Years ago, as a new copywriter, I struggled to get my business off the ground. Never mind six figures — I was trying to break through the minimum wage mark.
I consumed books by Bob Bly and others and followed every bit of sales and marketing advice I could get my hands on. The experts said, “Work your network, write articles, and choose a niche!” I did all that.
The latter of those tips, choosing a niche — or in my case, a writing specialty — was the catalyst for my business to truly take off. But it’s possible to take this advice too far — and actually hinder your business growth.
Specialize and Stand Out
A time-tested business strategy, “niching” helps you stand out from the crowd. Take a local business, for example. When we were hunting for a mechanic for our Toyota 4-Runner, the choice was clear. We chose one who specializes in Toyota and Lexus vehicles because we had greater confidence that he knew his way around our SUV.
By specializing, this mechanic becomes the go-to provider for these makes of vehicles. The thousands of people in the community with Toyota and Lexus are more likely to choose this mechanic over one who services all types of cars.
Similarly, we chose a pediatric dentist for our son because we believed the doctor would take extra care to make the experience pleasant for a nervous child. The electric train running around the office clinched the deal.
Likewise, when clients are hunting for a copywriter, they want to know you’re the expert for what they need, whether that means working in their industry or writing a certain type of copy. When they come across your marketing, they’re also more likely to remember you because of your focus.
Choosing a specialty for my business turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’d been swimming aimlessly along, picking up whatever projects I could find. After a while, it was clear what I enjoyed — and didn’t enjoy. I loved writing customer case studies, which I found to be a good fit for my mix of marketing and journalism writing experience. After doing a number of these projects, I took a leap of faith and chose to market myself only as a case study copywriter.
To make the shift, I retooled my website, content marketing, and branding to focus on case studies. However, I continued doing other work for clients as it came in. I didn’t turn down non-case study work until I had plenty of income coming from case studies.
But here’s what I didn’t do: choose an industry niche also. I write case studies for any type of organization in any industry. While my client base tends to be more technology and B2B companies of all types, I also have written for B2C clients such as AWAI and a local air conditioning company.
Are You Double-Niching?
If you’re a copywriter who has chosen a writing specialty and industry niche, you may be limiting yourself too much. It’s what I call double-niching.
Going back to the Toyota/Lexus mechanic, what if the mechanic chose to service only the brakes on Toyota and Lexus vehicles? Then, many of the people who had been attracted to a Toyota/Lexus-only mechanic would look elsewhere because they need more than just brake service.
By double-niching, the mechanic’s nice flow of business would shrink. The pool of Toyota and Lexus owners who only need brake service just isn’t big enough.
In copywriting, double-niching might look like this: a writer chooses an industry niche such as health care, where she has knowledge and experience. Then the writer also chooses to focus on a type of copywriting, perhaps web copy. She has effectively chosen two niches — an industry and a writing specialty.
A more viable business strategy would be to keep her menu of copywriting services broad. She could offer web copy, case studies, white papers, and blog writing for companies in her chosen industry.
Another writer might be passionate about a particular type of writing, such as sales letters or landing pages. Then it could make sense to be a sales letter guru for clients in any industry.
Can you be successful with an industry niche and a writing specialty? Yes, it’s possible. There are copywriters who have built a profitable business this way. But it likely takes more time to grow and may not work for every industry/specialty combination.
Your best bet: Start broader. Choose either a writing specialty or industry niche. Then, only narrow further if the work is rolling in steadily. If you do it too soon, it could be disastrous for your income.
In a sea of copywriters, you want to stand out. But if you’re too narrow, you just might be invisible.