It’s been a slooooow week. Where normally I’m inundated with work, I’m sitting idle. I’d be concerned if I didn’t know I had some projects about to appear. Still, I market as though nothing is in the works. You never know when a project budget will disappear.
I am three days away from my own personal holiday (and the anniversary of this blog). I take St. Patrick’s Day off every year. If you need me on Monday, I’ll be at Molly Maguire’s Pub. Pull up a chair and I’ll buy you a beverage while we talk business.
In the meantime, we have to finish this week. In this latest installment of Free Advice Friday, let’s tackle specializing. Do you have to specialize? No. Does specializing at the beginning or even in the midst of your career give you an advantage when looking for clients? If you go about it right, it sure can.
Free Advice Friday: Building a Specialty Writing Niche
Deciding what you’d like to specialize in can be the toughest part. How you figure that out is going to vary depending on what you like, what catches your interest, or what seems to be a natural path for you. Here are a few suggestions on where to look:
What you’re currently reading/discussing
What kind of writing you like doing already (press releases, websites, SEO, etc.)
What industries are in your area – maybe where family/friends work
Something you know a lot about already (music, animal care, healthcare, welding, etc.)
Something that intrigues you for whatever reason
Let’s assume you’ve landed on your specialty idea. How do you develop it?
Create your presence. Let’s assume you’ve chosen to specialize as a fitness and health writer focusing your efforts on the manufacturers of the products/equipment (yes, specialties can get very specific). You’ll want to create language on your brochure/marketing materials that speak to that specialty. Make sure your website mentions prominently your specialty (or devote one page of your site to this specialty if you’re wanting to still generalize). Locate the trade shows and publications that face this audience. Start a blog in your specialty area as an example to the trade show folks that you’re writing in the space (could get you free admission).
Learn it. Every industry has jargon and nuances; fitness and health is no exception. Subscribe to blogs, newsfeeds, and magazines. Contact PR people (do a quick search and you’ll see names on those press releases) and asked to be sent their releases and company newsletters. Pay attention to what people are talking about. Look also for the questions that aren’t being answered. There’s your first article pitch.
Meet up. If you can, try to get in front of some of the industry people. Trade shows are a great opportunity for meeting, but don’t rule out meeting local people for lunch or at networking events.
Let them know you exist. If face-to-face isn’t immediately possible for you, send out letters of introduction (see here for how to put a LOI together). Let them know you’re writing in the space, guide them to samples of your writing and to your blog, and ask to be considered for writing projects. Then keep in touch regularly.
Commit to building one new relationship every few weeks. Until you get well known, those personal connections are going to be golden. Look at who’s being quoted and get in touch. Just schedule a conversation or send a friendly email. Don’t ask them to open their address books and spew out their secrets, but do introduce yourself, explain your interest, and ask questions about this person’s job. Look at is as building a friendship, not a sale. End by thanking them. Stay in touch periodically.
Use creativity to penetrate the market. By the time you read your fifth or sixth article in the space, you’re going to think you have to dull-down your content to match the tone of the experts. Not true. Experts tend to talk authoritatively and in business-speak, so their writing isn’t always the best example of what editors, or companies, want. Instead, trust your own voice. Be creative with your ideas and your approach.