into new fields where you have expertise. Factors such as delivering quality copy, hitting your deadlines, targeting the client’s voice (often just as or more important than industry knowledge), and being amenable to edits come to the forefront.
Image attribution: Aidan Meyer
If it’s time to get into a new niche, here’s a quick guide on how to do it:
Often, writers have experience that can translate into untapped niches, from previous beats they’ve covered, jobs they’ve held outside writing, hobbies, and volunteer positions. A technology writer, for example, might have experience in working in human resources, which could help them effectively target HRIT clients. As Jennifer Goforth Gregory writes in her blog for freelance writers, “Think about all of the different ways that you have gained expertise on a topic, such as hobbies and past jobs, and not just think about topics you have written about.”
In my experience, adding a new niche to your freelance writing career starts with an audit. What experience and strengths do you have, and most importantly, where do those intersect with the market? One writer I know developed a personal passion for drones, right around the time when they started infiltrating different industries. Today he writes about hobby drones, drone photography, unmanned aircraft in the military, and even how industries like insurance are using them. Think big, and don’t be afraid to follow unexpected connections.
Succeeding in a new niche requires proof that you can handle the work—primarily by showcasing samples. If you’re moving into a niche, carefully review your profile to see if you’ve already written pieces that could help bolster your credibility. There are also a number of other ways to develop clips:
If you’re extremely interested in a niche, it’s important that you follow the latest trends. Find out what trade publications, blogs, and social platforms are most popular, and spend time getting up to speed. Consider joining a professional association or attending a conference. Not only will this give an immediate boost to your knowledge base but it will help you network—and even potentially identify new clients to pursue.
In addition to your portfolio, your bio can also help draw out your niche focus. Rework your bio on your website, LinkedIn, platform portfolios, and everywhere else to include specific keywords. List publications, experience, and clients that can help add to your “street cred” in a specific space. Start wherever you are, and continuously update your information as your career develops and unfolds.
Over time, it’s important to have strategies that help you grow your freelance writing career. Whether you’re seeking to increase revenue or hoping to find new creative challenges, adding a new niche can help you achieve these goals. Take the time to find smart strategies to identify opportunities, determine your unique positioning, develop a strong portfolio, and take your skills to the market. In today’s busy content marketing field, the sky is the limit for writers who want to grow and develop their expertise.
For more stories like this, subscribe to the Content Standard newsletter.
Featured image attribution: Bryan Minear