Do you really need a niche? This frequently asked critical question has split even pro copywriters into 2 camps, but a common piece of advice you’ll hear is this:
“When you’re ready, niche down.” –Many copywriters
But what does that even mean? When are you meant to be ready? Vague recommendations like these rarely do us any favors, leaving many of us more confused than ever before.
So let’s go over and clarify some of the confusion regarding niche selection.
What is a generalist?
You can do everything! Ebooks, white papers, from the copy to the design, you’re an expert in all things marketing. Sounds like a dream for your client, right?
Wrong. You either know how to do one thing well, or you’re a jack of all trades. In this day and age, yes, it makes sense to know more than one thing, but more like, “Hey, I’m a copywriter, but I get that marketing isn’t all just copy, so I know a lot about marketing strategy, advertising, working with designers, etc.”
Positioning yourself as a business and marketing consultant can work, but that’s different from saying you can do everything for everyone.
Take a look at this poster below, whose post I came across on Reddit’s /forhire job board. Can you guess the types of responses this post garnered?
Most of them were asking about the poster’s skills, but the top comment read, “Help me cure my crippling depression.”
You get the picture.
My personal Why for specializing 🤷♂️
When I re-entered the wonderful world of freelancing a few months back, I’ll admit I was stuck. It was bad. I couldn’t get a client to save my life. And the clients I did get were balking at the rates I used to command with ease just a year and some change ago.
So what’s a copywriter to dooooooooooo?
I niched. Hard. I went all SAASy. And guess what happened next?
I started landing clients again. Not nearly at the rate I want, mind you, but still a fair enough rate to live comfortably and save a little. So I know niching down works, because it helps distinguish you from everyone else, and it helps you speak directly to your prospects’ needs.
But the best part?
When I was presenting myself as a generalist, I was targeting everyone, and I would barely get many serious responses. But once I niched down?
Not only did I hear back from my ideal prospects, people were reaching out to me for work that wasn’t even in my niche!
Why niche down?
Here are the pros and the single con I hear brought up time and again when it comes to generalizing versus niching down.
So with niching, you get to position yourself as an expert in your client’s industry. How awesome is that? And all the samples in your portfolio will reflect exactly the type of work your prospect is looking for, so you’re making them think, “Holy hell, this is a match made in heaven. It’s like this copywriter was made for my business.”
When you’re an expert copywriter of X, you call the shots. Instead of having the client tell you what it is they want from you, you get to tell them what you think of their plan, what they should do instead (if their plan requires improvements), and how you can help them do it.
You save time. Because you already understand the audience, you get to save time. You know what the industry’s about. You understand the offer and/or your client’s services. You’ve already navigated the technical complexities and simplified it before. You already know how to explain the jargon in casual lingo.
In short, you get it.
Our featured expert’s opinion: Joshua Killingsworth
To increase the value, you need to be able to get conversions. Getting the conversion requires you to understand who you’re talking to, what they desire, how you’re giving them what they want, and how to ask for the sale in a way that will resonate with them.
When you’re starting over in a new niche, or working in weight loss one day, finance the next day, business opportunity a week later, then eCommerce a week after, you’re at square one every time.
Niching down lets you develop a complete understanding of the target market so your research is easier and you spend more time writing — which puts more money in your pocket at the end of every month. Pick a niche with a healthy level of marketers, entrepreneurs, and publishers so you can keep your pipeline full, write more every day, deliver more value, and increase your rates so you’re getting paid what you’re worth to the company with less stress and less effort on your part.
At the end of the day, your clients are happy because they’re getting conversions (since you understand the market better than the market understands themselves) and happy clients give you referrals and repeat work.
Niching down is the fastest way to get off the freelance roller coaster and reach sustainable income levels with a pipeline that is full enough to let you pick and choose the projects you want to work on — while setting rates that make it impossible for 80% of your potential clients to afford the investment in you.
Here’s the one argument against niching I’ve read about:
Boredom. Apparently, when you niche down, you’re pigeon-holing yourself into a single niche, so things tend to get boring. I don’t follow this line of argument. First off, writing in a niche you’re passionate about should never get boring.
Let’s take an example. Say you’re in the pets niche. You can write about all kinds of pets, and you can write about grooming, or accessories, or health, or whatever. There’s such a wide spectrum of topics you can write about, and you can do email, blogs, case studies, etc.
Same with gaming. Tech. Yoga. And so on.
Does this sound like it can get boring? I mean, sure, you can get jaded from writing about weight loss and fitness daily, but a nice break might be warranted if that’s the case.
Because that sounds more like burnout than boredom.
Say there are 5 “Chinese Restaurant”s, and one comes along and writes, “Special Noodle Shop for Dim Sum Lovers”, even with a half-generic name, you’re differentiating yourself like crazy.
Even if the other Chinese restaurants offer the exact same thing, if you’re in the mood for noodles or dim sum, where would you go? Surely not to 1 of the 5 Chinese restaurants, but the restaurant that looks like it’s made pour vous. (That’s “for you” in French, you savage.)
