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Niche vs. Generalist:
How to Choose Your Niche

In my last blog, I talked about the long-running debate in freelance writing circles about whether it’s better to be a niche freelance writer or a generalist. I believe that niche beats generalist hands-down.

I started freelancing full-time in early 2009 after spending the previous 24 years working as a writer and editor for three different custom publishing companies. During that time, I wrote almost exclusively in the financial services and B2B areas, so these were obvious niche areas for me to focus on as a freelancer.

Benefits of Experience

With more than two decades of experience in these niches, I knew the industries inside-out. I knew the products and services and the hot trends and issues and I spoke the industry lingo. And I had a lot of industry contacts so it was pretty easy to network and drum up business.

I thought about doing some consumer-oriented, non-financial and non-B2B writing when I first started out, but I quickly realized it just didn’t make much sense. I didn’t have any relevant samples of work to show prospects, nor did I have any contacts in these industries, and I wasn’t familiar with any current trends or issues. And it would have taken a lot of time and effort to ramp up.

Almost eight years later, my strategy of staying focused on these niches has worked out pretty good. I SEO’d my website for keywords and phrases related to these niches and get a steady stream of leads from this. I also get lots of referrals because I’ve built a reputation as a dependable writer who specializes in these areas.

What’s Your Niche?

But I realize not every freelance writer has decades of experience writing in a niche.
So how do you choose a good niche if you don’t? Here are three questions to ask:

1. What things do I find interesting and like to write about? This is a natural starting place. Whether it’s sports, gardening, travel, cooking or anything else, if it’s interesting to you, you’ll have more motivation to write every day.

2. What are some underserved niches where there’s less competition? Determining this will take some research, but it could pay off big-time. There is an unlimited number of niche areas and industries that are in need of professional writing services.

3. What are the most profitable niches? I think this is the most important factor in choosing your niche or niches. In short: The more challenging and difficult the subject matter, and the less competition from other freelancers, the more you’ll be able to charge for your services.

A Good Analogy

Here’s an analogy I like to use when it comes to niche vs. generalist: Is it better to be a big fish in a little pond, or little fish in a big pond? A good niche freelancer can be the “big fish” in a niche industry, but a generalist is always going to be a tiny minnow in a massive ocean of other generalist freelancers.

Don Sadler hung out his shingle as a full-time freelance writer in 2009 after working
for several custom publishing companies over the previous 24 years.
Visit www.donsadlerwriter.com or contact him at don@donsadlerwriter.com.