Freelance Writing Week: 5 Tips for How to Find and Develop Your Freelance Writing Niche

Welcome to Day 3 of Freelance Writing Week! So far we’ve covered:

A niche by Keith1999 on FlickrNow it’s time to talk about how to find and develop your freelance writing niche.

But you may be asking yourself whether you really need a niche.

Look at this way: You’re an editor looking for someone to write an technical article on iPhone applications. One applicant has a long list of writing credits about technology and the other has clips all about Hollywood gossip and fashion.

Sure it’s entirely possible the gossip/fashion writer knows a lot about iPhone applications, but which writer would you go with?

That’s why you need a niche.

You want to be *the* person an editor thinks of when an assignment in your niche comes up, and you also want your readers to trust what you’re writing because, hey, you’re an expert!

Now you don’t need to focus so narrowly that you put yourself out of the running for many gigs, and you certainly don’t need to stick with only one niche. Look at me, for example. I’m an attorney who lives in Italy. Right there that gives me two big possible niches:

1. Law/law school: I write for LegalZoom and am the Guide to Law School.
2. Italy: I write for Italy Magazine, easyJet, and Italian Notebook.

I could also write about expat life if I so choose, although that’s something I’ve really only touched on here at Bleeding Espresso. Hmm….

So that brings us to the first of:

5 Tips for How to Find and Develop Your Freelance Writing Niche

Flowers in a Niche by Lincolnian--(AWAY)-- on Flickr1. Make a list of words that define you.

Sounds kind of cryptic, but all I really mean are things you are or like to do such as “mom,” “former cheerleader,” “engineer,” “cyclist,” “antique dealer,” etc. The old adage is “write what you know,” and that’s never more true than in narrowing down your freelance writing niches.

There are writers’ markets for just about every niche you can imagine, so be as comprehensive as you can when listing your areas of expertise.

2. Make a list of things you’re interested in learning more about.

OK, we’re already straying from “write what you know,” but I think this is worth exploring. Just because you’re not an environmental scientist doesn’t mean you can’t write intelligently on the environment, right? You can learn more *and* get paid to do it as well.

See Tip #5 for more on how to become an expert on something you are only currently learning about.

3. Make a list of the  publications, websites, and blogs you like to read.

What do they talk about? Could you talk about it too? Chances are a lot of these topics will overlap with those in the first two lists you’ve made–that’s a good thing because it means you’ve been researching your niches all this time and you didn’t even realize it.

Also, be sure to keep this list as it’ll come in handy when it’s time for you to explore potential writing markets.

4. Find publications, websites, and blogs that focus on the topics you’ve listed so far and read them regularly.

The more informed you are about your niche, the better. Not only will you be up to date on the latest developments and information, you’ll also get a feel for the way articles and posts are written in your niche.

For example, a beauty care tip blog most likely isn’t written in the same way a political blog would be. Allow the different styles of writing to seep into your subconscious so it will be easier for you to write similar pieces later.

By now you’re probably thinking, fine! Niche! Got it! Now when do we get to *write*? Right now.

My reading niche by Speedboat on Flickr5. Start a blog.

Or, if the subject matter flows, start using your existing blog to start testing the waters of your niche. This is an especially useful tip if you don’t have any writing credits in a particular niche or any writing credits at all. Brand spanking newbies, I’m talking to you!

For now, don’t worry about readership (although that’s a nice bonus). What you’re really looking for is a platform in which to publish your writing to start getting you recognized as an expert in your niche; at the very least, you’ll have somewhere to point potential employers when they want to see samples of your writing. I know many say they want “published” samples, but hey, published on your blog is better than nothing at all, isn’t it?

Now this tip also works for more established freelance writers as well. If you’re ready for a new niche but are having trouble breaking in, write about it on your blog.

For example, I’ve recently started the Going Green series here at Bleeding Espresso. I don’t think I’ve published anything particularly “green” anywhere else, but now if I want to apply for, say, an environmental blogger position somewhere, at least I’d have something to back that up.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I *have* gotten job offers purely based on my blog (including one from Publishers Weekly that I couldn’t do because they won’t send books abroad…boo!), so never underestimate the power of a blog.

And hey, at the very least, through your blog, you’ll be working on your writing skills–and that’s never a bad thing.

OK, I think we’re finally ready to go job hunting, don’t you? Come back tomorrow for How to Find Freelance Writing Jobs!

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe through an RSS feed so you don’t miss a single Freelance Writing Week post.

Also free free to bookmark, Stumble, and share these posts with friends via email, your blog, and Twitter. The more people we have reading them, the more ideas and suggestions we can come up with in the comments. We freelance writers have to stick together!

What do you think your niche(s) are or might be?

15 Beans of Wisdom to “Freelance Writing Week: 5 Tips for How to Find and Develop Your Freelance Writing Niche”
  1. Ciao Michelle! Fabulous tips! I thought long and hard before starting a public blog, and now I wish I had sooner! For all the reasons you mention, it has been a wonderful experience the past three months. One of the best parts has been meeting all the great people who write online and write blogs in my niche! When you are a newbie, that online support means a lot. I don’t know if all niches are as welcoming and friendly as the Italy/ expat niche, but I can only say nice things about my experiences getting to know people online. And I agree that reading what is being written in your niche is so important. It is inspiring to see what people who share similar interests and experiences are up to. Now, if you would excuse me, it looks like I have some list making to do! 🙂

    Laura at Ciao Amalfi’s last blog post..Take a Virtual Drive on the Amalfi Coast!

