Step Two in Making Forward Progress This Week

Yesterday, I made you a big promise …

I mentioned that I’d heard that AWAI members felt stuck on their journey to living the writer’s life. So I decided to make it my own personal mission to get them – and you, if you’re in the same boat – unstuck.

I’ve worked out a plan for you to follow. And every day this week in The Writer’s Life, I’m going to give you an action item I’d like you to complete.

My promise to you: stick with me all week and perform all 5 actions, and by the time you start your weekend, you’ll feel like you’ve made significant forward progress towards achieving your dreams.

Yesterday, we tackled the first step: choosing a path.

If you missed it, definitely catch up before proceeding with today’s issue.

Because to take the next step, you must know what path you’re going to take to the writer’s life. At this point, you should know if you’re going to start with copywriting, resume writing, internet research … whatever path suits you best.

Once you’ve chosen your path, it’s time to move on to the second step towards living the writer’s life: specializing.

Now, this topic confuses a lot of new writers (as well as some experienced writers). The words “specialty” and “niche” are thrown around quite a bit in this industry and often used interchangeably. Keep reading and that should clear up any confusion.

First, let’s talk about the reason you want to specialize …

When many writers start out, they cast their net really wide and are willing to take any job that comes their way. They think it’s the best way to start making money fast. But the truth is that you can’t be all things to all people as a copywriter. You’ll actually have a harder time finding work this way. And when you do find work, they’ll not only want to pay you less, you’ll also have to work harder because you’ll have to learn entirely new industries and markets for each assignment.

We have lots of great articles on the AWAI site about specializing and choosing a niche, including this one from Nick Usborne titled Why You Should Choose a Niche for Your Freelance Business, and How to Do It, which I recommend you read.

But here are the benefits of specializing in a nutshell:

  • You’ll offer unique value to clients.
  • You’ll have less competition from all the generic freelance writers out there willing to sell their services for cheap.
  • It will be easier to market your services and identify new clients.
  • You’ll be able to charge more for your services.
  • You’ll be able to complete assignments more efficiently since you’ll be well versed in your particular area, which means the value of your time will also continue to increase.

Bottom line: specializing actually makes starting your business easier AND allows you to make more money faster.

Your action item for today is to figure out how you’re going to specialize.

Be it an industry niche or a project type … what will you focus your business on? What will make you different from all the “generalists” out there promoting themselves in your same field?

Now, keep in mind, that’s not to say you’re going to be stuck with this decision forever.

You are welcome to try out various niches and specialties, and can revise your businesses as you go.

But this week is about making forward progress. And it’s much easier to make real forward progress if you specialize, rather than trying to cast a wide net and having no focus whatsoever.

Just like with choosing a path, you shouldn’t overanalyze your decision. Follow Nick's guidelines, and you’ll be able to move forward.

As you saw earlier, most of the benefits of specializing have to do with marketing your services and making more money. So no matter what type of freelancer or writer you are, the same benefits can apply.

As a travel writer, you can develop a list of 10 to 15 destinations or travel activities you enjoy to specialize in so that you can actively research writing opportunities.

As an internet researcher, you can decide what industry niches you’d be interested in researching. Maybe you have a financial background and are very comfortable digging up financial facts. Or you really enjoy the health market and would prefer to sift through health data over anything else. Once you determine your focus, you’ll be able to start looking for financial or health copywriters and pitch your services.

Think of it from the perspective of a health copywriter working on a package he's getting paid $10K to write, plus a 2% royalty that has the potential to add six figures to his bottom line.

Would he rather hire an internet research who specializes in health research? Or a general internet researcher? If all other variables are considered even, whose research time would he value more?

Now, since copywriting is the path I typically recommend everyone start with, I want to go a bit more into detail on the ways to specialize because you have a few options.

First, you can specialize by industry niche. Your niche could be a large industry like health, finance, fundraising, self-help, etc.

Or it could be more specific like anti-aging, financial newsletters, political fundraising, or child safety. (Nick covers the benefits of being more specific in the article I mentioned above.)

