THIS makes you stand out to high-quality freelance clients (it's not what you think)Dec 11, 2021
Did you know that a well-defined writing niche is often the difference between freelancers who make a comfortable living and those still struggling to make a full-time income?
As many of you know, I'm a freelance writer and content marketer. Besides writing for clients, I also hire teams of writers.
When I’m wearing my ‘content lead’ hat, I receive cold pitches, sort through websites, and browse portfolios to decide which writers will move on to the next round (a brief Zoom call) to learn more about them and tell them more about the project.
In this post, I'll share one of the most common mistakes I see writers make when pitching me so you can avoid them.
A behind-the-scenes look at the freelance hiring process
My clients hire me to flesh out their content marketing strategy. While they expect me to write for them, they also understand I have limited bandwidth and need additional writing help.
They ask me to find other freelancers to lighten the load. When I post the opportunity, I usually receive about fifteen emails with a brief introduction and links to portfolios and websites. Then I start to dig…
Here are the two most common scenarios I see:
I can tell Writer A is a newer freelancer. They’ve done a guest post here and there, but it’s mostly self-published pieces.
Their website is tailored to B2B tech companies, the exact industry I’m hiring for. The copy on their website includes terms that jump out to me as someone in the tech industry. For example, they use words like “SaaS,” “recurring revenue,” and “customer experience,” all buzzwords in the tech world.
While I can tell their portfolio pieces are mostly self-published, it’s obvious that they understand how to structure a blog post and know how to do research.
I feel confident that when I assign them a writing brief, they’ll understand the assignment and be able to get the job done.
Writer "B" has been a copywriter for 5+ years. Their website talks about their copywriting skills and how happy their clients are, all backed up by client testimonials.
I hop into their portfolio, which has dozens of pieces. It’s clear that they’ve been doing this for a while. However, their samples are about real estate, health, and beauty. After some digging, I see that they have 1-2 tech samples.
While I'll consider this writer, nothing makes them stand out. I know they can write, but I'm still wondering whether they'd be able to grasp the subject matter I'd assign them.
Which writer gets the job?
If you guessed that I'd go with writer A, you're correct.
This scenario is based on my own experiences hiring writers. My preference would be to hire a writer who specializes in my field, since I assume the writer has specialized knowledge. In the same way, I go to my dermatologist for skin issues rather than my general practitioner.
It's ironic that choosing ONE area of specialization to specialize in is the most overlooked step copywriters make when they begin their career.
What if I want to write in more than one niche?
As I always say, your chosen niche doesn’t have to be set in stone. You can always switch it up. You may even have multiple niches at once. If, however, you still struggle to get clients and establish yourself as a copywriter, I would suggest focusing on one niche and mastering it before moving on to the next.
If you absolutely must have multiple writing niches, I recommend you have seperate websites and portfolios dedicated to each niche. Clients should be able to read your site and samples and know right away that you're the right writer for the job. Your expertise is difficult to recognize when it is spread across different topics.
Putting it into action
If you're having a hard time finding clients, or if you're having a hard time finding high-quality, high-paying clients, ask yourself these questions before submitting your portfolio:
- Are all my writing samples on the same subject?
- Is it easy for a client to see that I am experienced in their industry by looking at my site or do they have to dig to find out?
- Do the messages on my website speak to the industry-specific pain points of my ideal client or do I just talk about copywriting in general?
The bottom line on choosing a niche to command higher freelance rates
Some of the highest-paid freelance writers I know started by dominating ONE writing niche. This simple decision can impact the entire course of your freelance career—I know it did in my case.
From the perspective of someone who hires writers, I usually choose the writer with a clearly-defined niche because it makes them seem more knowledgeable.
If you want to target two different niches, I recommend having two different websites to streamline your portfolio and site and can be easily read by your ideal clients.
When it comes to landing high-paying clients, you may want to go back to the basics and determine whether your online presence is sending the message you want it to. In my experience, failing to choose a niche is one of the most common mistakes I see writers make.
Although many writers make a living by writing in multiple niches, it is not the quickest path to making a lucrative income in the shortest amount of time.