Should you worry about finding a niche as a freelancer or content creator? Here’s what I’ve learned from running my own websites.
I’ve been blogging for years. Since I set up a very pink website on Blogger nearly ten years ago in 2011, sharing my thoughts and interests on the internet has been a significant part of my life. In the beginning, when I didn’t even know how to check my stats on Blogger, I wrote without shame, without thinking of who could be reading. I simultaneously wanted everyone and no one to read my thoughts on everything from myself to why we listen to sad songs when we’re sad (that was an actual post).
Later, after I started sharing my fiction online, I discovered Twitter and people actually started to read my posts. Thanks to my perfectionistic tendencies (must. never. make. a. mistake) I still feel equal parts terror and excitement when I hit publish on anything, whether it’s a tweet, blog post, or newsletter. But boy, do I like to write. I think it’s my love for immortalizing thoughts and emotions — and sharing the things I love with other people that helps me beat the anxious sweats that come with the territory.
In my late teens, I started to create lifestyle content — posts about what I was wearing, places I was traveling, the food I was eating, and the books I was reading. For a while, I was still sharing my fiction and poetry on the same website, something I worried was inherently confusing for readers who perhaps preferred one type of content. Still, my range of content worked for a just-for-fun blog — an online diary of sorts.
By my early twenties when I started to actively consider a career in content creation, I realized it was time to pick a side. Around that time, I had started reading children’s books and even tutoring kids in English and Reading. Many “how to start a blog” articles recommend choosing a niche, but it can be challenging when you have multiple interests. Plus, for a long time I wanted my blog to be a hobby, and it was and still is something genuinely pleasurable. But as I delved into curating book lists for kids, my hobby became an uncompensated part-time job. For reference, it takes altogether 3-4 hours to create a list with 30 books,.
Granted, I enjoy it and could do it allll day (trust me, I have), but if I was going to shelve client work to blog, I needed to at least make sure my blog could pay its rent on the internet. That was my goal: make enough to pay for your website’s domain renewal. So I started to pay closer attention to what my readers enjoyed and made more of that. Then I folded up my shame (because oh dear, I was about to ask to get paid for blogging about books), put it in a box, and packed it away somewhere. I started taking my affiliate marketing seriously and set up a PayPal account to accept donations.
Eventually, people donated through my PayPal account, bought books through my links, and shared my resources with their network. Then, I began to actively monetize my website by displaying ads (which I hated at first, but they make money, so…). My most recent step has been providing opportunities to authors and other brands for paid promotion on my website.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying: I’m so grateful I bumbled around long enough to figure out what I want to be about.
See, finding a niche takes time, and yes, you may know a few people who blog about a little bit of everything. But I’ve realized that many of those websites still have a niche. Their audience knows what they’re coming back for. Two of my favorite blogs in the world are Modern Mrs. Darcy and A Cup of Jo, and they’re lifestyle blogs. Yet, Anne Bogel’s lifestyle blog is built on the foundation of books, and Joanna’s on style, motherhood, and storytelling.
How do you find your niche though?
Many people don’t have the luxury of knowing instinctively. So, often the best way is by trying a little bit of everything. When I was sharing some news about opportunities I’ve recently gotten from my blog with a friend, she said something that inspired this post, and I’ll quote loosely:
“I love that you weren’t afraid to reinvent yourself so many times.”
That’s another thing about finding a niche. It doesn’t mean you have to stay in a tight box forever. Sometimes, your book blog will grow into “books with a touch of lifestyle,” and then return to “strictly books.” You just have to try, and try, and see what sticks.
One thing I’ll tell you, though, is that it makes a difference to have a niche. Not only do people know what to expect, but you become an “expert” in your field. The other day, I got an email from a publisher that called me “an expert in Children’s literature” and I did a double take, because OKAYY! I hadn’t even thought of myself as an expert!
“Niching” also means you can really serve your audience, serve so well, they’ll leave every single post feeling enriched, full, like they gained something new every time. That’s what I want to deliver with every post, every newsletter, every resource, every time.
Establishing yourself as an expert is easier with things like book blogs, food blogs, hair and skincare blogs, but if you’re a lifestyle blogger, I’ve found something that helps: honesty. The lifestyle bloggers who thrive, come as they are. They share real stories — not necessarily everything about themselves, but the truth about the things they do share. However, as Dami writes in this post, it takes a level of bravery and vulnerability.
If you’re a content creator, don’t box yourself in so early, but be alert to what fans your flame. What kind of content get you excited to share? Try to share despite the fear. Which ones do your audience seem to never get enough of? Those are your moneymakers — if you want to make money off your content, of course.
Lean into them.
Then put your head down and do the work.
When I’m not writing about books, I’m writing engaging B2B/B2C content for my clients — or editing them! I’d love to hear your thoughts on finding a niche as a freelance writer. Was it easy for you? Or did it just happen?