One of the earliest struggles that new freelancers face is finding a niche. Most freelancers understand the value of niching (become an expert, make more money, increase productivity), but finding one? It can be a frustrating and time-consuming process.
To help you on your quest and give you new insights into other freelance businesses, I’ve collected stories from 16 successful freelancers who have found their niche. Each one offers specific, actionable tips that can help you find your niche.
So, here we go: How did you find your niche?
Gina Horkey – Horkey Handbook
Gina’s niche: Personal finance and online business
How she found her niche: I leveraged my background as a personal financial advisor for almost a decade to break into financial writing. I didn’t know at the time that it was one of the higher paying niches, but was pleasantly surprised to find that out. One of my first unpaid gigs was for the Huffington Post. That became a great sample for my portfolio and helped with my writing credibility.
I ended up falling into the online business/freelancing niche as my blog took shape. I was basically just sharing what I was learning, which over time made me an authority in this space. After launching online courses, it just made sense to continue writing in this niche to broaden my reach.
Lizzie Davey – Wanderful World
Lizzie’s niche: I write in-depth digital marketing pieces for start-ups.
How she found her niche: I actually started out in the travel niche because I was originally a travel blogger back in the day (we’re talking 4 years ago now).
During that time I was working as an employee in the digital marketing industry, so I had specialist knowledge in this area. It took me 6 months or so to realise that digital marketing is a much-coveted skill set, which meant clients were willing to pay more. I also found I enjoyed writing about marketing more than travel (I admit I was starting to get jaded by the travel industry at that point) – it certainly helps when you love what you’re writing about!
Danny Margulies – Freelance to Win
Danny’s niche: I’m a sales copywriter. If a business needs to sell something online, I can write the words that help them do that.
How he found his niche: When I first started freelancing all I knew was that I wanted to be a freelance writer.
But pretty soon I realized that no one (including myself) had any idea what that meant. There are just too many different types of writing…so saying I was a “freelance writer” didn’t really mean anything.
At that point I decided to be a copywriter. It’s more specific than being a general writer because now you’re writing strictly for businesses. As a copywriter there are lots of things you can do… For example you can write blog posts, taglines, come up with names for products, write internal communications materials (e.g. an HR manual), and much more. But at least people understand what you do and it’s a good start for someone who is niching down from “writer.”
After a few months as a copywriter, I realized that my favorite type of writing was sales writing. I love the feeling of writing an email that helps a business sell more products/services and create more revenue. It also pays well! So I started focusing exclusively on sales copywriting.
Brent Jones – Brent Jones Online
Brent’s niche: I am a freelance social media manager with a focus on increasing targeted reach, engagement, and followers. I most often work with small, local businesses and independent professionals.
How he found his niche: When I first left my day job to start freelancing full-time, I experimented with offering a number of different services. I ultimately chose social media management to be my primary focus for three reasons:
(1) It allows me to create recurring, monthly billing agreements with clients, which is important to creating a consistent and regular income.
(2) There is an abundance of small businesses entering the world of online marketing for the first time, as well as new startups looking to increase their online visibility. In other words, there is a lot of available work in social media management.
(3) A lot of social media work can be scheduled in advance and automated. Not all of it, certainly, but it’s easier to hire help and scale than freelance writing or graphic design would be. My team is able to work on a number of client accounts each day and that frees up my time.
Erin Flynn – Erin E Flynn
Erin’s niche: I work with female freelance web designers and developers helping them improve their businesses.
How she found her niche: I am a female freelance web designer and developer myself, and noticed that so much of the information that was out there was generic business advice that was hard to apply to my own business. Though a lot of trial and error, I eventually figured out what worked for me, and started sharing what I learned with others.
I also have a knack (and a degree) for communicating with clients. Clear communication is key to a great project, so sharing what I’ve learned about speaking “client” has been really helpful to many of my students and has enabled them to reverse sticky situations, and keep things running smoothly.
It took a while to find my niche, but eventually it came down to creating what I wished had been available when I was getting started, as well as tapping into my rare communication skills to create a business that encompasses both, and helps others in my industry.
Carol Tice – Make a Living Writing
Carol’s niche: Small business, finance, franchising, startup, entrepreneurship, legal, restaurant, retail, insurance, real estate, M&A, public company coverage, corporate bankruptcies, nonprofits…and more.
How she found her niche: I didn’t narrow down my niche — the marketplace did. Too many writers spend hours sitting alone, trying to ‘figure out their niche.’ Instead, market and try to do several topics that interest you — and see where you get a response. Write on several different niches and see what pays best and what you enjoy most. Where those intersect will be your best niche(s). And whatever you do, don’t pick just one — it’s too risky. Think of where real estate writers ended up around 2009, for instance. You don’t have to find ONE niche — I have about 9 of them!
I began writing about communities and activism for alternative papers…and while I loved it, I soon discovered it didn’t pay very well! I needed to earn more, as the sole support of a family of five. I ended up applying for a full-time writing job covering hardware stores. I thought I would hate it, but as it turned out, I loved it! The world of business and retailing is a huge soap opera of interesting personalities and fortunes being made — and lost again. I never looked back. When I got back to freelancing in 2005, I pitched all the business expertise I’d acquired, and found clients in different areas, including a global healthcare and insurance consultancy (my dad sold insurance, so I was at least passing familiar — DO NOT discount the value of your life experience).
