I’m working with my personal coaching students on finding their niches as specialist writers. They asked for some writing tips which would help. I thought they might help other writers too. So here we go. :-)
A huge amount of content is being published today. On one marketing blog, I saw research to suggest that 90 per cent of businesses were investing a third of their marketing budgets into social media in 2014. It’s no surprise then, that around 3.5 MILLION blog posts are published each day.
With so much content pouring onto the Web in a never-ending flood, you need to be able to stand out.
Here’s the solution: specialization. Choosing to specialize puts you into a smaller niche, so that you can quickly become known in that niche.
I should tell you that for many years I avoided specializing. I deliberately tried to be a generalist, covering many topics. I say “tried” because specialization crept up on me. So if you find developing a specialty hard — you’re not sure what you should choose — don’t worry about it too much. Clients will hire you, and when you do more work for them, you’ll turn into a specialist without being aware of it.
An example. A client in heavy industry hired me to create the company’s monthly newsletter. The first few months were a real challenge, because I didn’t know or understand the industry. Over time, I read a lot, and talked to lots of people. Gradually, I got up to speed. Before I knew it, I was writing for a mining company, and a manufacturer of oil rig machinery. I’d developed a specialty despite myself.
Let’s look at some ways in which you can find areas in which you want to specialize.
1. What do you LOVE?
Love trumps everything else. I love writing, and I enjoy teaching. However, neither of these areas pays particularly well. My enjoyment more than makes up for it however. Sometimes a specialty will choose you. You specialize in an area because you spend a lot of time thinking, reading and writing about the area.
What do you spend all your time talking, thinking and reading about? It may turn out to be a specialty, once you start writing about the area.
You can specialize in odd things: things most people wouldn’t dream of. One of my students was a real fan of gossip and celebrity websites. She joined forums to catch up on the latest gossip. A forum owner asked her to become a moderator, and she did. This led to her writing a regular column for a website. Then she was asked to assess manuscripts for a literary agent. When I last contacted her, she was still moderating, and writing regularly for a large website. She managed to turn gossip into a career. Who knew?
2. What do you do in your day job?
One of my students was in human resources. Careers, jobs, and job hunting is a huge area, and it’s a great specialty. However, even though she worked in the area, my student had never considered that she already had a specialty.
What about you? What do you do in your day job? A great specialty may have found you. :-)
3. What are your hobbies?
My favorite hobby is reading. However, if your hobby is sports-related — you’re a tennis player, or golfer, or you’re up to speed on any popular sport — you may have found a great specialty.
Make a list of your hobbies. A writer colleague wrote for technology magazines, and wanted to develop a new career as a travel writer. She loves to travel, and she and her family take trips several times each year. Within six months, she’d established her new career. Now she goes on junkets all over the world, and she’s writing a book on how to travel with small children.
4. What are your dreams?
In our 20s, we have dreams. Our 30s arrive, and real life — a mortgage, and a family — tends to knock our dreams aside.
Think about the dreams you had when you were a child, and a teenager.
A friend wanted to go to art school. However, her family convinced her that she needed to follow the family “trade”. So she became a lawyer. However, she never forgot her dreams, and eventually gave up law, because she found it too stressful. She’s now in her 40s, and she’s about to have her first show of her art work.
What did you dream of, when you were young? If you dreamed of becoming a full-time writer, you can achieve that dream. It’s never too late.
One writer dreamed of living sustainably: having a small farm. The dream was always in the back of her mind. In her 30s, she married a man who came from a farming family. They now own a small farm. They grow their own vegetables, and sell some of them at farmer’s markets. She now writes for many different websites, and is making an excellent career out of her dream.
5. What personal challenges confront you?
Many writers turn their challenges into specialties. You may have a challenge with your health, or with relationships. As you learn more, and discover ways to manage your challenge, you can write about what you discover.
One writer’s mother and aunt both died of breast cancer. She had many tests, and she and her sisters were concerned not only that they might develop the illness, but also that their own daughters might one day be at risk. This writer now works full-time as a marketer for a non-profit group helping women to manage breast cancer.
6. What do you want to learn?
You can write about anything you’re interested in. If you take a course in something, why not write about it?
A teacher who spent a year in France to learn the language and teach it took a course in French cooking. She loved it. When she came home, she took more courses. She also loved to write, so became one of my writing students. When we talked about a specialty, she hadn’t considered food and cooking. Within a year, she was working full-time for an independent TV producer, scripting cooking shows.
7. What pays well?
Some specialties pay more than others. If you enjoy learning and writing about health topics, or business and finance, learn more. Start writing articles for magazines and websites. As you publish more, people will approach you to write about your specialty.
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