Blogging successfully is a daunting task from start to finish. There is never a dull moment; every day should be dedicated to developing strategies on how your website can improve and grow. But, first things first. You must lay the essential foundations that will make sure your blog is headed in a profitable direction. [Read more…]
As every freelancer quickly realizes, the competition for online writing jobs is fierce, and it’s only going to get stronger. As more and more millennials develop an affinity for flexible, remote jobs, these positions will become increasingly hard to find. That means you either have to choose a new career or find a way to stand out.
Which will it be?
Writing Specialization: The Key to Differentiation
While some freelancers will throw in the towel when times get tough, don’t let this be you. Instead, do your best to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Many successful freelancers have discovered that specialization is the best way to stand out. By zoning in on a niche and developing a specific set of skills, you can position yourself as knowledgeable and proficient at servicing a particular industry. While this may limit the number of job opportunities available to you, it simultaneously boosts the amount you’re able to charge. The payoff can be tremendous.
Specialization Isn’t a New Trend
While it may be a new concept to some of you, specialization isn’t a new idea. If you think about it, virtually all businesses and professionals specialize at one point or another. For example, Green Residential, a Houston-based property management company, points out that real estate investors must focus on a niche or they’ll fail: “There are dozens of unique specializations including apartment complexes, flipping, luxury home rentals, multifamily housing, vacation properties, and many more.” You can’t invest in all of these and expect to be successful.
This is what the Harvard Business Review calls The Age of Hyperspecialization. Everyone from the neighborhood grocer to the stockbroker on Wall Street is specializing in something. Shouldn’t you?
How to Choose a Writing Niche
The question most people inevitably ask is: “How do I choose the correct specialty or niche?” Well, it depends on a number of important factors. For starters, consider the following:
- What are you knowledgeable about? This is the first question to think about. For example, if you’re a residential real estate agent or you have experience in this area, you’re obviously pretty knowledgeable about market trends, financing, sales techniques, and other processes involved in the sale and purchase of homes. Real estate would be a natural specialization for your writing career.
- What interests you? You also have to consider your personal interests. What’s the first thing you think about in the morning? What do you love to do when you have a free weekend? When a topic interests you, you’re much more likely to find your career satisfying and fulfilling. If you can find a niche that you’re knowledgeable about and interested in, this is the perfect combination.
- Where is the demand? You also have to think about the demand for your specialty. You may love underwater basket weaving, but does anyone else care about it? Is anyone willing to pay for content in this space? It’s critical that you pay attention to demand and choose a specialty with this in mind.
- How much competition is there? Finally, consider the competition. If there are already thousands of other writers in a niche, you’re going to face an uphill battle when it comes to making a name for yourself. On the other hand, if you can find a specialty that only has a handful of proven names, this can be a fantastic place to invest your time and money.
If you’re able to answer each of these questions, you’ll naturally stumble upon a niche that’s right for you. But don’t worry about committing to a specialty. Over time, you’ll find that your career will evolve. You’re not committing to a lifetime of writing the same content. You’re simply choosing an area of expertise in order to give yourself a solid footing and stable career.
If you’re writing a blog for a client (or writing for a blog you own) you’ll be more likely to get return traffic if you focus on writing posts that get across what the specific blog is trying to sell. By sell, I don’t mean products, although that may be one goal.
Before you start typing away consider the following…
- What information, products or services does your blog offer?
- Is there any sort of benefit for readers who might come across your information, product or services and can they expect that benefit each time they visit?
- What’s the unique slant of this blog – i.e. “Green” is too general. I write for many green-minded clients (and my own green blogs) and they all have a slant. For example one green client I write for only features products with a bling aspect – green but pricey and high end. If I wrote about those products at my green family blog which focuses on real ways that everyday families can achieve green living, those green families would freak and say things like, “These are not products for a typical middle-class green family – are you nuts!?” Know your slant or find that slant and stick to it at your various blogs.
- How is this blog different from the competition?
- Why should readers come back? Is there even one good reason they should?
You do need to answer the questions above before you write. Each post you write should fulfill the answers you come up with which can help make both your readers and client happy. If you’re not writing posts with the above in mind it can result in unfocused posts that don’t serve a purpose. That’s just making a bigger mess of the already sloppy Internet.
