7 Ways to Carve Out Your Niche as a Freelance Writer

As a freelance writer, would you rather use a wide-angle-lens approach to clients and editors (be all things to all people) or a telephoto (focus on one subject or genre)? Let’s say you want to find your special niche. Where would you start? Here are 7 suggestions:

1. Industry/Subject

There are many advantages to being known as a specialist in a particular subject or an industry, especially when that business segment is “hot.”  One is your marketability. While clients are often willing to invest in letting you learn on the job, they would much prefer to hire a writer who knows their business. The ideal, of course, is to keep building on what you have learned and eventually to be considered an extension of the client’s staff.

2. Marketing Communications

Marketing communications are all of the ways in which an organization communicates the right message to the right audience through the right media. Successful marketing communications begin with a well-conceived plan that includes a number of areas. Ideally, these areas complement each other and work together to produce a cohesive program. The most common vehicles are public relations (PR), advertising, direct mail, special events, point-of-purchase displays, packaging, and premiums.

3. Financial Communications

Finance has its own language based on fundamental concepts. Financial communications and investor relations are two different sides of a coin. If you opt for investor relations, you must not only know the language; you must also be able to apply it to a specific industry or organization. While you can learn may aspects of financial communications by the book, communicating with Wall Street requires a command of the facts, scrupulous honesty, and an understanding of industry trends.

4. Direct Mail

Direct mail has a purpose, and that purpose is to sell something. High-quality, effective direct mail is a blend of art and science. What distinguishes effective direct mail from trash? Knowledge of the medium and the target market, a well-researched and coded list, good writing and design, and a method for assessing and evaluating the results. Direct mail has to grab the attention of the recipient immediately and sufficiently to prompt that person to open and read it. Part of the lure, of course, is the design of the piece. Your words may be spectacular, but if no one is moved to read them, they are meaningless.

5. Technical Writing

Technical writing requires the ability to grasp technical subject matter, apply the principles of research and writing to any subject, and write in clear, concise language. Understanding a subject is half the battle; being able to help someone else understand it is the other half. That someone else may be well versed into he subject and expect the material to be in technical language, or he or she may be a layperson who needs jargon translated into plain English. As a technical writer, you have to be able to both.

6.  Professional Writing

Professional writing is an area traditionally associated with academics who must publish or perish. By “publish,” it is assumed that the work will come out in a scholarly journal or a book meant for peers or students in the writer’s field. Many professionals, however, have branched out beyond academic journals and textbooks into training, self-help books, and articles in the popular press, all of which have to be in jargon-free, conversational English. This is the area in which they may need the assistance of a freelancer.

7.  Writing for multi-media

Multimedia is far more than computerized slide presentations. It includes video, graphics, sound effects, animation, music, Website production, and all of the sophisticated software that makes these components work. The good news is, that no matter how graphic-dependent multimedia may be, words continue to be the foundation upon which communication is built. From development to presentation, words are the vehicles that give shape and purpose to all forms of multimedia. The opportunities to write and sell in this arena can only expand.

There are many ways to break into these types of writing. One is to ask yourself what you enjoy? Do you love numbers or machines, or are you more a people person? Are there business segments you already write about? Do you have background in a particular field and want to expand your audience? Has the same client or editor hired you for several projects? The answers to these questions are the clues to where you want to put your creative and professional energy.

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