The itch for a niche (obviously, rhyming poetry may not be my strong suit)...Thoughts on topic concentration and being a freelance writer...
A recent spate of posts at some of the blogs I read spurred me to revisit the topic of finding a particular niche as a writer.
Diane Penna believes that writing can become a "chore" when one feels like it's all about the money. Ann King is ready to concentrate more on her areas of expertise. Alicia, who's willing to experiment with new topics isn't as concerned with discovering a topic niche.
I certainly have some topics I enjoy more than others. There are some things about which I know a great deal. There are a few areas in which I could be considered an expert. I don't, however, market myself as a "topic writer."
There are also some topics about which I find myself writing more than others. I have probably written several hundred articles on various facets of internet marketing, for instance, over the course of the last year. I have several clients who do a lot of IM-related work and they know I understand the business, the software, the strategies, etc.
However, I don't have a strong desire to stake out a particular subject area niche upon which to focus my efforts. Here's why...
I like the research and I do it well. You want a multi-article series on the real estate market in San Antonio? That might sound less fun than a trip to the dentist to many writers. Even I won't be hopping out of my chair, pumping my fist with excitement upon hearing about the gig. However, I will eventually find that I am enjoying learning about something new.
Several months ago, I wrote the content for a telecommunication consultant's website. For a few minutes, I was dreading the project. The idea of learning some of the intricacies of VoIP, switched long distance, dedicated long distance, etc. (things about which I knew next to nothing) momentarily seemed worse than being waterboarded by Don Rumsfeld. Once I started getting into the project, however, my attitude began to shift. I learned a lot and enjoyed the experience.
I also received a big "thumbs up" from the client, who felt as though my copy read like it came from a telcom industry veteran. I was able to accumulate, process and synthesize my research to produce compelling copy. I enjoy the process and the challenge of developing a sufficient level of expertise to handle new topic areas.
I like the variety. I can't imagine how I'd handle tackling the same topics day after day. I prefer to examine new subject areas--even when they're less interesting than my "favorites"--just to break up the monotony and to experiment.
I like the opportunity. Refusing to pigeonhole myself as a "topic writer" provides me with the flexibility to pursue more work opportunities. I wouldn't be interested in trading off that opportunity. Many of my clients work across several fields and I'm able to traverse all of that territory with them because I'm willing to do the research and to learn about new things.
There are advantages to being the "go-to" person within a particular subject area. The opportunity to focus on a subject about which one has a real passion is undoubtedly very inviting to many writers. I don't think those who decide to specialize in a given topic area niche are making a bad decision. It's just not one I'm going to make.
Maybe that refusal to establish a specific topic focus is part of the Content Done Better niche. Maybe my niche has nothing to do with topic areas, but is actually a high level of versatility.
When it comes to topic focus, I might just be freelance writing's version of baseball's utility infielder who can patrol the outfield, too, if the need presents itself. Every team needs to have at least one of those guys on the roster at all times, after all.
Don't get me wrong, if someone pitches me a project that is right in my expertise "wheelhouse," I will certainly let them know how and why Content Done Better is right for the job. It isn't as though I don't know more about some things than others.
I do think I have a niche. It just isn't related to a subject matter. My niche is competitively-priced quality content with a fast turnaround time and no hassles. My niche is working with clients to create engaging materials that exceed expectations and combine proven principles with creativity. Is that a niche? Maybe it's more of a sales pitch. Either way, you get the idea.
Whether the client wants materials on t-shirts, beanbag toss games, rare dogs, individual city real estate markets, identity theft, a specific fruit, telecommunications consulting, women's shoes, auto purchases, copyright concerns, horse care, home insulation, laying a new sub-floor, defensive driving, board certification for plastic surgeons, table games, honey, motivational speaking, or how to make a really cute Santa Claus outfit for a pet spider monkey, they can get in touch. I'm game.
Oh, and I've tackled all of those topics and more within the last several months. Except the monkey thing. Anyone with a spider monkey site out there?