The talk among freelance writers is often about picking and staying within a niche. We all know that niching down means better clients and more money.
But what happens when you want to write outside of your niche, but don’t want to step too far outside of your comfort zone?
Lisa Kimrey shares what she did to transition from writing whitepapers in the healthcare field to writing an essay for a women’s website that was shared 44,000 times. Yes, that’s forty-four thousand times.
Shortly after I started the 30 days or Less to Freelance Writing Success course, I came to a stark realization. I was going to have to learn how to write outside of my niche.
My niche – medical writing (white papers, research, data and trend analysis), is very specific, and most of the ‘good’ writing jobs I found were at least part-time hours, with most of them requiring full-time hours.
The salaries were also very tempting, but I yearned to be my own boss and work much less so I could spend more time with my family.
I decided to explore other ideas to make it as a freelance writer. And I discovered a gold-mine of options.”
After a little digging, I found that I could go way out of my niche, but still stay within my comfort zone.
What does that mean?
I learned to write content that I knew about (or at least knew where to research), for different audiences, in a totally different voice.
In fact, this is what happened when I took a chance and decided to write outside of my niche:
- My very first paid submission was published and shared 44 thousand times in seven days and resulted in an invitation to be a content writer.
- My very first unpaid newsletter article (for a sample) resulted in an invitation to be an ongoing content writer. It also helped me add an awesome testimonial to my website and brought a referral to a women’s advocate/PR journalism editor.
- My very first unpaid journalistic article (for a sample) was published on an international website and shared in syndication.
I did not expect any of these outcomes, and none would have even occurred had I not loosened my grip a bit on my niche.
1. How to Change Your Niche for a Different Audience
Anytime we write, we should consider our audience. Here are the five things I did to adjust my niche for a different audience:
1. I started by looking for websites with a lot of traffic AND a high submission rate.
Think about popular lifestyle, current events, pop culture or opinion websites. I chose XO Jane.
2. Next, I reviewed the top posts on that website.
Look for the posts that were shared the highest number of times on social media.
3. I read at least 10 to 12 of the site’s top posts.
Very likely the articles will be on a variety of topics. That is a good thing. The more topics, the easier it is to apply your niche to the audience. It is also possible to see some ‘edgy’ content or titles. Take note of any trends.
4. I analyzed the comments section.
I found the real nuggets to be in the comment section of those articles. First, notice whether the comments are supportive of the topic. Or maybe they have a negative tone?
Look for what is being considered to be positive topics by the audience. Conflict can be scary for a new writer so if that bothers you (it bothered me), pay attention to the topics that promote positive feedback. The response will have a greater shot at being positive if you know what makes your audience happy (versus upset).
5. I noted the architecture of their articles.
Typically, the website will have submission guidelines, but look at the flow of the top shared articles. Note any commonalities.
Look at tenses, flow, or sing-song type writing. Are they written as letters, personal essays, biographies, etc.?
2. How to Adjust Your Niche for a Different Voice
I rarely use edgy terms. (Ok, I really never use them.) And that works great in a whitepaper, right? Not so much anywhere else.
Here is what I did to change it up and match my voice to the intended audience: As mentioned above, read through all of the comments. Be absolutely sure to read the replies and comments under the comments. The most valuable treasures are in this section right here. Then:
1. I noted whether the comments were supported by other audience members.
I found the audience’s language jargon, age ranges, life experiences, passions and beliefs in the responses to comments. People were justifying their positions, all the while teaching me to listen to and learn their ‘voice.’
2. I paid special attention to the phrases and terms used.
To write in a different voice, use whatever phrases and jargon that you see the audience using in your article. Put those words into your subject line to the editor. Put them in the title of your article.
3. How to Adjust Your Niche for a Different Perspective
Ok, this next one is going to sound weird. But, the way I started thinking differently about how I could gain a new or different perspective on my niche was by imagining my niche topic in the center of a bull’s-eye target. I then worked from the very center to the last ring on the outside.
To move outward, I looked at my niche topic using the different voices or perspectives that learned about the audience from the comments.
Specifically, I looked through the eyes of people in other roles, genders, ages or job titles.
Then I looked through the eyes of people who had different passions, values or beliefs.
Other ideas formed as I moved away from my original idea to the outside ring of the bull’s-eye target.
You will be surprised at what you come up with if you spend a few minutes doing this!
Finally, I had to start writing the article outline with my best. I started with an article outline that allowed me to write my best content for my typical audience, and then edited my best work into the format, architecture, jargon or phrases for the intended audience.
I did all of the above on that first article.
To be truly transparent, my article’s title was so edgy to me that I was embarrassed to post my published article on my social media site. That is, until the post started to get shared over and over again.
And something funny happened. The comments on my article were about the edgy title and how the title made the audience want to read my article! Some of the readers blamed the website for changing my title to increase their ratings.
Nope, I picked a title based on comments from the audience. And, man did that work out well!”
No doubt, it can be intimidating to write outside of your niche, but I have found that taking the risk and doing a little drilling can have a big payoff. If you adjust your niche for a different audience, a different voice and a different perspective you can find hidden jewels in different writing sources and yet still stay safely within your comfort zone.
Have you ever tried writing outside your niche? How did it go? Tell us in the comments.
Lisa is a writer, a Virtual Assistant for hire, and a business consultant. She has 24 years of experience as an RN in a variety of settings. Lisa enjoys helping clients with cost analysis and process improvement, and finds joy writing health and medical articles and about her nursing experiences. You can read more of Lisa’s work at Mylifenurse.com