When should you niche down?
At a bare minimum, you need a few samples in a specific niche you’re targeting.
Look, I get it. If you’re just starting out, you might need to get a few general clients to see:
- What comes your way
- To get a feel for what you’re good at, and
- To leverage what you’re already experienced in or knowledgeable about.
We’ll go over each of these in the next section, but for now, keep this in mind: If you’ve got at least 4 writing samples in a single industry or have written, say, only email copy for a variety of industries, then you should try niching down.
How to niche down
So let’s dig a bit deeper here into how to niche down.
What are you good at? Do you have experience in a specific niche? Say you’re a data wiz or you’ve got an amazing physique because you just get dieting and exercise. What do you have a natural knack for? This will make it easier down the line because you can apply your own personal spin to all your work, which can help position you as an expert.
What do you enjoy doing? This one’s important. Just because you’ve heard that such and such a niche pays well doesn’t mean you should dive in headfirst. Because guess what?
There are people in that niche who do enjoy what they’re writing about, and they’re damn good at it too. Don’t put yourself in an uphill battle by picking a niche solely based on profitability.
I remember a Gary Vee interview where someone asked him what they should do with their lives. He asked, “What do you enjoy doing?” Once the person responded, Gary said, “Go and do that. Do it, and figure out a way to get paid doing it.” This pretty much boils it all down to a nutshell.
Lastly, what do you have experience with? If you’re a technician by trade or an expert on solar panels (or even more broadly, green energy), you’re in a pretty strong position to write in your niche. The main reason?
Because you already have an in-depth understanding of the customers in this space.
Another consideration is this: What does your portfolio currently look like? You can go from A to Z in a straight line if your portfolio already has 9 out of 10 pieces in a specific area, based on relevant experience you might have accumulated working for just one client in one industry for a couple years.
And what do you do once you’ve found your niche?
Figure out if it’s profitable, and if it’s not, determine if there’s a profitable subniche within that niche. Collate roughly 4 strong samples, and start reaching out.
One final consideration: Can you deliver? I know many who claim to be SEO copywriters, but very few actually understand how to interpret the data and make data-driven decisions, or write content based on linkability and solid quantitative research.
Some profitable niches for freelance copywriters
First, let me take a moment to share a few thoughts on the profitability of niches. See, if you want to work with local small businesses, chances are you’re going to struggle. That’s because you can work with as many of your favorite local grocery stores as you want, but if they don’t have the budget for you (and small businesses usually don’t), then you’re fighting an uphill battle.
Think about it like this: The duration of the sales cycle (the time your prospect needs to consider your offer and accept) is longer for small business owners than it is for bigger businesses with a quarterly marketing budget. That’s because small business owners are more likely to see you as an expense, especially when things are tight.
Now let’s go over a few solid niches, both vertical and horizontal, to give you some ideas.
Let’s cover profitable vertical niches first (multiple types of copy for a single niche, like SAAS):
- Email sequences
- Landing pages
- Social media ads
- Blog articles
- Lead magnets
- White papers
- Case studies
And here are a few profitable horizontal niches (multiple types of copy for a specialized offer):
- Real estate agencies
- Law firms
- Marketing agencies
- HR firms
How will niching down help you?
Just because you niche down doesn’t mean you’ll get bored writing the same thing over and over again. This is short-sighted thinking. Why?
Because it makes no sense. First off, just because I’m a SAAS copywriter doesn’t mean I’m writing the same thing over and over again. I have many SAAS clients, and they offer many different types of services, ranging from video annotation tools to digital asset management.
But marketing myself as a SAAS copywriter means I get the technical stuff, but more importantly, I get the psychology of SAAS audiences.
Not only that, just because I work as a SAAS copywriter doesn’t mean I work exclusively in SAAS. My list of my clients includes Bangkok Fight Lab (an amazing MMA gym) and Cooper Consulting (a research editing firm). Aside from that, I run a couple side hustles, neither of which involve SAAS… and yet, I keep getting approached from outside this industry for work.
You can make the argument that you’ll never get bored with all these fun projects you get to work on if you’re a generalist. But guess what? You’re running a business, not a hobby.
If you enjoy getting paid occasionally for random projects here and there, instead of taking your business seriously and setting up processes and systems for the same type of work, which can increase your chances of consistency, and in turn, success, then good on you.
But I need systems. I need consistency. I need predictability in my business because I need financial stability in my life. Because I can’t afford to miss a payment of one of my tools or bills, or I’ll start struggling and play catchup. But if you can afford to treat this as a hobby, be my guest, and generalize.
Be the copywriter for everyone. But here’s a caveat: That saying, “Try to sell to everyone and you’re speaking to no one”? I’m sure I butchered it, but my point is this: It applies here too.
By the way, if you think my images are hilariously bad, that’s intentional. I love bad stock photos. They make me laugh. They make me smile. They make me cry. 🤙