Like many journalists, my career has taken plenty of twists and turns along the way. My first internship was in the beauty department of Cosmo, while my first full-time editing gig was at a small business magazine. Because I grew weary of writing about tax breaks for entrepreneurs, I started detailing my dating life experiences in a personal blog. As that took off, I landed a gig at iVillage and Today.com, reporting on parenting, marriage and sex trends.
Fast forward a few years later, and I switched to the content marketing side, leading editorial and SEO for a trendy fitness start-up, ClassPass. I worked full-time as I pitched away about my love of travel, eventually cementing my spot as a nomadic journalist. From there, I quit the 9-to-5 tango, went out on my own to see the world and built my business.
You with me, still?
Here’s a quick recap: Though I started in dating and parenting, my true passion was found in travel and lifestyle topics, and through plenty of pitching and re-routing, I finally found my niche.
No matter if you’re a content marketer, a bonafide journalist or a blogger, having a go-to topic that you follow, research and know inside-out is incredibly beneficial. Not only for amassing your clients and clips online, but for potential book deals, speaking gigs and other opportunities. If you’re still struggling to figure out the topic that you could write about for days-beyond-end, allow these helpful tips from fellow wordsmiths to guide your journey:
So, what is a content niche?
Think about your Instagram browsing history and habits. When you first open the app, you probably do a quick scroll, pan through the stories and then actively seek out influencers, celebrities, friends and brands that feed your curiosity. Though no one is paying you to check out these accounts, you do so because it’s second nature, it’s interesting and it’s fulfilling for your psyche. In theory, this is your personal social media sweet spot. It’s an enjoyable experience. It doesn’t cause you stress and, more importantly, you probably could pass an pop quiz about the topic in a hot second.
In an essence, this is what a niche is all about for writers. Whether you select beauty, health, food, travel, women’s issues, fashion, accessories — or something else entirely — this should be something you’re naturally passionate about. When a writer finds their niche, it’s something that comes very easy to them and an area they’re willing to invest time, energy and craft in.
“Having a niche gives you the ability to focus on a particular subject matter or range of topics. I think this is beneficial because you can develop your knowledge and expertise in an area,” explains Jessica Bishop, author and wedding expert. “Having a niche could also apply to a particular type or format of content — whether you’re known for writing great buzz-worthy web articles or long-form interview pieces in a print mag. Choosing a niche helps you establish a style or subject that you can become known for over time.”
More than anything, a niche gives a writer permission to geek out on whatever subject they find the most intriguing, and really double-down their efforts to learn as much as they can. With a niche, you are updated on the latest-and-greatest and actually look forward to diving deep into the nitty-gritty details. In short, it’s what everyone wants: to be known for your passion.
Why a content niche matters:
While a selected niche isn’t a requirement to be a full-time freelancer, it definitely helps to build your personal brand. It also carves out a personal space within a competitive industry, which in turn gives you quite the advantage. After all, once you have a proven track record — with clips — it makes it that much easier to secure more assignments.
As freelance journalist and podcaster Suchandrika Chakrabarti explains, the more you position yourself as an authority and an expert in your selected niche, the more opportunities will come your way. And get this: perhaps even without you pitching.
“Having a niche means you know which publications and editors to approach with your stories, and each time you do, you’re strengthening your relationships,” she continues. “It makes you an easier sell for content marketing and brand work, as the company can figure out exactly what kind of writer you are immediately.”
As we’ve explored in other series, developing strong relationships with public relations executives is also an essential part of a freelance journalism career. Much like writers, PR leaders often find certain niches that allow them to build strong client relationships within these genres. As you develop your area of expertise, Chakrabarti says you’ll find yourself being added to new PR lists, giving you access to events, important figures and other information that will feed your stories.
Another perk of having a niche, Chakrabarti adds, is how your career can grow even past bylines or income. “Having a niche can help you get invited onto TV and radio as an expert,” she continues. Even if they don’t cold-pitch or cold-call you, the more you’re known, the easier it will be to place yourself.
“While you might get approached… but, more likely, you will need to reach out to producers to be on their list of people they call when there’s a segment on, let’s say, personal finance,” she adds.
Bishop is proof of this in the wedding space, especially since she has been able to focus the vast majority of her career on this all-important topic that touches nearly everyone in some form.
“I’ve been able to establish myself as a go-to expert on the subject, which has led to a variety of opportunities from freelance jobs, consulting, and even a book deal. I consistently have companies and brands seeking me out to write content or to tap my expertise as a consultant in reaching and marketing to an audience of engaged couples,” she shares. “Going narrow with my niche has actually been beneficial in developing several different revenue streams as a writer and content creator.”