You don’t have to look very far online before you find established freelancers telling rookies to pick a freelance writing niche. Facebook groups, forums, Quora, comments on blog posts—the subject of niches pops up everywhere.
But is that good advice for everyone?
Too often, we gobble up tips and “best practices” without stopping to consider the source. Has the person dispensing the advice built the kind of freelancing business we want?
We also fail to factor in timing. Some strategies work like gangbusters for wily veterans, yet those same strategies, even if theoretically possible, aren’t always realistic for newbies. The training regimen of a seasoned marathoner will look different than that of a first-timer.
Doing the wrong things at the wrong time hurts many freelance writers. We get so wrapped up in working through a bajillion iterations of a fancy logo or deciding which writing app to use—Ulysses or iA Writer?—that we neglect to give weightier decisions the attention they deserve.
So… should you pick a freelance writing niche?
Before we answer that question, let’s define terms.
What is a niche?
In my seventh grade science class, we learned about different ecosystems, niches (or specialized roles) within them, and the organisms that fill those niches. Each organism in each niche contributes to the health of the ecosystem.
Some organisms have partnerships with other organisms. For example, as honey bees collect pollen, they cross-pollinate the flowers. Flowers feed bees, and bees help the flowers to reproduce.
These symbiotic relationships, specifically the type called “mutualism,” abound in the natural world: Egyptian Plover birds and crocodiles, ostriches and zebras, and sea anemones and clownfish.
Some hippopotamuses have it the best of all. No less than four species of fish give them spa treatments! Not a bad life, if you ask me.
What do people mean by “niche writing”?
As a freelance writer, you can fill a role in the business ecosystem.
If you make your clients lives better, then they will respond in kind by paying you a premium for your services. Their success becomes your success, and mutually beneficial relationships—or, reciprocity—keep the whole ecosystem vital. This is called “symbusinessiosis.” (Just kidding. I made that up.)
So how do you make your clients lives better? How do you create value for them? As in the natural world, niche writing usually requires specific knowledge and/or special technique.
For example, if you focus on the travel writing niche like my friend Gabi Logan, then you must pitch ideas to tourism bureaus and travel publications. You will learn the art of the pitch by necessity. You will also master the tricks and tropes of travel writing so that you can write stories that people in the travel industry actually want to buy.
Or if you choose niche medical writing, like Merge LLC, an agency that my friend Andrew Gordon owns, then you will learn how to help pharmaceuticals companies achieve their goals—for example, persuading patients to sign up for clinical trials. You will learn the rhetoric and mechanics of copy used for those companies’ websites and marketing collateral.
These two niches need words to fill space, but they are as different as a hummingbird’s beak is from a pelican’s. And unlike our avian friends, we aren’t born with the right tools attached to our faces.
We’ve got these lovely brains, but we have to invest a great deal of time in gaining knowledge and honing technique.
Delivering significant value in a specific niche takes time, and that truth raises an interesting question…
Do you have to pick a niche?
No. You don’t.
I was a freelance writer for six years before I picked a niche. I wrote on a variety of topics for clients in various industries.
I didn’t know much about niching down at the time, and rather than specialize in a particular industry, I tried to identify the characteristics or traits of my preferred clients.
I like working with people who were creative, respectful, risk tolerant, and inclined to give other people the benefit of the doubt. They were trusting rather than deeply skeptical. I enjoyed working with people who appreciated a good joke, both in my communications with them and in the content I wrote. I never could understand the peculiar strain of PROFESSIONALISM that leaves no room for humor and playfulness.
Before too long, I added another attribute to my list: a value for excellence or quality. Clients who want “a good deal” at the beginning ended up being the most demanding during the project. And price-conscious clients didn’t stick around after I raised my rates.
So yes, I started looking for clients with certain attributes, not clients in certain industries.
As I built my client base, I began to get more referrals.Most of the time, I convinced them to hire me.
My new clients weren’t overly concerned with my lack of expertise in their industries. I assured them that I was a fast learner, and then I backed up my claim.
Okay. Then why do so many freelancers harp on niches?
Ryan Waggoner has spoken here and written here about the benefits of developing expertise in a specific niche. And in his guide, “The Freelancer’s Guide To Niching Your Business,” Brennan Dunn also recommends niching down.
I didn’t niche down for six years, but I still managed to build a six-figure freelance writing business.
To be honest, I think I built my writing business the hard way.
I stayed a generalist, and though I certainly got more writing clients, I slowed my own growth. I REALLY had to hustle to meet enough new people in order to create a large enough referral network.
