Develop a Niche to Create Freelance Stability

When I returned home from hiking the Appalachian Trail, my plan was to begin freelancing about outdoors- and hiking-related topics pretty much exclusively. I had dreams of articles running in Backpacker magazine, Outside magazine and—hell—maybe even National Geographic. Everyone would want to read my journey and knowledge gained on the Appalachian Trail.

What I didn’t realize was that there are hundreds of people who have completed the same feat I did, and it’s hard to stand out among them. The hikers who do stand out are the ones who’ve completed multiple long-distance trails. So I brought my expectations back down to Earth.

Yes, my new plan included continuing to brainstorm ideas to break into the big-name magazines. But in the meantime, I would focus on smaller outdoors-related publications, such as Appalachian Trials and Blue Ridge Outdoors, as well as magazines about the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions of New York, including Chronogram, Catskill Made and the Watershed Post.

I also realized it would be foolish to leave behind my experience writing about commercial and industrial construction. I’ve been writing about construction-related topics since college. While writing about construction may not be my number one passion, I do truly enjoy and care about what happens in the industry.

So I began contacting my connections through my previous job and ended up landing a couple wonderful and reliable clients. These connections provide stable income that leaves me feeling secure when it comes time to pay my bills each month. Without my experience writing about construction, my freelance career would look much different—and be much more stressful.

As a freelancer, developing a niche in which you are experienced is key. It allows you to target potential clients to whom you know you can deliver great content. And, frankly, it allows you to earn a higher rate than working with general clients (usually), because you have a jam-packed portfolio of similar projects on similar topics to show off your skills.

There is a downside. It’s easy to become complacent about developing pitches to land the freelance work of your dreams—like writing for Backpacker. It’s comforting to know you can find reliable clients and work on projects you enjoy, but may not be completely passionate about. The key is to find balance, take time out of each week to continue working toward your dreams, which really is true of any hobby or interest you’re passionate about.

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