Let’s get straight to it. There are two things you can focus on while trying to find your niche.
Working at Honda, I became friends with many Japanese men and women. They taught me all about Ikigai. It’s a bit more complex than two circles with Passion+Profession=Dream Job.
What are you good at?
Before we even dig into your career, what is something you are just really good at? It doesn’t mean you like it, love it, or want to write about it. It is something you want to take into consideration though.
I am really good at public speaking and leading large groups of people. Do I love it? Nope.
But I can write about it!
Ask yourself what you’re really good at. Make a list. Be general, be specific, be both!
Here are some ideas.
Changing a diaper
Creating spreadsheets and macros
Predicting the winner of MasterChef
This is simply a way to get your brain thinking about how awesome you are. Start your own list. You may not like doing the things on your list, but you can write about them!
Or let’s just call it your experience. Before I became a freelance writer, I didn’t feel like I had a “profession.” In fact, this is the first time in my life that I can confidently say “I am a writer. This is my career.”
Look at your resume. What does it say about you? Are you an expert in writing classroom lessons for elementary-aged children? Maybe you know everything about public speaking. Whatever your expertise is, your resume should reflect that.
If your resume has a lot of different jobs, that’s okay too. Before I became a freelance writer, I was:
Human Resources something-or-other
Training and Development Coordinator
So don’t fret.
What did all of those things have in common?
When people would ask me what my career was, I didn’t know how to answer it. Not until I was 35 freaking years old. But I was good at communicating which was an important part of my job in each one of those professions.
What is the underlying connection on your resume? Maybe your expertise is actually finding new career paths or writing killer resumes. Or you’re an expert extrovert.
If it isn’t obvious at first, take some time to think about what your resume says about you.
This one is probably a little easier. What do you wish you could be paid for? I would joke and say too bad you can’t get paid to lay out in the sun on a tropical beach, but companies are hiring traveling writers every day!
If neither your passion nor your profession is the direction you want to go, be willing to learn new skills. Be willing to get feedback. Be prepared to invest time and energy in yourself.
If you want to write in-depth, well-researched blog posts about cruelty-free skincare products (there’s a niche for ya!) be willing to learn proper research methods. Seek out companies that are at the top of their game in the skincare blogosphere. What is working for them? Follow their lead.
Maybe you don’t have a lot of time to devote to yourself or to commit to making a jump into freelance. Parents who work full-time probably understand this.
You think to yourself, It’s been ten damn years since I had time for a hobby, or I don’t even know what interests me anymore!
Listen, even TV binging is a hobby, so don’t freak out. Do you know how many companies are seeking entertainment recappers and reviewers?
Addicted to social media whenever you have a spare moment? If you know the ins and outs of Snapchat, Twitter, Insta, you’re already ready to write social media posts for money.
Do you spend your spare time budgeting your bank accounts on spreadsheets and researching the best apps or credit cards? THERE. ARE. CLIENTS. LOOKING. FOR. YOU.
You like writing Yelp reviews, or Amazon reviews, or talking about every book you read…all of these things count.
Now, I will give you one warning. Personally, I never believed anyone when they said this. I did find out for myself though.
When you hear, “Make a living doing what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” please know that it is utter bullshit.
Anytime you monetize doing what you love, it can become tedious and stressful. Suddenly I have to write about how to split up finances during a divorce and the deadline and looming and why oh why can’t I focus?!
So, my warning is this: You may end up trading your passion for a paycheck.
You can avoid this by properly structuring your time and keeping some things separate. (I’m going to post a blog soon about how to schedule your days for maximum happiness.)
I may have veered a bit off topic, but let’s keep going.
Ask Yourself Why
Why do you want to be a freelance writer?
Who do you want to help with your freelance writing?
My want came from desperation to leave a job that was injuring my mental health and killing my spirit. Now, that’s obviously not something I would tell a potential client. However, it is part of my story, as you can see here and here.
But it created a motivation to find clients and put myself out there. (That’s hard enough, amirite?) I wrote a bunch of sample articles on being a good customer service representative, and how to create lasting leadership in the workplace.
I realized I wanted to help ME and people just like me! I discovered that I love writing how-to blogs like this one, and like this.
As you create these lists on paper, or in your head, you should start to see a recurring theme. This should get you headed in the right direction.
Your Niche Must Be Relevant
Relevance is subjective, but what I mean is this. If you plan on pitching your writing to potential clients or publications, they probably don’t want a piece on Y2K. You have to keep up with trending topics.
However, if you’re looking for content writing, you’ll need to make sure you understand the basics of what most clients need right now. Understand what search engine optimization (SEO) is. Have a basic understanding of how driving traffic will help a business grow. Learn a little bit about WordPress. (Some clients want their writers to be able to upload their own articles onto their website. My next blog will focus on websites and WordPress.)
Go to Glassdoor or Indeed. Search for “writer” and take a look at qualifications and requirements. You’ll start to see a recurring theme there as well. It should give you some indication of the relevant knowledge and skills you’ll need moving forward.
You may get hired for a job that, at first, doesn’t seem to interest you. Perhaps you find that as you write more on the subject, and learn new things, you actually really do like it!
For example, my friend Amy was desperately seeking any freelance writing job that would pay her. She found a client who wanted her to write about toilet paper.
Oh, how we laughed!
But you know what? Three years later, she still writes for the same client, and she knows everything about toilet paper! She truly loves being a toilet paper guru! And now she is an expert in eco-friendly supply products, cleaning products, janitorial services, and more. She has so many high-paying clients now all because she took a job writing about toilet paper.
So if you are just jumping in head-first, you might find your niche without trying. If you can’t figure out where you belong, try everything!
What am I really good at?
What do I know a shit-ton about?
What kinds of experience is on my resume?
What could I talk about all day long?
What are my hobbies?
Okay, so where is the crossover? Is there a theme coming forward?
I want you to comment and tell me if this was helpful. If it wasn’t, tell me exactly what you want to answer, and I’ll make the edits to this post and give you credit!
Maybe a niche isn’t for you. Maybe you are a generalist like me. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s a bad idea. The people who are telling you that you must find a profitable niche are the people who are already making big bucks in their niche! Of course, it’s working for them!
Never compare yourself to any other writer. It’s poison. Do what works for you and fuck the rest.