I’d like to go back and tell myself to pick a niche and become a specialist. If I had gone that route, I could have been much more targeted in my cold outreach. Niching down opens up certain branding and marketing opportunities that could have accelerated the growth of my writing business.
Why is picking a writing niche so difficult?
Niching down is hard because, like me, you have a working knowledge of a bunch of different topics.
Even if you have no prior knowledge of, say, concrete polishing, you could get up to speed quickly and write intelligently on the subject.
On top of that, many hobbies or subjects may fascinate you:
- Hairless cats
- Paleo diet
- Life in French Polynesia
- Ancient astronauts
- And, of course, freelancing
Unfortunately, some of your interests won’t have any money in them. You might be able to sell some stories in the travel writing niche about the overwater bungalows in Tahiti, but you won’t get paid to write about how aliens built the pyramids. (I know… you’re shocked.)
The goal of freelance writing is to earn a great living while creating freedom for yourself at the same time. You do want to make money at this, right?
You have too many choices, and too many choices causes analysis paralysis.
Is it a good idea to bite the bullet and pick a freelance writing niche?
Yes. I think so.
Niche content writing is a smart business move for freelance writers. As you gain experience in a specific industry and deepen your expertise, you will become more valuable to your clients. As you become more valuable, you can ratchet up your rates.
Any veteran freelance will tell you to stop competing based on price.
Competing on price alone becomes a race to the bottom. All other things being equal, if another writer on a bidding site undercuts your quote by $100, then you won’t get the project.
And someone can ALWAYS undercut you.
My first language is English, and millions of English speakers around the world live in countries where they can afford to charge $5 an hour for blogging. I cannot afford to charge $5 an hour because the cost of living in the United States is significantly higher than in the Philippines where millions of people speak proficient English.
I HAVE TO charge more in order to pay my house note and utilities bill.
If you live in a country where you can afford to charge less without sacrificing your quality of life, the more power to you! Play up that competitive advantage.
But if, like me, you live in the United States or another more expensive country, then picking a lucrative writing niche, such as technical writing, can be your ticket out of the price race.
I’ll share more of the benefits of picking a writing niche in a moment.
But first, allow me to be a wet blanket…
Finding the right niche takes time.
A niche is something you grow into over time.
Let me share a concrete example. Awhile back, I did a short consultation with a writer named Isabelle. Isabelle currently teaches design at a university, and she has been a blogger since 2009.
Though she has a lot of fiction writing experience and wants to sell writing services, she is just getting started as a content writer and she’s not 100% sure where to start with the whole niche thing.
Isabelle does have one client in a niche that she likes, and she asked me, “Should I try to find more opportunities in that niche or should I branch out?”
I gave her my best, most frustrating answer: “Yes.”
I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious. She should do both.
You can and should say yes to any decent writing project that comes along—“decent” meaning here that you don’t devalue your own work by accepting the project.
Rookie freelancers find themselves in a both/and situation, not an either/or situation. Until Isabelle have reached critical mass and can afford to pass on boring projects and gently fire less desirable clients, she should say yes to everything.
That way, she can pay her bills on time. She can grow her rainy day fund. She can stop living paycheck to paycheck. She can reinvest profits in a beautiful brand and killer website. Isabelle’s first goal should be staying in business.
Sustainability is Milestone #1.
Then, once Isabelle has grown her freelance writing business to the point where it is sustainable, she can be more selective with the projects she accepts. She can break up with her low-paying clients, one by one. She can gravitate toward a niche that provides creative or intellectual stimulation.
But she shouldn’t allow picking a niche distract her from reaching sustainability (Milestone #1).
Work is work. Say yes to everything in the early days. Take whatever you can get. You’ll figure out what you like to write, for whom you like to write, and which types of projects and clients bring you the most money with the least amount of effort.
Sustainability first. Grow your business by doing good work and coming in on time and on budget.
Certainly don’t let picking a niche blind you to a “bird in hand” opportunity to grow your business faster.
What are the benefits of picking a writing niche?
Now, you may remember that Isabelle has a client in a niche that she enjoys. Should she explore that niche and see if it’s a good one?
You may have more writing skills than Kardashians have semi-nude selfies, but if you don’t know the client’s biz, then there’s a good chance some of the work you do won’t be on point.
By developing expertise in a specific niche, you become the more knowledgeable, more convenient, and more valuable option.
Keep in mind that you expertise through trial-and-error. You watch what happens with one client. Then, later, you can help another client in the same niche avoid making the same costly mistakes. You save them money.