    The Italy expat blog community is definitely a warm one…thank goodness. Great to have you along, Laura 🙂

  2. I love niches, they are also great for narrowing down the list of potential jobs and focusing on the ones that are a good fit for you. I write about travel (in general), italy, calabria, weddings and for children.

    cherrye at my bella vita’s last blog post..Meanwhile … on the Web

    Also a great way to keep work relatively enjoyable since you’re more likely to be writing about something that’s interesting to you 🙂

  3. I agree with Laura and Cherrye. I’m so glad I started my blog.

    When a friend mentioned I should, I was very skeptical.

    Now I think about all the great people I’ve “met” , how it made the move overseas easier and really pushed me to pursue writing full time.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..David Brent’s special dance for a special person,

    So many intangible benefits to blogging, I agree…can’t imagine life without it!

  4. joanne at frutto della passione

    I like having a niche. I also like seeing how far I can stretch to fit other ideas into it!!

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..Ultimate Blog Party 2009

    Indeed, Joanne…such a fun challenge 🙂

  5. 03.25.2009

    Here’s to the blog world! I don’t really freelance, and yet, the blog has brought about some great guidebook work I would have only dreamed about before. Now it’s making me wonder… is freelancing right for me??

    By the way Michelle, I really appreciate your down to earth, to the point blog postings on this topic. You do an excellent job of breaking this topic down into edible chunks! (euw, chunks sounds gross, maybe I’m not much of a writer after all! hah!)

    Karen’s last blog post..In Naples Virgil’s Aeneid Is Set To Music

    Hah, chunk is a funny word…you can always do humor 🙂

  6. 03.25.2009

    My blog is receiving so much attention and words of praise, it must mean I’ve hit the correct niche. I’ve also started a new one, which is even more niche-oriented! My agent subscribed to both and sends positive feedback, I’ve made new friends and I’m learning a lot. Anche grazie a te. Yours and a few others were the blogs that inspired me to start in the first place.

    Lola’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday – Fried Zucchini Blossoms

    Aw, thanks Lola; glad you’re enjoying your foray into the blogosphere as much as we are 🙂

  7. 03.25.2009


    I so apprecaite all of your solid advice on this topic. Another niche for you…..Freelance Writing 🙂

    Long ago when I decided I’d like to dabble in the FLW, I decided on my own that I would only want to write about the topics I know, love and are passionate about. IMHO, the work would be easier and would be more interesting to those who read it. And the fact that I don’t depend on it seoly for income would allow me to just write what and when I wanted. I like that about FLW.

    I had a blog for over a year before I started freelance work- it made me a better and faster writer. So it looks like I have followed most of your advice already 🙂 And I can’t say enough about a little birdie who was a mentor to me when I was getting started.

    I wonder who that could be???????

    My biggest problem is the resume/cover letter thing, finding work that I want to apply for and finding the time to apply for them. Maybe that will be covered in your series…….

    My Melange’s last blog post..Miss Expatria: The Interview and Book Giveaway

    Hopefully I’m answering your questions! I’m certainly trying 🙂

  8. Michelle,

    Just wanted to say I’ve been finding this series very useful. But how come no one has mentioned how cute are those niches? Perfect illustrations for this post. I could totally sit in that last one and read to my heart’s content.

    Wandering Chopsticks’s last blog post..Columbine and Hollyhocks

    Why thank you for noticing! I thought they were rather cute myself, especially that last one 🙂

  9. 03.25.2009

    This series is wonderful Michelle. It has been helpful to me, and I am sure others as well. 🙂

    Glad you’re enjoying it Aimee! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  10. 03.25.2009

    I have to echo Wandering Chopsticks sentiments. The photographs of sweet little niches that accompany this piece are remarkable. I love them! I guess my niches are parenting, cooking, and a bit about life as an expat, since I did that for over three years. It is funny, ’cause I am already blogging about cooking and parenting, and have a few photos of bel Italia on my blog too. Thanks for writing this series, it is very interesting, although with my busy days it is a wonder I get anything written on my blog and wouldn’t dare to try to fit freelance writing into the mix. Still, the information you give is very helpful to a blogger- such as write about what you know! Thanks again Michelle! =)

    Amber’s last blog post..Fried (Green) Tomatoes

    Finding time to really dedicate to freelance writing is probably the hardest part, especially if you’re just looking to do it part-time…kind of like trying to find time to finish that novel…I hear you!

  11. 03.26.2009

    These are excellent tips, Michelle! I so agree with them all and I’m loving my blogs! 😉 My passion is definitely health, natural medicine, raw foods, juice fasting, etc., and I’m loving writing about my passions. It’s such an honor and blessing!!


    Isn’t it wonderful to write about what you love? Thanks for sharing, Michele 🙂

  12. 03.26.2009

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Thanks Sarah!

  13. 08.26.2009

    I found a link to your blog from Freelance Writerville. I did start a blog to practice my non-fiction writing skills and possible niche market. But this post has inspired me to update and keep on with my blog. Thanks! I think I’m figuring out my niche.

    That’s awesome, Lyra! Keep going!

    .-= Lyra´s last blog ..The Dry Tortugas and the Lincoln Assassination =-.

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Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake