Spend any significant amount of time in a freelancing community (online or offline) and you’re bound to hear gems such as “the riches are in the niches.” And you’ll hear that often because it’s the truth.
It’s fine if you start as a generalist (writer, VA, photographer, etc.), but ultimately you’ll find that you can command a higher rate if you specialize and get really good at a few things. So inevitably, this question pops up frequently in the 30 Days or Less Facebook groups: How do I pick a niche?
Since this is such a subjective issue, we can’t really give you a formula that will apply to you 100 percent. What we can do is talk to freelancers who have successfully picked a niche, and see how they did it.
Today we’ve invited Jessica Collins to share how she picked her copywriting niche: health and fitness.
Hey there, I’m Jessica Collins, founder of FlashFit Trainer, barefoot health and fitness writer, and momma bear of two. Today I’d like to dig into my freelance writing niche: why I chose it, whether or not it’s profitable, and where I find jobs.
So, why did I choose health and fitness as my niche?
The short answer: it’s in my blood.
The long answer: Everything about me, my habits, my blog, and my website is already about health and fitness: mind, body and spirit. Health and fitness has been my focus for over a decade in various ways. Three years ago, I even got my personal training license “just because.”
I had vaguely thought that having the certificate would give me more clout as a fitness writer (not necessary, but I just loved it that much), and now it really is paying off. Fitness and writing are my biggest passions in life. So, you pour them together into a big cauldron and you’ve got the most magical potion ever. It was only natural for me to decide on health and fitness as my writing niche. It makes me love my job!
Which leads me into why you should choose a niche that brings you passion:
Because it’s fulfilling.
Because it comes naturally.
Because your passion comes through in your words.
Because you deserve to love what you do.
Because you learn even more about your niche by writing about it on repeat.
In the end, choosing a niche you have passion about will make you more money.
Because the writing should come easily to you. You will certainly be able to write faster about things that come easily to you, that you already know about, and that you find fulfillment in.
Think about it. If I already have my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the fitness industry then I already know who the big influencers and brands in the industry are. Since I already read the relevant blogs, and I’m already fully immersed in the fitness world, the writing could happen in my sleep! Writing about something I already know so well also saves me a lot of brainpower.
And believe me, I can use all of the brainpower I can get!
So, now that we got all the passion out of the way, let’s move on to practicality.
Ok, so I picked my niche, but how can I break into my niche when I have NO experience?
1. Pick a niche that interests you, that you have a background in, or you have a desire to learn more about. All of the above applied to health and fitness for me. Writing about your passion will not turn your hobby into “work.” You’ve heard that turning your hobby into your profession will make you start hating said hobby, right? Hogwash! It makes your work even more exciting and you get to learn even more about your hobby as you research and write about it. We should all be so lucky as to work in a profession that is also our passion!
2. Start a blog on your own website and write relevant, professional content on there.
(Gina’s Tip: We put together a free tutorial if you need help getting started with that.)
3. Guest post. I pitched the Huff Post, got accepted, and got replies from over 100 fitness professionals for the article (including some fitness celebs!). This was an exceptional way to network and to show my credibility as a writer.
4. State your niche on all your social media platforms. No one’s going to wave a wand and appoint you a health and fitness writer. You just claim it and own it.
Here is how I do that on Instagram, for example:
5. Put together a portfolio, including your guest post and blog posts from above, and start pitching.
You should refuse work that doesn’t light you up. Refuse work? Blasphemy! But the whole reason why you became a freelance writer was because you loved it, right? Because the last thing you wanted to do was go work in cubicle land. Don’t allow unnerving assignments or clients ruin the whole thing for you. You’ll learn how to scope out the best clients and refuse writing projects that sap your soul.
6. Become a voracious student of your niche. Pick up some trade magazines, read the relevant websites, browse your subject on Pinterest (if applicable), and watch videos. As a fitness writer, I’m a fan of NASM’s The Training Edge and On Fitness for their research-based articles. I also have a subscription to mainstream Self and Shape magazines. I like to keep an eye on what’s happening on Medline Plus, and Science Daily.
