How to Break Into a Specific Freelance Writing Niche So You Earn More — Specific Actions to Take
I’m trying to break into a new niche, so the advice I’m about to dispense is based on what I’m doing. So, here we go …
I. Research the Niche
You want to be sure that there’s enough work in it. A couple of other things you want to research is what others are charging in that niche and what services they’re offering.
One thing I noticed when applying for jobs is that there’s practically no niche that DOESN’T need content. So 9 times out of ten, that’s not going to be a problem. So focus on rate and service offerings. Your competition will tell you practically everything you need to know in these areas. Particularly study the websites and blogs of those who’ve been freelancing in that niche for a while.
What types of projects do they say they work on a lot; how long does it take them to get paid, how do they find clients, what do they like about writing for this niche; what do they dislike.
Places like LinkedIn are great for finding freelancers and even groups devoted to certain types of freelance writing. If you can’t find a group devoted to your particular niche, join a couple of general freelance writing groups (for commercial writing) and ask if there’s anyone who does the type of writing you want to do. Ask specific questions and/or have them point you to other forums/blogs you might not know about.
Once you’ve decided on a niche, then it’s time to …
II. Create Niche-Specific Writing Samples
Write up a few (3-5 at least, in my opinion) samples covering different aspects of the niche. For example, if you want to become an insurance writer, you might write a piece entitled, Top Homeowners Insurance Claims; another entitled 3 Auto Insurance Discounts To Ask For; and another entitled The Difference between Term Life and Whole Life Insurance.
These are three different types of insurance, and it proves your writing ability in all of these sub niches of insurance. Of course, you could always decide to specialize in a sub niche if you think it’s broad enough.
FYI, I linked to the articles because they are ones that popped up in a Google search when I typed in a keyword phrase: eg, “auto insurance,” “homeowners insurance” and “life insurance.” Doing a general Google search is a great way to get an idea of what’s popular in a certain niche.
In my opinion, you should do at least two long-form pieces (we talked about this in Part I, remember). This illustrates your command of the subject matter beautifully.
4 Ways to Make Your Writing Samples Sparkle
i) Use graphics too (at least one), where possible: In quite a few of the job ads I ran across, editors wanted you to source graphics for content you wrote. And visuality is just a part of what’s expected of content these days – whether its infographics, or slideshares, or memes, or video.
Graphics make your writing “pop.” Good ones draw readers in, and as this is your online writing portfolio, you want your samples to be as presentable as possible. Graphics can do this – especially if you go all out and create an infographic.
In the linked-to post above, free infographic software is discussed. Creating an infographic is actually a lot of fun, and it’s another skill that you can charge for as an online writer.
ii) Use standard web writing practices: and
iii) Cite sources: As freelance writer, you’re going to be writing for clients who most likely don’t want you linking out to other, like companies (eg, the competition). So be sure to use noted industry organizations; think tanks; government agencies; prestigious educational institutions; and noted scholars, researchers, etc.
Citing authority sources gives your writing more credibility; it builds trust among readers. And if that’s present in your samples, it lets clients know that you’ll do the same for them. It’ll separate your writing from a lot of “fluff” pieces out there – which is what many freelance writers use as samples.
iii) SEO It: As in, do some keyword research and create a themed SEO writing sample. Most content written for the web for clients will have to be written using search engine optimization guidelines, so make your samples reflect that.
This proves to clients that not only do you know how to write, but you know SEO too.
III. Write a Resume / Professional Profile
I used to advise freelance writers to list their credentials and a professional profile and not a typical resume because it sent a signal that you’re looking for a job. A professional profile signals that you’re a business looking to “partner with” a company.
I’ve pulled back on that now. My credentials are kind of a hybrid of the two. Why have I changed my mind? As the owner of a writing company, when I contact clients, I want to show that I’ve been in publishing for years.
My work history was kind of helter skelter, so doing a chronological listing of my experience seemed the easiest way to explain it.
Reworking Your Resume Tip: Use job listings on sites like Monster and CareerBuilder to see what skills hiring managers are looking for in the niche you’ve targeted. Use the language in their job descriptions. Match your skills to what they’re seeking.
IV. Upload to Your Website
After you create your writing samples and resume/professional profile, upload them to your freelance website. Now, you’re ready to start marketing.
V. Create a Marketing Message
I like email marketing. It’s how I reached out to the 150 or so contacts last week. Make your message niche-specific, short and to the point. I’d say no longer than 3-4 paragraphs (paragraphs should be no longer than 3 lines).
Be sure to link out to your website and your writing samples. For example, after you’ve introduced yourself and said something about how you can help them with your services, you might end with:
Here’s a link to my professional profile: http://newmediawords.biz/yuwanda-black-professional-profile.htm, which contains links to pertinent writing samples. As an aside, I do all of my email marketing in rich text format (as opposed to HTML). Why?
Because many block emails that contain images and such coming from unknown addresses. Also, a lot of the companies I touch have online contact forms that I cut/paste my message into. So that’s why the URL of my professional profile is laid out like this, as opposed to linked to. When you cut/paste it into forms, of course, there’s no way to create a hyperlink.
FYI, here’s some info on how to write an effective email marketing message.
VI. Make a Certain Number of Contacts per Day
My goal was to apply for at least 100 jobs within a week. I wound up reaching out to about 150 in a six-day period. The most I applied for in one day was 38; the least was 1 job. I kept all the contacts I made in a simple rich text file (see graphic below). This way, I can go back and touch them again in 30 or 60 days.
Marketing in this manner is what I call “marketing success by the numbers.” I had a business mentor once who told me that you can send a dog out with a sign around its neck selling something and eventually, someone is going to buy something from it.
When I looked at him like he had two heads, he said, “It’s just marketing by the numbers. If you make enough contact, somebody is going to say yes eventually.” And that’s why successful salespeople live by the mantra, “Every no gets you closer to a yes,” because eventually, somebody will bite.
A New Client – Yeah!
I already picked up one new client. I turned in my first blog post to them yesterday. They originally wanted one a week. They liked it so much that they upped it to two per week starting next week. And guess what, it’s on digital marketing – a subject I know like the back of my hand; 600-word blog posts and they’ve given me free reign to write what I want. Easy, peezy work.
So marketing success by the numbers works – especially if you take the time to write customized messages to a defined group. I did this for some, others were general in nature (eg, if it was a gig I ran across that I knew I was qualified for, I fired off a general introductory note, along with a link to my credentials).
Depending on how many contacts per day you make, you should start seeing responses within two to three weeks – if your writing samples are on point, and if your contact message is succinct, error-free and points out the benefits a prospect could derive by using your services.
I got responses within a couple of days – but I have googobs of experience. All anyone has to do is google my name to find the good, the bad and the ugly about me.
My success is not unusual or unique though. Even if you have NO experience as a freelance writer, this plan works. In my opinion, it’s because there’s so much work out there and believe it or not, not everyone can write. So when you prove that you can (via your kick-ass samples), you’re going to land work – if you consistently go after it.
Good luck, and if you put this plan into action, please circle back and let me know how it went. You can leave a comment below, or email me personally.
Up next on Monday …
Part III: My Marketing Results – Number of Yes, No’s & Maybe’s to Date
P.S.: I’m Ready to Start My Freelance Content Writing Career
I hope all is well! I just wanted to let you know that this month marked the first month that my writing income surpassed that of my day job.
Thanks to your help and inspiration, I have more work than I know what to do with and have successfully landed a number of clients that give me recurring work. Thanks again for your advice!
SEO writing changed the trajectory of my freelance writing career. It can do the same for you!