Every writer has a niche. Somewhere they belong. Or, in practical terms, a topic about which they can reel off endless facts, and feel comfortable writing about with a degree of authority. Finding yours can be a great way to show off the knowledge you’ve spent a lifetime curating, and make some actual money from your hobbies or interests.
As a general rule, try to keep your area of expertise as narrow as possible. Look for depth rather than breadth. For example, ‘sport’ is not a niche because it’s far too wide a topic. So is ‘recreational sport.’ But, you can focus on just ONE recreational sport (like fishing) and you’re getting there. But, take it a step further. Fishing in certain geographical areas, using certain equipment, a particular fish, or any combination of the above (fly fishing for trout in Western US rivers, anyone?) and you’ve hit the nail on the head. No niche is too small. Perhaps the best thing about the way the media has evolved and fragmented in recent years is that there are now markets for absolutely anything.
Once you’ve identified your micro niche, you have to establish your reputation, and get your name out there. This needn’t be as difficult as it sounds. In this day and age, social media is a must, so set up Instagram and Twitter accounts, along with a Facebook business page, and keep them separate from your personal ones. A blog is also a good idea, and can eventually become a revenue stream in itself, but this requires more work and upkeep. To begin with, you’ll need a snappy, easily-searchable title.
You can build an audience by simply being actively involved in the social networking community (look for relevant hashtags and groups), and sharing snippets of information or advice, tips, and even relevant articles from other sources. Don’t see this as a chore. If you have a genuine passion for the topic, you’ll probably be seeking out this kind of news on a regular basis anyway, and will already have identified the best sources of information. It’s a great way to keep your accounts ticking over and your name at the forefront of people’s minds with a minimum of effort. Of course, you don’t have to wait until you get some traction before you start pitching to editors, but your chances of publication will be greatly enhanced if you have some kind of platform.
It’s vital to be as proactive in as many ways as possible. Network, network, network! Join clubs and associations, Facebook groups, subscribe to newsletters and magazines, go to social events, be a presence, and build up a contact list. Then, email everyone on it explaining what your area of expertise is, what you can offer, and most importantly, that you’re available for commissions. If you make firm connections, even outside the publishing industry, your name will be passed around. I lived and worked in China for several years and I made sure everyone in my professional circle was aware of this. Now, I am regularly contacted by various publications to supply comment or even features.
Also, don’t neglect the PR and marketing companies who get paid a great deal to promote the clients who hire them. They can’t do that without people like you. So, do some research, and find out who represents who and what in the field you’ve chosen to immerse yourself in and, again, introduce yourself. Being on their mailing lists is a great way to keep ahead of the curve with regards to innovation and popular trends, and you’ll also be privy to interview opportunities, product launches, and free samples, all of which can be worked into features.
Some writers feel restricted by their niche. Don’t. Instead, think outside the box, and constantly be on the lookout for ways in which you can ‘cross over.’ Let’s say you know a lot about French cuisine. Great. There are probably several high-paying specialist food outlets for you to approach, but don’t limit yourself to these. A review of that new French restaurant in your city may appeal to your local newspaper, as well as any number of magazines and websites dedicated to food, lifestyle, culture, eating out, France, or even Europe in general. It really just depends on how you spin it.
We all have a unique skill-set. Harness yours and make it work for you!
Chris Saunders, who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, is a freelance journalist and editor from south Wales. His work has appeared in almost 100 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide, and he has held staff positions at several leading UK magazines ranging from Staff Writer to Associate Editor. His books have been both traditionally and independently published, the latest release being a collection of short fiction called X4.
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