A new freelancer contacted me recently wanting advice on where to start with their freelance writing career, and in particular, which niche to opt for.
(This always blows me away, because even though I’ve been freelancing for almost ten years, in some ways I still feel very much like a beginner!)
I think it’s something we all go through, no matter how much experience we have (you can thank Imposter Syndrome for that) and picking a niche can be one of the most confusing and daunting aspects of starting a freelance business.
If you’re thinking of starting out your freelancing career and are paralysed by that fear of failing or making the wrong first step, I promise – we all go through that, you’re not alone.
Sounds contradictory because you’re reading this, but as there are so many articles, blog posts, and podcasts about this very subject, in my opinion, that actually confuses things!
When I was asked about where to start, this prompted an email reply in which I poured my heart out, and I remembered three pieces of advice that stuck out for me in my own career, which I hope you will find helps answer those questions of uncertainty.
You can find yourself spending a good portion of your time that you could have been getting clients and networking, chopping and changing your niche and tweaking your website, before you get frustrated and think you’ll never make it work and no one will ever want to hire you.
This comes out of a fear of failure or doing things wrong. It’s especially common if you’re new to freelancing.
I get it, you don’t want to waste your time trying one thing, for it to not give you the results you want.
But here’s the thing:
1. If you don’t go out and try your niche first, you’ll never know
Trying something is not the same as reading how to do something.
This is such an important thing to remember, because while you’re busy reading and soaking up all this information about what other people do – what the most profitable niches are, how to find the ‘perfect’ niche, how to price your services – you’re actually preventing yourself from figuring out what works for YOU.
Sure, there are a few ways you can work out what your niche could be, but you have to at least try it out before you throw in the towel.
For example, let’s say you wanted to be a freelance writer and write about cooking, but someone told you that niche is too overpopulated so you should pick something else.
For a start, what works for that person might not work for you, and vice versa. What’s their experience with the cooking niche? What do they mean when they say it’s an overpopulated niche (and whether that’s a bad thing)?
Sure, if you’re a generic ‘cooking’ writer, that’s a reaaaally broad niche. But you can be more specific, which helps you find clients that’ll fit you really well and you might end up enjoying writing and get success from it.
Being more specific can mean targeting specific kinds of clients, like cooking utensil manufacturers, or it could mean a specific dietary need, like writing for Coeliac-friendly restaurants.
There are a ton of ways you can go with your niche and there is no right way.
As a side note, having many freelancers in a similar niche can be a very good thing – it means there’s a demand for it.
There is no right answer. Every freelancer not only has their own niche and experiences but their own personality and way of working, which brings me onto:
2. Your personality is what will make your business successful
In the beginning, you’re getting a lot of your inspiration from other, successful freelancers.
You want to see what they do that makes them so successful.
(If we didn’t do this as part of our research, then webinars, courses, and ebooks wouldn’t even exist, would they?)
In this process, we find ourselves emulating what they do:
Copying their processes for finding clients, communicating with them, even the way their website looks and feels, right down to the copy, often written in a way that sounds ‘professional’.
We think because others are doing this and finding clients, that this must be the way this works, right?
Actually, probably not.
First off, it’s soooo much effort to keep up a pretense in hopes this will hook clients, but if you hide your true self then the clients you do get will not be a great fit.
Plus, clients are PEOPLE. Believe me, they want to work with someone they gel with, not a robot.
It sounds almost so cheesy that I could spread it on my toast, but being yourself is one of the most valuable things you have to bring to the table, regardless of what your niche is.
It makes you memorable and you attract clients you enjoy working with.
But also, for your own sake, you’ll feel more comfortable and build a freelance career you’re happy with.
3. Your business is constantly evolving, and you have to accept that
Finally, I heard this advice, not about freelancing, but actually about website design and how websites will evolve over time with a business!
But when I heard it, I could easily apply this to finding a niche and other elements of running a freelancing business.
When you choose a niche to try, remember that you aren’t then stuck with it for life.
I have changed up my niche several times – from eco-friendly fashion, to video gaming, to helping freelancers, and writing B2B copy for SaaS business.
It’s okay to change things up!
Circling back to the first point, you won’t know if you like something unless you try it. The same can be said for the future – just because you enjoy a particular niche right now, doesn’t mean you always will.
It depends on what kind of person you are. You might outgrow a niche, or stumble upon something new that you would rather centre your business around instead.
We do change, and that’s normal and not a sign of failure (despite what you may have read elsewhere).
When we want to get started on something overwhelming like a freelancing career, we want someone to have the answer that will make our businesses fall into place.
While no one has that, and it’s all trial and error with a bit of guidance from others, just remember that being free to choose your own path and way of doing things is a reward in itself. You’ll get there!