At the start of my business, I was so excited by the prospect of actually being paid to do something I loved that I'd write anything for anyone as long as there was a paycheck at the end. But I quickly found myself doing more legwork than actual paid work and having less time than before to spend with my family, neglecting the reason for starting my business in the first place.
The "Jack-of-All-Trades" Pitfall
It may sound contradictory, but my self-employed business venture didn't take off until I started doing less, not more. Those “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” proposals are easy to ignore and while I was sending out plenty of bids, I wasn't getting much in return. It wasn't until I started to define myself professionally beyond the extremely broad title of “writer” that I started to find success. Once I defined my niche, I found more work with less effort.
Narrow Your Focus
What sounds better: a jewelry company or a handmade recycled jewelry company? Makeup sales representative or all-natural cosmetics representative? Highlighting a specific area helps establish expertise. But, how do you pinpoint the right area?
I discovered my niche almost by accident, when I picked up an editing job for a camera website. That job, to this day, is still my favorite project to work on, because I love not just writing, but photography too. Find a specific area of work that you are passionate about and start there. Passion usually translates into excellent work (that doesn't feel like “work”).
Know Your Expertise
But, don't just stop at the areas you enjoy—there has to be expertise there to back it up. For instance, I enjoy country music, but I wouldn't even know where to start if someone asked me to write about it. In my case, I had spent nearly seven years as a photojournalist, so I had the experience to back up my passion for photography. There are millions of writers out there, but only a small percentage specialize in photography. Since then, I've picked up several gigs writing about photography, while spending much less time searching for them.
But how specific is too specific? Obviously, since you are reading this on a non-photography website, I don't limit myself to only writing about cameras. I like a bit of variety, and I'd be turning down some well-paying jobs if I limited myself to just one topic. Every business is different, but I've found success with having both topics that I write about (photography) and differnt types of writing (web content, media relations and marketing). As my business grows and I have more recurring clients, I continue to narrow my niche when applying for new projects.
Reap the Rewards
By focusing my business on just a few areas instead of one very broad one, I spend less time bidding on projects outside my expertise, I have more relevant experience to highlight within my bids and my days overall are much more focused. Look at the areas within your profession that interest you most and that you have the most experience with and choose an area to focus on. By selecting a niche, you'll spend less time on marketing and bidding and more time actually working.