I don’t have to tell you that saving your clients money is a major selling point.
Niching down has clear benefits:
- Your expertise and efficiency will translate into greater value for your clients.
- You can simplify and streamline your marketing activities. Instead of targeting multiple audiences in multiple niches, you can focus on one. You will shrink the number of prospective clients. Getting more clients tends to be easier if you start with a very narrow slice of business owners whom you want to contact—for example, personal injury attorneys.
- As you gain niche-specific knowledge and experience, you can write with more accuracy, authority, and speed.
- You’ll also work with more efficiency because you’ll need less time for research and fact-checking.
- You will derive more satisfaction from your work because you’ll know how good you are at it.
- Getting referrals can be easier too. Because you’re really good at what you do, your clients will be more satisfied. Attorneys know other attorneys, and because your last attorney is satisfied with your work, she will be much more likely to make an introduction and give you a glowing recommendation. Because of that glowing recommendation, you will be a shoe-in for the next gig.
- You can also get referrals from people who might otherwise view you as a competitor. A colleague in a different niche can refer business to you if she doesn’t want to write for attorneys.
- You will learn industry-specific strategies. For example, if you have experience with real estate agents, then you will know to recommend lead-gen engines, such as Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia.
- You will learn industry-specific limitations. For example, did you know that financial advisors and wealth managers cannot solicit reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook?
- You will learn industry-specific terminology.
- The messaging and positioning on your website and social profiles will be more relevant and memorable. For example, you might be able to write blog post for anyone. But if you position yourself as a ghostwriter for healthcare and medical device companies, then you won’t end up with generic, vanilla messaging on your website: “We help small and medium-sized companies with their copywriting and blogging needs.” You will instead say something like this: “We help healthcare and medical device companies communicate their expertise, strengthen their positioning, and attract new customers.”
- You can build a reputation in your niche. You can’t be all things to all people. It’s easier to be all things to a select number of clients. For example, you can become the go-to copywriter for car dealerships in the Pacific Northwest.
- You will learn faster and retain more knowledge. Certain topics will naturally fascinate you. You won’t have to buckle down and force yourself to memorize information. You can simply follow your curiosity, which is enjoyable in its own right.
What freelance writing niche did I choose for my company Wunderbar?
Wunderbar’s niche is tech consultants and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies. Technology intrigues me: how it changes business, human interactions, and society as a whole.
In addition, I have a background in tech. I built a portfolio of over thirty iOS and Android apps, and I also managed several full-stack development projects.
The fact that I sold my portfolio in April 2015 gives me instant credibility.
Though I’m not a software architect or coder, I can speak the language. I’ve become adept at translating technical jargon into laymen’s terms for non-techies (like myself).
Let me quickly demonstrate.
On occasion a company like Apple will deprecate or discontinue support for small pieces of a software framework or operating system like iOS. That’s like a small screw or fastener disappearing from the software developer’s toolbox.
In order for the software to keep doing its job, developers must replace this code and rewrite the logic around it.
Software developers may use ten, twenty, or fifty different libraries, APIs, and technologies to create a single software product. All of those pieces may need attention from time to time if they start throwing out errors, so developers will set up processes that monitor performance.
Developers will also step in at regular intervals to squash bugs, patch a finicky piece of code, or other improve performance by plugging some “leak.”
So why did I bother to tell you that? You don’t care about deprecated functions.
You don’t, but clients in my niche do. And their clients do too.
Imagine if your dev team came to you and said, “Hey, we need you to pay $10,000 for another block of development hours. We need to fix your code.”
If you didn’t understand the true nature of software, you might think, “Well, why didn’t you build it right in the first place?”
They did build it right the first time. But code being code, they need to plug some leaks that they could not possibly have foreseen. Even top-quality code written by world-class coders requires maintenance. Your software developers cannot stop Apple from deprecating functions.
For Wunderbar’s team to be able to write accurately and intelligently about software, agile development, and lean startup methodology makes us MORE attractive than other writers.
We help our clients communicate clearly with their clients. Clear communication pre-empts problems and objections. Clear communication builds trust. A client is more likely to say, “Here’s your $10,000. Thanks for being proactive!”
Furthermore, for clients to not have to educate me is attractive to them.
I’m a specialist, not a generalist, so I’m already up to speed. I’m less work to work with, so to speak.
How do you find a good freelance writing niche?
“Thanks for that illuminating lesson on deprecated functions, Austin. But what about me? I still don’t have a good writing niche.”
I hear you. Let’s remedy that.