How do you make sure that you’re blogging with a clear focus – one that will bring readers back for more.
At one of my green-minded blogs I’m coming up on my second year anniversary, which got me wondering just how many green-minded posts I’ve written. Being anal and knowing I’d sit around wondering if I didn’t check, I took five minutes, hit all my green blogs and made a count.
As it turns out, I’ve written a lot of green-minded posts; almost 2,000 eco-blog posts in the last few years which is not counting all the random green I’ve blogged for clients, eco-guest posts, green articles I’ve done, or the eco-copy I’ve done for non-profits. That’s a lot of writing on the same topic.
Do I like this… Well, right now, about 85% of my work is green-related and to be honest, there are times I’d like to tell people to chop down trees and buy a hummer because I’m so darn tired of thinking about green day in and day out. Ok, not really, but the craziness around Earth Day really does get me tired. That said, of all the topics I write on, this is the only one I never run out of ideas for because I truly do love it. That’s probably the best reason to choose a niche you honestly love and stick with it. There are other reasons too…
Because as noted above I adore my niche, I almost never have to stop and think about what to write about, which means I spend more time writing and less time researching. In blogging and online writing the saying that time is money really does apply. If I wrote mostly about celebrities (blah) because I know it pays well compared to other blog niches, it still wouldn’t make me much more money than green. I’d be researching all the time, pausing when I write, and trying to work it all out as I go. That’s called a big waste of time.
You can make a name for yourself. I wouldn’t say that I’m some sort of household name in green, but I’m known enough by now that I’ve been approached with multiple writing job offers in this niche. I’m also approached by more eco-companies and green authors now than I was back when I started writing about green. Once people start to know you by your niche you may earn some career perks.
My resume is packed with links and other pieces. If I see a green gig I want it’s way easier to confidentially apply. It’s easier to say, “I have hundreds of pieces available to view” vs. “10.”
I don’t mind the networking part. Part of blogging is networking but if I had to network with social networks related to topics I don’t enjoy, it might make me nuts. I like networking with other green folks vs. say when I blogged at a music blog it was a chore to network with other music blogger. I LOVE music, but that type of chit-chat just was not my bag.
If you adore a smart niche there are going to be more job opportunities. Green comes in and out of popularity, but I’d say it rests more on the in side than the out side. Because I enjoy a niche that people want to read about, there’s a better chance of me finding work. You can’t control what you love, but if you love two things, say um tech and snails, choose the better niche (hint it’s not snails).
I’m happy most of the time. I actually feel passionately about my niche. It makes me happy to write about it, think about it, and pass it on to others. When I first started out blogging professionally, I wrote more often on topics I didn’t enjoy and spent less time happy while working. You may as well be in a good mood – so choose a niche you like when you can.
Bonus link: Dosh Dosh has a good post about choosing a niche – How to Choose the Right Blog Niche: A Simple Three-Step Method
What about you? Do you like the niche you’re in, do you have multiple niches, or do you hate your current niche and want to split?
by Deb Ng
We’ve had some requests. We’re all about a positive user experience here at Network Blogging Tips, so requests don’t get back burnered if we can help it. Our readers want to learn more about starting their own blogs and earning their own income in addition to working for someone else. What follows is the first in our new Blogging for Beginners series – how to choose a niche.
Why Get Nichey?
Not too many “personal” blogs do well. If you want to succeed it’s best to choose a niche and establish yourself as an expert or authority. Readers get confused by blogs that follow too many tangents and don’t have a specific focus. Moreover, it’s hard to get search engine traffic when you’re not blogging about a specific topic. You want a blog that has an easily definable goal. One that teaches, shares ideas, and builds a community around other like-minded individuals.
What’s YOUR Passion?
Are you a home brew aficionado? Can you identify every breed of tomato with a quick glance? Do you spend every spare moment rocking the knitting needles? If so, these are good things to blog about. Many network bloggers or freelance bloggers blog what their clients ask them too without having a passion and they quickly burn out. If you truly want your blog to succeed, it’s important to know and love your topic so you can share your enthusiasm with your readers.