The rise and rise of the gig economy
It’s a fiercely competitive, super saturated market out there. These days, every man and his dog seem to be a copy or content writer.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out.
“I’m not including every copywriter I know, because listing 200+ people probably wouldn’t be helpful.”
I’m grateful to have made the cut for his list of 22!
“To specialise or not specialise? That is THE question.”
There are many blogs on this – and some great blog titles.
More than one beat me to “To niche or not to niche?”
Along with how to find clients, it’s the most frequently asked question. And the two are inextricably linked.
One thing is clear: there is little agreement on the matter, and the question divides many.
To begin with, there is more than one way to specialise.
Are you going to double down on a specific type of marketing writing?
(Just as a writer may decide to write poetry, in the main. Or plays. Or historical whodunnits set in Tudor times, to be really specific.)
Some copywriters market themselves as specialists in:
They may further niche down by selling themselves, say, as writers of corporate brochures or corporate landing pages.
Many writers sell an area of expertise.
...the list is long if not endless.
One of my LinkedIn connections specialises in yachting.
(Cue eponymous moment: niche work if you can get it.)
Quick teacher anecdote/aside:
A former colleague’s favourite response to the line, “That’s not fair, sir!”:
“Life’s not fair. Where’s my yacht?”
So, what’s my take on the debate after three years of freelancing?
You don’t have to specialise early on
I can’t emphasise this enough.
Cast your net far and wide. See what bites. Test the market.
In the early days at least.
You can’t afford to be too picky.
I would advise being open to offers whilst building up and marketing a clearly defined specialism.
And, hey, variety is the spice of life. And that’s why freelancing suits so many of us.
Don’t feel pressured to commit too soon.
Once work comes in with greater regularity, review your repeat customers. Is there a common theme or thread?
And let’s not forget...
Everyone should be an expert in the fundamentals of the craft. For more on this, take a look at:
Then again, don’t let your niche happen to you
Some advocate caution.
See what bites? Yes, but also choose your waters carefully.
You may have gone freelance in order to explore new pastures, or at least, to escape the old.
There are good reasons to niche down, however.
Not another frickin’ freelance copywriter!
As I say to everyone who emails “to pick my brains about freelance copywriting”, every Tom, Dick and slashie is a freelance copywriter these days.
Look at LinkedIn profiles. Too many say the same thing.
“Copywriter...content writer...[or my favourite] copy writer.”
This is where you’ve got to be realistic, and savvy.
Specialising is one way to set yourself apart.
Specialising means selling yourself with far greater confidence
You have a unique combination of skills and expertise grounded in real-life experience.
It makes sense to exploit any specialist knowledge or prior experience you can sell.
It is no surprise that work in the education sector finds its way to me.
Audit what you know, where you’ve been and what you’ve seen
Think long and hard, and not just at your recent employment history.
Clients will hire you for a range of reasons.
I left accountancy over 20 years ago, having done it for just one year. Clients still cite it as a reason for getting in touch, however.
And don’t discount hobbies. My love of leisure and general loafing has set me in good stead for writing lifestyle stuff.
Niche on the new
We’re all about pursuing our passions these days.
The beauty of freelancing and being your own boss is getting to cherry-pick projects.
You left the office job in accountancy because you’re happier in your garden and you want to write about floristry. Perhaps fashion is your thing.
A word of warning, though.
Many others may share these passions.
Beware crowded markets.
If everyone’s fishing in the same waters, many go hungry.
Can you offer something the others can’t?
USP – it’s basic marketing.
This is when I had the most success. This is where I found my best clients. Or the best fit.
There are hundreds of copywriters out there, but when it comes to pitching to EdTech companies, for instance, as an English teacher turned copywriter, I often have the edge.
Specialising makes it easier to differentiate and therefore market yourself.
It’ll help you compete in a crowded and competitive market.
Writing what you know is easier
When I’m writing about education, I’m at ease.
I’m writing about not just what I already know, but what I care about. What preoccupies me – too much of the time, if I’m honest.
The words and ideas come more easily to me.
I sit down at 10 in the morning to write, say, a blog about time-saving tips for overstretched teachers, and before I know it, it’s time for lunch.
The world rewards specialists
Just look at restaurants.
Those with overlong exhaustive menus aren’t the ones that thrive.
It’s “the one which does really great pasta” or “you wouldn’t believe their cocktails” that you recommend to friends.
Then again, there is a middle way.
Like the Italian which does brilliant pasta and pretty good pizza, you can...
...generalise AND specialise
Sell yourself as a generalist who is open to all offers, whilst building up a specialism as you go.
Or flip it.
You can sell specialisms, by listing them on your website and social media profiles, whilst remaining open to all offers.
I still offer proofreading and editing to my early clients, even though I stopped proofreading and editing a long time ago – 20 months to be exact.
And just as I was about to take proofreading and editing off my website, a spa retreat in Ibiza asked me to edit their latest cookbook. It looked really cool. Their YouTube ads were amazing. I wasn’t going to say no.
And just when I am tempted to sell myself solely as an education copywriter – or gamekeeper turned poacher – someone approaches me with an interesting offer to write about something completely different. A charity which organises choirs for those with dementia, for instance.
The fact is that you never know what the next offer is going to be.
Follow the money.
I’ll finish with a salutary tale from Andy Maslen’s 100 Great Copywriting Ideas, where he talks of correcting your customers’ assumptions about what you do and don’t do:
“I had been writing copy for corporate brochures for a good client of mine for years and then, one day, she said, ‘Do you know anyone who writes websites?’ I nearly choked. ‘I do,’ I managed. ‘Oh, great,’ she said. ‘I thought you just wrote corporate brochures.’ My mistake was in assuming she’d read my website. But who has time to do that?”