You can also specialize by project type. Your “specialty” may be broad like web or B2B. Or it could be more specific like writing autoresponders, case studies, or white papers.

However, even if you choose a specialty, I still highly recommend you focus on an industry niche to start as well.

For example, you could be a writer who specializes in B2B copy in the food services industry.

Or an autoresponder and web content writer in the health industry.

Just like a good product, the more of a unique selling proposition (USP) you have, the easier you are to sell and the more your perceived value increases.

So how will you specialize? Just like with choosing a path, I don’t want you to worry about choosing the “wrong niche” or the “wrong specialty.”

You may find you want to change your mind down the line. Or you’ll want to add another niche or specialty to your services. And that’s totally okay!

The key to this week’s exercise is to make decisions and take action.

So tell me, how will you specialize? That’s your assignment for today.

And once you have your answer, I invite you to share it with me below.

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Published: July 26, 2011

41 Responses to “Step Two in Making Forward Progress This Week”

  1. OK, my specialty niche is going to be in the Thoroughbred race horse industry. I can hear Dan Kennedy(I think it's him who has trotters) groaning right now.

    Stephanie MorseJuly 26, 2011 at 10:21 am

  2. Hi again Rebecca. This is relly helping me Laser Focus on my path of Internet Research Specialist.
    I have chosen to specialize in the Health Industry. Leaning more specifically toward Alternatives Medicines,Therapies and Remedies(Age and Eye Health),Nutritional supplements and Physical Fitness(Diet and Exercise)for longevity. Is this still too broad in terms of specialization?

    Marcellus GreeneJuly 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm

  3. I started as a generalist, moved into financial PR to help a client. But my biggest client so far was 7-Eleven store's warehousing consolidation center managed by Exel Group. I did internal processes (SOPs) in a copywriting team. I'm confused about going forward. Do I approach the warehouses, the distribution offices, or research the management corps who hold the pursestrings to find more work? I believe my niche falls into technical writing for internal processes.
    Any advise?

    RustyLaGrange July 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm

  4. Hi Rebecca, I've been in 'stuck-mode' for a while now, so I'm going to follow your action plan this week and hopefully gain some momentum.
    Currently I'm a court reporter, so I'd like to start out as a copywriter for the court reporting industry. (Eventually I'd like to completely switch careers and become a full time copywriter.) Even though court reporting is my career, gardening is my passion! Should I try to pick a gardening niche also and focus on both fields?

    KPJuly 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm

  5. After much reading, it looks like I should start out with copywriting. I would like to eventually look into resume writing as well.

    ticosusieJuly 26, 2011 at 6:56 pm

  6. Hi Rebecca, Thanks for this series of exercises. Narrowing down a niche is a place I really feel STUCK. I have ordered the Steve Slaunwhite B2B pogram based on the results of the quiz you sent out earlier this week. I also ordered the PR course. In my area there are tons of small businesses and independent contractors needing low cost (not big firm) publicity. Seems like some form of web-writing is also at play here. Is B2B and PR two niches or one? It still feels sort of broad. Help!

    EvanWJJuly 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm

  7. Hi Rebecca: I am a real newbie and am just now starting the Accelerated Program for Six Figure Copyrighting. I'm kinda long in the tooth but from experience your advise is excellent and right on target. I will take the B2B course after completing the first one. As I progress, I will refine what specific area within B2B. The niche just needs to be one I can do outside the U.S.

    Guest (Joe)July 26, 2011 at 7:15 pm

  8. Solid Organ Transplant - clinical, operations and marketing. My clinical expertise is solid organ transplant (heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas). There are 110,000 on the waiting list in the United States today - therefore relevant.

    Guest (Mel)July 27, 2011 at 12:37 am

  9. Hi Rebecca,

    What a wonderful idea. I've never thought about specialising before. I dream of being a travel writer. I've worked in the travel industry for many years, and even now I work at an airport on the weekends. Travel still excites me. Now I have to work out my best 10-15 destinations.

    genie12July 27, 2011 at 12:51 am

  10. I´m in Internet Research but since I´m new in many ways I´ve been doing the webinars and reading a lot. I wanted to ask you: since the Spanish speaking population is growing and in some states an important % of the population, wouldn´t it be a good niche to write in Spanish? I´ve seen so many official sites that barely give important information in Spanish! Besides, writing in Spanish is the best thing I do.

