One of the first things anyone will tell you when you say you want to start a blog or get into freelance writing is to choose a niche. Of course, that’s easier said that done. There are a few things you will want to think about when figuring out how to choose a niche.
What is a Niche?
Before I dig into how to choose a niche for your blog or freelance work, let’s start with the basics: what is a niche?
According to good ol’ dictionary.com a niche is a distinct segment of a market.
What does that mean?
In basic terms, a niche is a specific topic you plan to cover in your writing.
How to Choose a Niche
So, you want to write- either a blog or on a freelance basis- but how do you determine what to write about? How do you pick a niche?
The most obvious answer is to write about what you know. The goal is to be the expert. To have the blog or article that readers come to and trust. Additionally, writing about what you know just makes life a whole lot easier and saves on time. And, this goes without saying, it should be something you actually are interested in and enjoy talking about.
Not only should the topic be interesting to you, but you need to make sure that others will feel the same. Maybe, you may love bubblegum ice cream, but how many other people love it as much as you do?
You also need to strategize your future content. Can you come up with enough ideas for topics to write about? How can you monetize it? These are all important questions to consider. You want to be specific but not pigeon hole yourself, which leads us to the next point.
Tip: If you aren’t sure, check places like reddit or Quora for topics related to what you want to write about. Tons of questions come up in these forums and can give you ideas to see how much interest people have in the topic.
Choosing a Broad vs Narrow Niche
Your niche can be as general or specific as you see fit, and there are pros and cons to both which I have found out through personal experience.
Pros and Cons of Choosing a Broad Niche
Let’s use travel for our example.
Travel is a niche. But a very broad niche. There are tons of topics that can fit under the ‘travel’ umbrella. Just to name a few:
- Solo travel
- Romantic travel
- Luxury travel
- Food-based travel
- Adventure travel
- Road trip type travel
- Budget travel
…I could keep going but you get my point.
Now, travel is a great topic that allows you to talk about a ton of different things. This means you will always have content to write about, there’s potential for all kinds of affiliate partners, and it’s easy to be more general.
However, there are lots of disadvantages too. Sure, you can write about tons of things, but, will you be able to form a solid readership base? Those who come to your site for an article on the best luxury hotels in New York City aren’t going to be interested in a round-up of the best backpacker hostels in Bangkok.
So, what does this mean?
This means that while you may be able to stream a lot of organic traffic via Google and Pinterest to your website, you probably aren’t going to be able to form a dedicated following very easily. Which could make it harder down the road if you ever want to get into creating products to sell or in terms of forming long-term relationships with brands. Not impossible, just harder.
In terms of freelance writing, it increases competition and likely results in cheaper budgets for projects. After all, how many travel ‘experts’ are out there today? (hint: thousands). Anyone can write basic travel guides these days and, thanks to so much helpful information online, you don’t even have to go to a destination to write about it. This means that publications often offer really crappy low wages for these types of pieces because guess what? Someone will do it for pennies.
Pros and Cons of a Specific Niche
Now, what if you narrow down that niche?
We’ll keep the travel theme but instead of writing just about travel, we’ll stick to one county. Let’s use Ireland since that’s actually what my second blog is about.
Now, Ireland is a small country but all types of travel (luxury, budget, adventure etc.) still apply. However, there are fewer places to write about which means I need to get much more in-depth with my content. I can’t just write about the “top 5 places to visit in Ireland” and call it a day. I should have one, if not more, blog posts dedicated to each of those specific places. After all, the expectation is that if I am writing only about Ireland, I should be an expert.
This has the potential to be incredibly lucrative. If you know something really well and can provide the answers to questions that people want, you can monetize really easily. People are more likely to book and buy from those who they see as experts. The downside is that super-niche content can be more limiting in terms of coming up with content as well as with monetization. For me, in the case of my Ireland site, even though I lived in Ireland and have gone back several times, I still haven’t been everywhere. And since I won’t write about places I haven’t been yet, sometimes coming up with new content is a struggle.
Having a super-specific niche means there may not be as many job opportunities pertaining to your specific niche. However, when you do find them they will often pay more for an expert to do the work (aka you!). Additionally, depending on your area of expertise, good writers may be hard to find so your chances of getting re-hired for more projects is much higher.
Psst: If you are struggling with setting rates as a freelance, check out my article on what to charge as a freelance writer.
Do I Really Need to Be Selective With My Niche?
The hardest part in figuring out how to choose a niche for your blog is deciding how specific you need to be. How selective do you need to be to guarantee the best chance at success?
It’s a tough question and I can only answer based on my experience.
Personally, I hate the idea of boxing myself and my skill set into one category. I like to learn, I like to branch out, I like to try new opportunities. That being said, I also recognize that being specific has its definite advantages and can be much more lucrative.
This blog, Eat Sleep Breathe Travel, is pretty general. Sure, I can say at its heart this is a solo female travel blog. But look at me here, writing about the business side of blogging which has nothing to do with travel at all. Now, is this a successful blog? Yes. Do I make decent money from it? Yes. But I also spent years building up a readership that stays for my writing and stories. After all, this is a very personal blog.
My Ireland blog, on the other hand, is the opposite. It’s impersonal and very ‘guide’ like. However, my traffic (and associated blog income) grew much faster. Now, part of that is because I’ve become a better writer over the years and learned about SEO, but it’s also partly because of my audience. I can keep them on my site longer. I have a bigger email group etc. However, because it is impersonal and I can’t write easily about the same things there as I do here and I don’t feel as connected to my audience. I also feel incredibly limited about what I can write for that blog versus this one.
As for freelance, in my experience, niche is the way to go. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t write about everything. They key is that when it comes to marketing yourself, market yourself as an expert for something specific.
I started off as a travel writer and I made terrible money. If someone offered to pay me $150 for 1000 words I was THRILLED. And let me tell you, those opportunities didn’t come often or easily. Now, I write mainly about personal finance which is a much more specific and niche topic. While there is still competition, I have managed to land myself a few regular clients that pay really well. I often make 4-figures from finance articles.
That being said, I still write about other things. I’ve written about food, lifestyle articles, etc. I include those pieces in my portfolio, but on social media and LinkedIn, where I hope people will find me, I specify that I am a travel blogger and freelance personal finance writer.
How to Choose a Niche for Your Blog: Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do I know enough about the subject?
- Do I actually like the subject and enjoy writing about it?
- Is there interest in the subject (can I solve a problem/question for others?)
- How will I be able to make money from this/ is it lucrative?
- How competitive is it?
- Can I continue to grow in this space or will I hit a threshold?
- Is there a big enough market/audience for this topic?