How to Break into a Brand New Niche as a Freelance Writer
You’ve probably heard how important it is to specialize as a freelance writer. It’s true. Developing a specialty in a narrow niche is a great way to build authority and position yourself as an expert. Plus it makes life easier. As you build up your specialist knowledge, new ideas flow. And as you make more contacts, you learn exactly where to turn for quotes, examples, and expert interviews. Eventually you’ll have editors coming to you, rather than having to actively pitch or write on spec.
If you run a blog, it’s even more important that you pick a niche and stick to it. Sure you can cover different topics and have a few different categories, but the main focus of your blog should be crystal clear. That’s how you attract your perfect target audience. In many ways, the narrower the niche, the better.
When you start pitching your freelance writing, it’s really useful to be able to present yourself as an authority on your topic, and developing a specialty helps with this. But as you start to develop your freelance writing skills, you may want to diversify, and write about more varied topics. Sometimes, if we’re honest, we get sick and tired of our niche. We want to write about a new interest or passion, but we don’t have one single published piece to show that we can write on the new topic.
There are a few ways to maximise your chances when pitching a new market in a brand new niche.
Make sure your idea shines
Editors are looking for original ideas, which might just be to your advantage. As a newcomer to a niche you’re in a great position to spot exactly what the blog or website you’re pitching needs. Is there a piece of the puzzle that’s missing if someone with a new interest in the topic lands on that particular site?
Use your experience
You may not have written on this topic before, but there’s probably a reason you’re interested in it. Did you have an experience that could help readers? Can you tell your personal story (in a way that fits the style and tone of the market you’re pitching)? Or did you have to research a real life situation, and you can now use the results of that research in a relevant, tightly focused piece?
Show that you know this niche, even if you’re not currently writing in it
Use language that shows you know the topic. Refer to a current trend or news story. Mention an expert or book you plan to reference or quote. Make sure the editor realises you’re very familiar with the niche, even if you haven’t written in it before.
Share links to a piece that’s similar in tone or style, if not in subject matter
Many submissions guidelines ask for links to published pieces, and that’s your chance to show you can write on a specific topic. But if you haven’t previously written in this niche, you can still show you can write for this market.
You’ve studied the blog or site you’re pitching, right? You know it’s style and tone? You know whether it wants in-depth, research-heavy articles or light opinion pieces. Use a clip that shows you can write in that style, even if the subject matter in your published piece is very different.
Consider writing one or more ‘crossover’ pieces for your own blog or one you already write for
Are you a business blogger who wants to write about health? Maybe you can write an excellent piece on creating a healthy home office or the importance of work/life balance for health. Maybe you’re a parenting blogger who wants to write about business? Perhaps a piece on your parenting blog explaining how parents can run their own business from home could be your crossover piece.
My very first blog was a travel blog, and my first published articles were all travel pieces. When I wanted to write about parenting I wrote a couple of crossover pieces about family travel, such as this one about the educational benefits of traveling with children. Then I used those pieces to pitch to parenting websites.
Consider posting a few perfect pieces you can use as clips
Another option is to post a few high quality pieces you can use as clips over at at Medium. This is a better option than posting an off-topic piece on your own blog, and you can use the tags Medium allows you to add just before you hit publish, to attract interested readers. I’ve used Medium in this way, to write pieces on happiness and personal growth, which are topics I’m currently studying and am interested in writing more on in the future.
Make sure you only post top quality work, of course, and spend some time promoting your piece when it goes live. If you can get plenty of shares, claps and comments on it, you’ll also be showing an editor you can write content that attracts engagement.
Remember, put yourself in the shoes of the editor you’re pitching. He or she is looking for useful, engaging content. It doesn’t really matter if you’re stepping outside of your niche, as long as you show you’ve got the skills to pull it off.
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This piece was originally published in TheWritingCooperative.com.