ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Should freelancers have a niche?”

by Leo Wiles
17 August 2016

Ask Us Wednesday NEWHi Rachel and Leo. Just wanted to get in touch and say how much I enjoy reading your blog posts – especially the recent one on the 12 personality traits you need to make it as a freelancer – it came just at the right time for me! I have a question for your Ask Us Wednesday column. There’s a lot of talk in freelance circles about finding your niche. I can see the benefits of being known as the go-to freelancer for articles about data analytics, but I wonder if by becoming a freelance technology writer (for example), you cut yourself out of other work? I’m asking because I love the variety of work I do (health, parenting, education, food), but wonder if I should narrow down what I write about and form a defined niche. Thoughts? Lindy

Glad you enjoy the blog, Lindy! Thanks for letting us know.

It’s definitely more lucrative to write within a niche, as you can potentially churn out copy faster and already know anyone you’ll ever need to quote in an article. There’s also the dangling carrot of becoming the go-to person to write about astrophysics, Mars, etc. But in regards to your example, unless a tech writer was more mainstream rather than just writing about computers (which just about everybody is interested in), I think it could lead to an incredibly narrow audience of potential clients.

I also feel being a niche writer can eventually make you a) stale, b) a poorer writer, and therefore less valuable to editors and c) hate your life. But maybe that was just me after writing NW’s gossip section.

Seriously though, I loved being Sydney Water’s water conservation PR. For two days a week for almost five years I felt like I was contributing some value to mankind helping educate people about how to save water money and the environment. I did, however, juggle this with a smorgasbord of other writing on health: mental and physical, plus stories on wealth and lifestyle – be that parenting or ‘at home’ stories.

I do this because I know a little about a lot and am at my happiest when enriched by variety.

For example in the past ten days I took corporate portraits of a team of talented architects, shot two matches for a sports team, compiled a new season look book for a local fashion label, wrote the bios and company history for some artists producing incredible innovative work, and interviewed and photographed a couple of local business owners for a mag.

The one common factor is that I interviewed and shot people who are passionate about what they do. Maybe for me that’s my niche – passionate creative people.

What do you think, List members? Is a niche better than diversifying when it comes to our industry?

5 responses on "ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Should freelancers have a niche?”"

  1. Rachel Smith says:

    I’m a bit like Leo, Lindy – I love the variety in my work and think one area only would bore me. That’s why freelancing suits me, I think. But I’d love to hear from people who do write only in the one area… anyone, anyone?

  2. lindyalexander says:

    Thanks Leo and Rachel – that’s really reassuring to read your answers – I feel a bit more relaxed about not being an expert on data analytics (yet).
    And yes, Leo, it does sound like creative, passionate people IS your niche 🙂

    1. Leo Wiles says:

      Thanks Lindy. Distilling passionate people is certainly a way of keeping the blood flowing for me!

  3. Kylie Orr says:

    I fell into writing feature articles on parenting because they were relevant to that time of my life. They were quick and easy for me to write. I could be honest and relatable so my articles were generally well-received.

    Unfortunately, when I tried to broaden out to various publications and show I could write about a lot more than poopy nappies and screaming toddlers, it was challenging. It took me a while to convince editors I was able to write about a plethora of other topics.

    Being an expert is one option – if the topics are vibrant and evolving and keep you motivated. Readers can see straight through a boring piece from a bored writer.

    I have managed to spread my wings and write about design, business start ups, travel and tourism, and a range of other areas. I still love writing about parenting because .. I am a parent, however now I’ve shown my portfolio is wider!

    Good luck!

    1. Leo Wiles says:

      I felt the same way Kylie after twelve years writing about film and TV. Even though I was able to shake it up by writing about different marketplaces such as London, the UK, America and Australia when I moved around, after a few years of being home I kind of outgrew it.
      Which hit at the showbiz desk of Woman’s Day when I realised that my career had hit an all time low when I could name Paris Hilton’s dogs and sex tape paramours.
      Learning my lesson I moved into Health, Wealth and Lifestyle – all in keeping with my life experience at 30. That change kept me motivated and interested for another decade until I changed my storytelling vehicles.
      Now as a photographer, writer and videographer I feel like I did as a headstrong cub reporter – inspired and unstoppable.

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