It’s been a couple of years since I’ve explored the topic of niche writing, so I thought I’d venture down this path again and add some ideas to fuel both sides of the debate many new writers have with themselves: Should I find a writing niche and stick to it? I’ve heard cases for both sides, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve heard and add my own two cents.
First the advantages to having a writing niche as opposed to writing in various genres or in several writing outlets (magazines, online, business media, etc.)
1. You will learn to hone your skill in one area, which means you will ultimately get better at it
2. You will become “known” for a certain type of writing
3. You can make more effective industry connections if you stick to one area of writing (the logic here is that you won’t spread yourself thin at industry events but rather meet people who write or publish only what you write, thus more effective networking)
4. You will have a better chance of selling yourself and your work to a publisher or agent because they will see you as a long-term prospect in your niche (meaning more predictable), as opposed to someone who continually jumps around trying different things
5. You will have an easier time branding yourself so that you become the product along with your work, which helps with future projects and promotions
Now, the disadvantages of having a niche vs. not:
1. You will miss out on any writing opportunities that don’t fall within your niche
2. You won’t learn to expand as a writer unless you take on different roles or attempt several outlets for your writing
3. You can make more money as a freelancer if you have multiple revenue streams from various forms of writing
4. You don’t want to pigeonhole yourself if your niche sees a decline in popularity
5. Having the same niche for too long can cause you to become stale as a writer
Many of you have probably heard these or similar arguments–you may have even had this debate with yourself. So, which side is correct? Here’s my two cents:
If you are a new writer, still trying to figure out what you want to do, my advice is to spread yourself out. Try various genres. Write for whoever wants to hire you or where you think you can land a publishing credit (within reason, of course!). If you are trying to make writing your sole income, then I would suggest creating as many possible revenue streams with it as possible. Then…
Once you gain some real experience as a writer and begin to find your voice, start narrowing the field. Try to hone in on one or two areas that you’ve received good feedback in or that you believe is both a strength of yours and an interest. Begin to perfect your craft in these or one two areas, but still try to seek as many outlets for these specific areas as possible.
I think it’s important to write what you have a passion for, or your writing career will probably not last long. If you’re in it to simply make some money or follow the latest greatest writing trend, then you will most likely not succeed long term. Or, if you do, I doubt that you will feel good about yourself.
In a nutshell, my belief (and I’m sure there are some out there who can prove me wrong) is that for the short term, expand your horizons and don’t lock yourself into a niche until you can decide what exactly that niche should be. As your writing career progresses, begin looking to define yourself in some unique or at least narrow way. In the long term I believe this is where you will find the most success and the most satisfaction as a writer.
But, also remember, writing is a journey, so don’t rush this process. Take the necessary time to discover who you are and who you really want to be as a writer. And don’t let anyone or any market define that for you. After all is said and done, you are the one who has to live with yourself!