7. Get a certification if you’re really over-zealous like me. I have a personal training certificate, but you don’t need one. Having one is great and it really helps me market my services. But, you can still write about health and fitness topics without a degree or certification in it. It’s all about how you market yourself.
Here’s How I Find Jobs in My Niche:
My current and previous writing jobs have come from several places:
I got several freelance writing jobs through friends and their referrals. Don’t be coy. Make sure your friends know you’re a writer for hire. They don’t know unless you tell them. And once you tell them, you never know who might need you. People come out of the woodwork in the weirdest places.
After being inspired by this post, I did some tweaking of my Twitter bio and got really clear on my niche and who I serve. I removed any personal details that weren’t business-related and started following and interacting with my target clients.
Right after doing that, a fitness app creator actually approached me for a lucrative writing job. We’re talking over $5000 when all was said and done with talks of continuing projects!
3. Cold emailing
When you want a certain kind of writing job, you need to go out there and invent it, if nothing else. That’s how you should approach cold pitching. Approach fitness startups and websites with a letter of introduction or article pitches.
Letter of introduction sounds fancy, but this is what I do: I basically introduce myself as a freelance writer, let the prospect know I’m trying to expand my network, and tell them the types of projects I can help with. If I notice something on their website I could help with (blog posts, for example), I’ll mention that. I always personalize each and every pitch after doing a scan of my prospects’ website. I also always follow up.
(Gina’s Tip: What a great idea! We’re big fans of cold pitching, so we’ve written extensively about it on Horkey HandBook. Here’s a good post to get you started.)
4. Job boards
I had to turn down many job board offers before I finally found one that was profitable on Problogger. Keep your eye on the major job boards but be particular about what you’re willing to accept so you don’t sell yourself short.
5. Ad agencies
If you do a little looking, you’ll find a few creative agencies that specialize in health and fitness content marketing. I usually check their websites to see if they have a place to apply as a freelancer first. If not, I send a letter of introduction and then follow up at a later date.
The types of writing vary as well. I’ve been doing a lot of blog posts and exercise descriptions. But you’ll want to have a certain type of writing in mind as well so you can hone in on the proper businesses.
Where you won’t find me looking for jobs? Content mills. End of story.
Now, you might be wondering if the health and fitness niche is too overcrowded to bother with.
I don’t think so. The health and fitness niche itself might be a bit crowded, but the writing side of it surely isn’t. I get the feeling that I’m one of few health and fitness writers. I’ve had several people tell me that they don’t know of many other copywriters in the health and fitness niche. In fact, the app creator that approached me on Twitter said he was so glad to find a rare writer who was also a personal trainer.
The hottest question of all, is health and fitness writing profitable?
Yes, but you have to be strategic about it.
Approaching individual personal trainers might not be as profitable as approaching fitness startups, pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers. Don’t be afraid to go big! For example, I pitched Chalene Johnson and even got a personalized response back! Those in the fitness world know who she is, but for those who don’t, she’s the creator of big-time fitness programs like Turbo Jam, Turbo Fire and PiYo and she’s becoming a major personality in the personal development sector.
To be profitable, you must be ruthless about turning down offers that are less than, at bare minimum, $0.15-$0.20 per word/$50 per 500-word post because you deserve at least that much (probably much more!) and there absolutely are better jobs out there. You need to set a clear price boundary that you won’t go below.
If health and fitness is your “thing,” then you can definitely turn it into a profitable profession!
Jessica Collins offers whip-smart copywriting for health and fitness entrepreneurs and startups from her rural home in Wisconsin. She’s a certified personal trainer and founder of Flashfit Trainer. If you’d like to snag her fitness “word collection” to help you compile the right words for your fitness copy, check it out HERE.