As with most things in business, finding a good niche often takes trial-and-error—a process of elimination stretched across a year or two.
With that in mind, there’s no better time to start than the present. Pull out your favorite notebook and work through the following:
- Make a list of every client you have ever worked with. Go back and review your invoices if you have trouble remembering them all.
- What fields or industries were your best clients in?
- Which projects did you enjoy the most?
- Did you make good money on those writing projects? Did you have a profit margin?
- Are you enough of an “authority” to convert any of those clients and projects into a niche where you can sell premium services?
- What other hobbies or interests do you have?
- What unfair advantages do you have? (Hat tip goes to Brennan Dunn and his post, “The Freelancer’s Guide To Niching Your Business.”
Have you identified any potential niches yet? Circle those.
Continue your brainstorming with the following:
- Passion Quotient – Does any particular niche pique your curiosity? Does it happen to overlap with your hobbies or interests? Check out the Venn diagram in Yaro Starak’s excellent post on choosing a niche. Maybe you’ll notice a sweet spot based on your past experience.
- Profit Margins – You want to pick a niche where there’s actually some money to be made. I generally like the people who work at non-profits and churches, yet these clients often require more hand holding and more patience. I have to spend more time to make the same amount of money. These clients aren’t the best niche for me.
- Client Motivation – Are clients in your niche proactively trying to get new customers?
- Client Knowledge – Do clients in your niche already know something about writing and digital marketing or will they need a ton of education?
- Project Frequency – Do clients in your niche buy writing often or just once or twice per year?
- Client Budgets – Do clients in your niche value writing enough to pay a premium for it or do they view content as a commodity? Can they afford your top rates? Will they pay those rates consistently?
- Your Expertise – Do you have deep experience and expertise in the industry or field? Remember that as you develop niche-specific expertise, you can ratchet up your rates. And as you ratchet up your rates, you can weed out lower-paying clients.
As time passes, you’ll figure out what you like to write, for whom you like to write, and which types of projects and clients bring you the most money with the least amount of effort—aka, good profit margins.
Don’t worry if you’re still scratching your head. Matt Inglot of the Freelance Transformation podcast created a tool to help people find their freelance niche. Give it a try.
Is picking a writing niche risky?
A big misconception about picking a niche is that you’ll miss out on other opportunities. That hasn’t been my experience.
Some new clients will come by referral. Your reputation will precede you, and they will be an easy sell.
But what about other people who might find you online and disqualify you because you write for car dealerships, not attorneys?
That may happen. And at the same time, several people who became clients started the conversation by saying something like this: “I know you typically write for SaaS companies, but would you consider doing some work for me? I’m a higher ed and business consultant.”
They found something about my brand and web presence compelling, and they asked me to make an exception!
So yes, you can pick a niche without chasing away other clients. The benefits of niching down outweigh the drawbacks.
How do you find more clients in your niche?
We all will naturally gravitate toward writing projects that we enjoy, and once you identify a potential niche, you can start doing more targeted outreach.
I recommend taking a phased approach to building your business. Marketing is obviously a huge subject. You could read several books on the subject and still only scratch the surface.
So for the purpose of this post, I’ll share marketing tactics that you can start using tomorrow to find more clients in your writing niche.
- Ask for referrals from your existing clients. Like I said, they know other people in their niche. Word to the wise: Ask for referrals in a non-competitive market.
- Create a new Google Sheet called “Prospects.” There is one thing that I’ve done that may be helpful to you, I hired a virtual assistant on Upwork.com to do internet research and actually create a Google Sheet of prospects for me. You could say, “My niche is motorcycles. I love people who are obsessed with this one type of motorcycle. Can you get on Twitter and Facebook and then just do some general internet research and come up with the names of individuals and companies who actually seem to be among the influencers when it comes to this type of motorcycle.” Put it in a Google Sheet and then be sure and ask that virtual assistant to include name, email address if they can dig it up, Twitter handle, Facebook profile, maybe even a phone number. With several of my companies, I’ve had really good success with, I’ll call it, direct sales. “Hey, I found your profile, I think we share some of the same interests. I just wanted to say hi.” Then if they respond, they’re like, “Great.” You get to know each other and eventually, you can say, “Well, listen, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. If there’s ever an opportunity for us to collaborate, would you let me know? I’ve done some writing, ghost write or whatever you want to call it for clients in the past and I think we’d work well together.”
- Start with people in your city who fit the bill.
