If you’ve been lucky enough to find your life partner — you know the feeling when it’s just right. Those who are single (or remember, not-fondly) what it was like to be in the trenches of dating, the concept of knowing when the match is made is frustrating. What does it mean? How can you be certain? While it isn’t quite as romantic or rose-colored, the same can be said about your profession.
As every writer knows, there are days when the words flow effortlessly — and then ones where a single sentence is a struggle. That’s why being in the right niche is so essential to success, productivity and performance. As we explored last week, a niche is a speciality for a wordsmith. They know each and every topic, expert, study and trend about the genre — and are trusted for their thought leadership and advice. In more ways than we can count, it can make a difference in the longevity and progression of your tenure.
As freelance journalist and filmmaker Stephanie Vermillion explains, writing various articles on one set subject will help a writer become the go-to source for a certain subject matter — and being that go-to? Well, it pays off. “Just like the business owner wants to attract clients through thought-leadership articles, writers can attract clients through niche work that showcases their deep knowledge on a subject,” she continues. “The more a writer publishes on a niche subject, the more editors will approach them for work on said subject — and this cycle becomes more fruitful the longer it goes.”
Regardless if you’re new or seasoned in your industry, it’s important to pause and figure out if you’re still compatible with your selected niche. After all, what you wanted to scribble about a decade ago may be different than your interests now. Not sure if you’re heading in the right section? Here, a guide:
Three signs you’re in the wrong writing niche:
1. You dread writing.
If you were to post your job description, a huge chunk of it would be putting pen to paper. After all, at the core of journalists, content marketers, bloggers and so on, the ability to craft paragraphs is universal. That’s why if you dread clocking in to your blank document every morning, you’re probably not in the right niche. “Dread leads to procrastination, and procrastination leads to, well, nothing. Your niche should excite you, and writing about it should come naturally to you,” Vermillion explains. Though, sure, everyone experiences writer’s block here and there, generally, you should be pumped to wake up, ready to conquer the inverted pyramid.
2. You have to research everything you write.
Truth be told, nearly every article requires some sort of research. Even if it’s a quick Google search for a study, to check the spelling of a source’s name on LinkedIn, or to make sure you have your north, south, east and west the right way. However, when you have a preexisting area of knowledge and expertise on a topic, you won’t have to dive into hours upon hours of investigation to do your job. With larger features, you may have the luxury of more time, but more often than not a few weeks is fair for a deadline. You’re in the wrong niche if everything takes you a lot of time to pen, or as Vermillion puts it: “If you have no background in cooking as a vegan, you’ll waste way too much time researching your articles to actually turn a profit.”
3. You don’t have a sustainable market.
Aside from your talent is determination and, of course, a market. However, even if your passion is purely cultivated, organic, farm-grown eggs from Switzerland, you probably won’t find too many opportunities to pitch. However, if you focus on sustainability as your niche? You open up your audience in dividends.
“While a niche should be born out of passion and expertise, if people aren’t willing to pay you for said expertise, it’s not the smartest business decision,” Vermillion explains. “Fortunately, most niches have at least some community built around them — and therefore publications serving those communities — but if you don’t see any viable prospects for your niche, it may be best to switch course.”
Three signs you’re in the right writing niche:
1. You have tons of experience.
As you know from landing any of the gigs you’ve ever snagged, experience makes a big difference. Generally speaking, editors are rarely interested on where you attended college or how old you are — rather, they want to see examples of previous work on the subject you’re pitching. After all, it’s hard to convince someone you’re the right person to write an insider’s guide to probiotics if you’ve never taken one. Or a guide to Michelin-star dining if you can’t distinguish between arugula and romaine.
Vermillion made a pointed decision to focus her travel blog on road tripping since it’s the type of nomadic life she knows best. “I can write about the ins and outs of road tripping from my own experience, and I can do so without notes,” she explains. When it comes to your niche, being fully engrained into the scene — and enjoying every bit of it — means you’re in a good spot.
2. Your writing aligns with your goals.
When I first decided I wanted to be a storyteller at the age of 6 or 7, I started making a bucket list for all of the places I wanted to write for. Now, 15 years into my career, I’ve hustled my way into many of these publications, and found my groove in a niche of travel and career writing. In general, journalists likely have a handful of areas your expertise align with, but maybe not your goals, according to Vermillion. While, sure, I could write about dating endlessly and it fascinates me — it isn’t where I’d like to build a career. So when your aspirations and your bylines meet? That’s your niche! “I could write about pet ownership or marketing because I have a background in both of those areas,” she continues. “But if I want to grow as a travel writer, my road trip blog will help me do so, both by securing road trip writing gigs as well as building my larger travel business.”
3. You’re making money.
Seems simple enough but when the stars align professionally, the moo-lah comes rolling in. The saying is trite but it rings true for many freelancers who have carved out a slice for themselves in their selected niche: Do what you love, and you won’t mind the work.