You Actually Don’t Need A Niche– Here’s Why

If you're a technical writer who dreams of writing about sailing-- do it.

Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, a common response is, “Oh, what do you write about?”

It’s an understandable question to ask, but it always leaves me floundering for a second. What do I write about? Maybe the answer they’re looking for is, “I write about relationships.” Or, “I write articles for a business blog.” I think most people assume many writers stick to a certain niche or specialize in writing on a particular subject.

I don’t.

And I know a lot of other writers don’t specialize, either. It sort of flies in the face of the old rule, “Write what you know.” It can be limiting to only write about what you know, to only take on work that revolves around a single subject. Personally, I love learning new things, and I never feel comfortable writing about something until I completely understand it, so when I enter a new territory, I learn everything I can before I start writing.

And of course, within a subject there can certainly be room for growth and learning, but what if you stepped outside of your specialty? A whole new world of writing, jobs, and learning could be waiting for you. If you write about home improvement for a blog and you’ve done that for years, could you translate those clips into a proposal to write for a publication about sailing? Heck yes you can. And you should, if that’s something you’re interested in learning and writing about.

So when people ask me what I write about, I pause and sometimes say, “I write about a whole range of things.” Or I’ll say, “Well, I’m a guest blogger for LendingTree.com, I blog for YourTango’s CelebLove page and wrote a couple of personal essays for the Traditional Love blog, I write a weekly cooking column for my local Patch.com page, I write a bi-weekly column for Patch about keeping your family healthy, I’ve written a number of blog posts for an Occupational Therapy blog out of Cananda, I used to write book reviews and feature articles for my local paper, I’m doing some copywriting for a graphic design website, I regularly contribute to the women’s site MoxyMag.com, I’m working on a novel and short stories, and I keep two blogs: one about writing, and another about personal style.”

I feel confident saying I don’t specialize; rather, I’m versatile enough in my writing to stretch from essay writing, to blogging about home buying and celebrities, to news writing.

Why don’t you need a niche?

If you feel limited by the idea of specializing in one subject, don’t do it. When new writing opportunities come up, or when I have new ideas for stories, I go with them. I do research, learn what I need to learn, and dive in. If you’ve only ever written news pieces for a local paper but you want to start doing restaurant reviews for a magazine, or you want to write about pets or finance or growing organic vegetables, then you should. If your writing is strong enough, it will show potential clients that you have the ability to write and the ability to do it well– that’s what they want to see.

Specializing won’t mean that you will always get the writing gig you hope to get. In fact, I think it’s a better idea to have a wide range of topics under your belt so you’re ready when a potential client comes along who loves your writing. With all the opportunities available to writers today with the internet, I think it’s better to show that your niche is writing well; that tells people you’re versatile and smart enough to do research and stretch yourself.

Do you specialize in your writing, or do you branch out? Share with me in the comments!

5 thoughts on “You Actually Don’t Need A Niche– Here’s Why”

  1. Kristin, that is exactly what I needed right now. Thank you. I’ve been wrestling with what niche to take on and believing I need to find one. All the while, knowing that I want to write about numerous subjects. You just gave me permission and your success proves it can be done. Screw the niche. I’m going to dive into many subjects and let my writing speak for itself.

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  2. I go both ways on this.

    On the one hand, I don’t let my niche (sex?) define me. I’ve branched out into love and relationships content. I blog about freelancing and entrepreneurship. I wrote an article on fitness classes that make you smile… because some of my fitness classes do make me smile. And I wrote “The Ultimate NJ Wine Tour” for Inside Jersey because I wanted to learn more about wine. I think that being a writer is a great excuse for learning new things!

    On the other hand, building up a body of work in very specific subject areas can help you break in to those larger publications. I mean, it is possible to break in with a great idea and obvious writing ability. But having that track record — something that shows that you can deliver within a specific niche — can work wonders in helping you break into new markets.

    So I guess I do believe it’s important to have a niche. But I don’t think it should limit you.

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  3. My profiles on FB, Twitter and profiles on sites I write for (Demand Studios, Break Studios…and rev share hosting sites) say that I specialize in writing articles related to home and garden, green living and frugal living…However, I do write on other various other topics, because I agree that it’s kind of silly to narrow yourself down to one single niche. After all, I don’t have only one hobby. Instead of being a gardening pro that can also write (I’m not a pro, but just bear with me while I make my point)–I am a writer than can garden. I’m also fond of hiking, hunting, fishing and cooking. I’m also female and live in the country–which gives me experience to write about female-related topics, which helped me gain an assignment in a women’s magazine, and I have experience living in the country, which I could easily use to write pieces related to country living. Unless all you ever do is read, write and breath one topic, there’s no reason to stick to a niche. Of course, you can still have one–but branching out is a necessity–I like to branch out into another topic/format/genre whenever I start to feel bored with my current niche.

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  4. I agree with Steph.

    I used to think that specialization didn’t matter, but concentrating on one or two subjects makes you more knowledgeable, allows you to go deeper in the subject and makes attracting an audience easier—among other benefits.

    I specialize in art, culture and topics that relate to doing good for people and our environment. I also write for my writing blog. I don’t limit my self to only these subjects, but I do focus on them and promote my work in these areas more than my other work.

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