- Search LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to compile a list of names. Aside from asking for referrals from a client in a specific niche, the other thing you can do is search Facebook for niche-specific groups and use search.twitter.com to search people’s Twitter profiles for keywords. Believe it or not, you can reach out to strangers with the simple truth: “Hey, I’m really interested in this topic, it seems like you are too, I just thought I would say hi!”
- Use Hunter.io and Internet sleuthing to find people’s email addresses.
- Write several subject lines.
- Write a prospecting email template, introducing yourself and your work.
- Reach out to them in a very casual way, one at a time. Don’t try to sell anything the very first time you get in touch, and start building relationships with people. Eventually, you’ll have a natural opportunity to talk about your content writing business. Twitter actually makes it really easy to do that. If I know I’m going to be traveling, I’ll schedule coffee with people in my destination city: “Hey, I’m going to be in Nashville over the holiday. I really like your stuff, and So-and-So had some nice things to say about you. I would love to buy you a cup of coffee and talk shop. Are you by chance free on Friday afternoon at 2pm?” Most people enjoy meeting new people who share their interests and making new friends, so they say, “Sure!”
- Keep track of which subject line gets the highest open rate and which email template gets the highest response rate.
- Update the messaging and positioning on your website to speak directly to business owners in your niche.
- Start blogging on topics relevant to your niche. Shoot for one blog post per week. Do a mix of shorter, 300-500 word posts and longer posts of over 1000 words. Link out to good resources that you curate. And leave comments on blogs and in forums. Participate in the conversation.
- Add your prospects to a free CRM like Highrise.
- Follow up every two to three months without being annoying.
Can you have more than one writing niche?
The biggest struggle many writers have is narrowing down all of their interests and passions into something resembling a niche.
They go register have a dozen of domains, throw up a blog or two, and then they’re on to the next shiny object. You can have more than one niche, but you cannot gain traction if you don’t finish what you start.
You will find it difficult to attract and sell clients in a specific industry if you come across as scattered: “I checked you out online, and I couldn’t figure out what your focus is. Dave told me you work with attorneys, and that’s what I expected to find on your website.”
In that respect, you may have a professional niche—ghost writing for attorneys—and a creative writing niche—post-apocalyptic dystopian teen fantasy fiction—and a few other writing interests as well.
On occasion I still write poems, spiritual meditations, and the odd non-fiction piece about parenting or marriage.
But on your freelance writing website, the website you’ll share with friends and people interested in hiring you, you want the focus to be ghost writing for attorneys.
You will encounter problems when you try to market yourself as a versatile freelancer you can write about anything. That’s what I did, and though I was able to build a profitable business, my new clients required more convincing.
They weren’t looking for a “general” writing. They wanted someone with experience in their niche.
What if you pick a niche and end up hating it?
Many writers burn out because they come to dislike their niches.
Let’s say you went to law school. Practicing law wasn’t a good fit for you—the wrong mix of people and pace. But you can quickly understand and write legalese. And the legal realm can be a lucrative writing niche.
You thought writing for law firms was a no-brainer. Wrong.
You quickly started dreading the conference calls, the emails, the tedious writing assignments. And half the time you couldn’t even get ahold of your clients to get approvals from them!
Yuck. What were you thinking! Working with attorneys was a lucrative adventure in missing the point: You want to get OUT of the legal world altogether, not go from practicing law to writing about the practice of it.
What should you do?
Find a new niche. That’s the beauty of freelancing: You have freedom. Quitting a niche isn’t as costly as quitting a job.
You don’t have to fire all of your clients at once. You can take a graduated approach: As soon as you find a replacement client, you can break the news to your attorney.
Think of that transition as a professional courtesy. If you can’t or won’t do your best work for a certain type of client, then get out of the way so that someone with more enthusiasm can fill the vacancy.
You can also recruit your replacement. Make a list of other freelance writers who do enjoy that type of niche writing, vet their websites and portfolios, and give your ex-clients at least three options. You’ll find it satisfying to end on a high note even with clients whose projects bored you to tears.
You’ll find it even more satisfying to exercise your freedom and turn your attention to a more interesting niche.
Thus we brush up against the freelancing paradox: In the early days pragmatism must trump passion. Screw your passion. Hustle toward Milestone #1. Support yourself. Avoid becoming a burden to those around you by paying your own bills.
Then, once your freelance writing business is sustainable, pivot toward your passion. Screw pragmatism. Hustling isn’t always the answer. You’ll do your best work when you truly care about your freelance writing niche.
What are some of the top writing niches?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You love writing about ancient astronauts and your paleo diet; or maybe paleo astronauts and their ancient diet. But nobody is buying those finely wrought treatises.
