Do I really need to choose a niche?
You have to pick a niche.
Don’t you dare pick a niche.
Picking a niche gives you focus and credibility.
Picking a niche restricts you and removes opportunities.
As a beginning copywriter, the advice is crazy contradictory. Some people swear by choosing a niche right away. Others condemn niches, making them seem like the plague that will lead to certain destruction and a bed firmly planted in the poor house. If you can afford a bed, of course.
As with anything, there are benefits to both strategies.
Holding off on choosing a niche can give you a lot of flexibility. You can pitch a wide variety of potential clients, and you can use your varied experience as leverage to showcase your adaptability.
However, the more I pay attention to people and businesses that are successful, the more value I see in choosing a niche.
On a seemingly unrelated note, I started watching baseball this year.
What closers can teach us about choosing a niche
In the summer of 1995, I was a kid living in Ohio. I remember pulling our old rocking chair into the living room, which was the only room that was air conditioned. The window air conditioner lowered the temperature by 30 degrees once you slipped through the sheet that we hung up to separate the living room from the dining room.
I’d curl up in the rocking chair and pull a blanket over me and turn on the Cleveland Indians. Their rivalry with the Atlanta Braves was as hot as the air outside as they battled it out in the World Series. I was the only one in my house that watched, and I didn’t fully understand the game, but for some reason, that summer I watched a lot of baseball.
Fourteen years have passed since then, and this summer, I’m hooked again.
Maybe because the Brewers made a good run for the World Series last year, and I fully jumped on the bandwagon.
Maybe because my mother-in-law is obsessed with the Brewers and has talked about them for years, and I’ve finally been brainwashed enough to join in.
Maybe because the more I learn about the game, the more intrigued I am.
No matter the reason, here I am curling up on our couch with my kids and husband (we have central air, thank God) and watching baseball.
As I’ve watched this summer, I’ve been struck by how specialized some of the players are. There are utility players, of course. The players that you can stick in a lot of different positions, and they’ll perform. The switch hitters that can hit a 90 mile an hour fastball batting left or right handed when I can barely hit a ball my six year old nephew throws.
And then there are the closers. The exclusive ranks of pitchers that sit for hours of the game and are all of a sudden called up to pitch one inning and clinch the win.
The Brewers closer is Josh Hader who, after a few years in the minors, was called up to the Brewers in 2017.
This year, he’s been called on to close games, and as of August 10, had successfully closed 25 of his 29 games.
The crazy thing is that his “niche” if you will, isn’t just closing. He primarily relies on one pitch-a four seam fastball. And he’s excellent at it.
Watching the Brewers this year, and more specifically, Hader, has really impacted how I think of choosing a niche. When I started copywriting, I felt like a niche would limit my prospects, but in reality, choosing one thing and getting really, really, really, really good at it, can open up so many other opportunities.
If, rather than focusing on one really great pitch, Hader had decided that he wanted to throw a lot of different pitches pretty well, he may never had ended up in the majors.
There is power in focus.
Choosing a niche gives you focus and direction
Like I said earlier, the more I pay attention to people who excel in their fields, the more I realize that most people and businesses choose a niche.
Seriously, if you’re on the fence about whether or not to choose a niche, look around.
Lawyers who specialize in criminal law go a step further and become a defense attorney or a prosecutor.
Florists specialize in flowers, some only focusing on weddings, and even further certain types of weddings. Rustic. Modern. Classic.
Ice cream parlors specialize in ice cream.
Coffee shops specialize in coffee.
Mexican restaurants specialize in Mexican food.
(I’m writing this in a coffee shop across the street from an ice cream parlour while I wait to go out for Mexican food with some friends.)
Once you choose your niche, you’re able to give it all of your focus. Rather than jumping from thing to thing, you can become an expert in your field.
A niche makes things faster
As you become more and more informed on your chosen niche, writing will begin to go faster because you’re base of knowledge will grow.
If you’re continually starting from scratch, you’re doing just that-starting from scratch. You have to learn new vocabulary, get acquainted with new systems and cultures. All of this takes time.
Becoming specialized means that you’ll be able to draw on previous knowledge and go deeper and deeper into your specialty, making the time you spend writing move faster and faster.
How do I choose a copywriting niche?
This is a tricky question. There’s tons of advice out there that says choose something that you love or something that you want to learn about or something you have a background in.
But that list can get long. And then choosing one can feel like you’re abandoning all of your other interests and possible avenues for success.
When I was just starting out, I pitched jobs for a lot of different niches and ended up doing some cool projects.
I wrote for an affiliate site on beekeeping.
I worked on some material about outer space.
I edited for a dad blogger.
But none of those seemed to open up opportunities for expansion. I felt like I was just drifting around the copywriting universe with no real focus. But, did I want to just write about beekeeping? Not really.
Then, through a series of Instagram direct messages, I connected with a copywriter who writes primarily construction content focused on roofing. Around the same time, I scored a job writing for a luxury property finder blog.
All of a sudden, I remembered how much I love remodeling and housing. Years ago, I worked with a buddy of mine doing kitchen remodeling. It was, hands down, my favorite job. I loved everything from demolition to installing flooring and cabinets to framing in rooms.
Today, my husband and I are constantly driving around and looking at houses that we like and houses that are for sale. I spend free time trolling Zillow.
How did I not think of that? Once I zeroed in on building materials and design, I got two jobs in a week. All of a sudden, I knew who to pitch to (no pun intended…actually, pun definitely intended).
Rather than spreading myself too thin and feeling like I was constantly starting from scratch, I was able to focus on just the jobs that fit into my niche.
So, if you’re just starting out and unsure of the niche that you want to write in, definitely take stock of your interests and likes, but stay open to other opportunities. When something feels right, dig into it and explore the options that it opens up.
And then, be like Josh Hader. Choose a pitch and perfect it.