My biggest tip about niche is — stop trying to figure it out, and go get some clients! Write their assignments, and see what you think of the subject matter and the client type. You’ll soon work your way around to the areas you want to specialize in.
Carrie Smith – Careful Cents
Carrie’s niche: I started out as a financial writer based on my background as a small business accountant.
How she found her niche: Finding my niche was basically a lateral transition using my past experience to work for other blogs and brands to create content around personal finance and small business topics. It’s a niche that I’ve always loved researching, reading and writing about so it was a natural fit.
Since I started working as a financial writer I’ve narrowed down from simply personal finance topics, like budgeting and paying down debt, to more entrepreneurship topics related to becoming business owner, taxes, money management and business systems. Once I narrowed down my niche I was able to work with brands like QuickBooks and H&R Block which had much bigger budgets than the financial startups I was working with in the beginning of my career. So narrowing down my niche definitely paid off!
Laura Pennington – Six Figure Writing Secrets
Laura’s niche: Legal content writer
How she found her niche: After five years of working for attorneys as a researcher, I stumbled into legal blog writing. I found out that it was well-paid, fun to research, and had nuances that a lot of writers didn’t understand. It made for the perfect niche!
Alexia Bullard – Alexia P. Bullard
Alexia’s niche: I am a professional copywriter who specializes in writing laser-focused copy and in-depth blog posts about B2B and marketing topics. I primarily work with small business owners and marketing/marketing automation software companies.
How she found her niche: I have always had a passion for business, and have 10+ years of sales, retail, and customer service experience. I took a small gig with a content mill awhile back, and used that experience and passion to fuel my writing. I realized I was actually good at it, and that resulted in me launching my freelancing career.
Tori Mistick – Tori Mistick
Tori’s niche: Social media manager for local, small businesses in the retail and lifestyle fields.
How she found her niche: I’ve been managing social media for businesses for 7 years. Over that time I realized that the more focused I was, the more productive I could be and I could also become more knowledgeable in specific fields. I’ve had clients in tech and non profit, but it took me so much time to learn about them that I couldn’t do as much for them. When I got focused on apparel and accessory retailers and home improvement businesses, I could stay focused and work faster and smarter for them.
Monique Nelson – Designed by Monique
Monique’s niche: Graphic Designer, specializing in Book Cover and eBook Cover design and small business education.
How she found her niche: I love to learn and am often dabbling in new adventures and interests. I love social media and began my freelancing career as a consultant. But I got distracted by my love of writing, and migrated over to copywriting and ghostwriting for others. Soon enough though, my artistic side was challenging every move I made so I found my forever home in graphic design. While I will design just about anything upon request (I do love a good challenge), I absolutely LOVE designing book covers – probably because I love to read as much as I love to design, and with each cover I fell like I’ve contributed a small portion to encouraging the love of books.
Lotanna Ezeogu – Skills Tribe
Lotanna’s niche: Networking coach for shy and introverted entrepreneurs
How she found her niche: I fell into my niche by following the money. I made a list of things I was good at and loved to do, then I asked about 65 of my friends which ones they were interested in and which ones they would pay for and learning to network was by far the most popular. I started coaching and realized that I preferred to work with shy and introverted entrepreneurs.
Laura Lopuch – Laura Lopuch
Laura’s niche: Business copywriter who specializes in website, email and case study copy
How she found her niche: Looking back over my copywriting experience, I realized 90% of what I’ve written was for websites and I had a knack for it. The email and case study niches were from taking courses in both and really enjoying that type of copy. Also, I signed a client who’s primary revenue stream is her email list. Through that opportunity, I further honed my email copywriting skills.
Sara Frandina – Sara Frandina
Sara’s niche: Conversion copywriter who specializes in website copy, landing pages, and content strategy that supports conversion goals. (i.e. email signups, product purchases, free-trial enrollments)
How she found her niche: This came out of a lot of trial and error at the beginning of my freelancing journey three years ago. I worked with clients in more industries than I can count on my two hands (and toes, really), and I loved the variety of the subjects and research. Craving that variety led me to instead distinguish myself based on the type of work I do (specifically, conversion copywriting), rather than the exact industries I work with. This has also helped me hone in on educational opportunities as I seek out learning experiences that help me hone the skills I need within conversion copywriting.
My advice would be to not stress too much about fitting into any particular niche when you first start out, and when you do choose to, remember that a niche can be defined in many different ways.
Brittany Berger – Brittany Berger
Brittany’s niche: B2B startup marketing
How she found her niche: My full-time jobs have been in online marketing for B2B startups, so this is what I know and love. It’s what I have research and statistics memorized for, will never run out of ideas about, have industry contacts for, and can write quickly. More importantly, I just love it. I geek out about it and love every piece I write, which is why I can come up with so many ideas and write posts so quickly. I’m constantly inspired.
Glory Eke – Glo By Glory
Glory’s niche: Makeup artist specializing in makeup for special events
How she found her niche: I started doing makeup for girls in my dorm room in college. My love of makeup grew day by day as I wasted entire days that I should’ve been studying watching makeup videos on YouTube. My obsession turned into spending all of my money on makeup and building my kit. Nothing has ever fulfilled me more than making women feel more beautiful.
Want to learn about other freelance niches? Check out The Niche Notebook, a free list of more than 400 freelancers working in a variety of niches.