Target instead writing niches known to have high paying clients.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Use it to get those creative juices flowing and kickstart your own research:
- Copywriting for Internet Marketers – Many savvy coaches, consultants, and marketers, who make their living online, pay writers thousands of dollars to craft just their sales copy. Landing pages, email nurture sequences, lead magnets, and info products are icing on the cake.
- Professional Bloggers – They always need new content, and they have the email lists and audiences required to monetize that content. Most of them know their conversion numbers down to the cent, so they can afford to pay ghost writers a premium for top-quality content.
- Healthcare – Despite the tumult with government regulation and new, or repealed, legislation, there’s a lot of money to be made writing about anything health-related.
- Software & IT – All the new business tycoons have built empires on technology, not commodities. Their companies typically have great margins because their post-launch hard costs are minimal. They want to aggressively grow their companies to become the next billion-dollar unicorn. Content marketing opportunities abound.
- Influencers – Like bloggers, they need a steady stream of new content. Content is their entire business model.
- White-Collar Professionals – CPAs, insurance agents, attorneys, financial planners, investment advisors, business consultants, and really any knowledge worker whose livelihood revolves around giving advice need to differentiate themselves with thought leadership articles and educational materials.
- Video Production – Explainer videos, how to videos, television commercials, demos, tutorials… you name it. Videos need scripts, and by turning your services (“writing”) into a product (“script”) you can push your effective hourly rate past $500.
- Copywriting for e-Commerce Websites and Catalogs – My friend Dick Harrison told me the he used to earn $250 an hour and up writing copy for catalogs and e-commerce websites. Retailers will pay high rates for copy that converts well and generates high ROI.
- Direct Mail – Believe it or not, you can charge an arm and a leg for direct mail pieces that generate high ROI. Anything above 1% is considered a high conversion rate!
- Technical Writing – Everything from employee handbooks and user guides to scientific reports and product manuals can command high rates. Producing such content requires specialized knowledge and vocabulary. You’ve also got to inject the right amount of flair, or this stuff quickly becomes mind-numbingly dry.
- Blogging – These days, the Internet affords us many different ways to monetize traffic and content. Value-conscious business owners will pay $500 and up for well-written thought leadership articles and keyword-focused blog posts that help them drive traffic to their websites. Of course, far more site owners are price shoppers who prefer to buy cheap content on bidding sites and content mills. But once you identify the websites that do pay well for writing niche articles, you can become that indispensable writer who always delivers on time and on budget.
Where can you go online to find freelance copywriting jobs?
Okay, if you’ve read this far, you deserve a cupcake and a hug. Hopefully, you have some inkling of niche writing topics that you could pursue.
Whether you’re thinking about tech or ancient astronauts, e-newsletters for resorts or social media for restaurants, writing content for niche sites is, most likely, in your future.
If you’d to get my free list of 422 sites that pay writers, enter your name and email address below. I’ll send you the download link via email.
“Find your one thing… left-handed vampires.”
I once had the opportunity to interview Jay Baer of Convince & Convert, and I have never forgotten his advice on niching down (that is, blogging about left-handed vampires movies):
“Find your one thing. What’s one thing you can own? I would certainly encourage people to create content—whether it’s content like this (an interview) or a blog or a podcast or all of the above. I think content produces opportunities geometrically.
But you can’t just do it willy nilly. So what I’ve said, and what I’ll say again is here is find a way to be somebody’s favorite provider of something. And what that really means is narrowcasted intelligence. Too many people, especially creative types, try to broadcast their intelligence: ‘I want to be smart about a bunch of different things.’ That’s a tremendous mistake.
What you want to be is the best or among the best at a smaller thing instead of being one of a ton of people at a bigger thing, right? So have a blog about left-handed vampire movies, but be the greatest left-handed vampire movie blogger on earth.
And that is a much better way to go because, eventually, if you do that right, you can do what I’m doing, and you take that foothold—you take that edge that you’ve established around left-handed vampires—and you say, ‘Okay, now I’m going to do all vampire movies. Or all horror movies. And you expand the platform.’
I disagree with a lot of the thought leadership out there right now that says, ‘Build a platform. Build a platform.’ And it’s all way too broad. You can’t build a platform for yourself around a big idea. You have to build a platform for yourself initially around a small idea and be the very, very best at that thing. And then expand it down the road. And I think you’ll be much better off.
What is the one thing you would talk about every single day for the rest of your life for free? That’s what you devote your time to.”