    MarisabelJuly 27, 2011 at 1:20 am

  11. Miss Rebecca:
    I am just in the perfect spot to use your information and week long boost to my foot dragging. I am almost finished with my Six-Figure Accelerated Copywriting Course and have not committed to a niche. I promise to follow your weeklong helpful advice and hopefully will get off the fence. Thank you so very much for your very helpful advice.
    Have a very productive day!!

    K BarbaraJuly 27, 2011 at 7:26 am

  12. Hi Rebecca: I am responding to the assignment set out in "Step Two ...".

    I would like to specialise in B2B copywriting. Writing for defense lawyers/law firms and also to allow me produce great blogs in this field as well as in my current project.

    Any pointers you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Guest (Karlene Haughton)July 27, 2011 at 9:31 am

  13. Hi Rebecca. As I mentioned yesterday, I intend to concentrate on becoming the best internet researcher I can be, specializing in the personal development/self help area. I'm a qualified psychotherapist, currently working in a government office (I want to quit when my own business takes off. I love helping people improve their lives, even if all they need is to look at their current circumstances from a different perspective. Is this niche too broad? I have considered targeting self-help for women over 50 - my own age group. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    MaryMcLeanJuly 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm

  14. Rebecca, I want to travel and be able to make a living too, so travel writing seems the most appropriate aspect of the writing careers for me to consider. I have a limited start on such a career already, but I sure need some insight and helpful guidance.
    Thanks,

    TomE

    Guest (TomE)July 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm

  15. Hello: This process is very helpful and quite encouraging. Thanks. I believe my specialty will be in providing copywriting services to small to mid size non profits with an emphasis in community colleges and animal welfare. I have the ability to write cases for support, appeal letters, brochures, case studies and white papers.

    Christine A July 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm

  16. OK... this is a struggle for me. I have years and years of industry experience in medical devices and aerospace/ defense. And I'm in a hotbed of medical device activity here in Minneapolis.

    Medical B2B should be a slam dunk choice. I understand the technologies, I still have local industry contacts.

    But I'm having a hard time feeling the resonance. I'm terribly afraid I'll be bored out of my mind.

    Am I nuts?

    Ed in MinnesotaJuly 27, 2011 at 8:56 pm

  17. This topic is perfect for me this week! I am one of those who is OK at A LOT of things. Can pretty much figure anything out if I try hard enough. I decided on copywriting in particular, and being "pushed" like this has pointed me to my passions for the Brazilian culture & Language. How do I do market research...for example...Brazilian companies needing marketing pages for selling products to North Americans?

    BrendasMailDeskJuly 28, 2011 at 11:52 am

  18. Thanks a million Rebecca. I feel more focused now. I have done some more research on Personal Development and the time flies when I do it. I am thoroughly enjoying it. It's definitely the one for me.

    MaryMcLeanJuly 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

  19. Hi Rebecca, I bought my first Six-Figure Copywriting Program in 2002 and never finished the 'Restaurant Letter'. I updated the 6-Figure in 2009 and acquired many books, and other AWAI programs. I've had many life changing interruptions but as I started working through MMW by Nick Usborne, I begin to learn the art of focusing.
    Copywriting will give me a good education for Web Writing 2.0.
    Niche: Religious-New Christians; branching out into Outreaching and Charity Promotion.

    CoraJuly 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm

  20. Rebecca, I'm late to the party, I realize, but hopefully I can get some of your wisdom still. These emails are exactly what I needed. I look around at my bookshelves, with about a dozen AWAI binders on them, and realize I start a lot of things but have trouble getting past the 1/3rd point.

    I have a number of niches I could go into: Christian, Rare Books, Gardening, PR... I'm leaning, though, towards Research on Natural Health directed towards psychiatric patients and care-givers. Any thoughts?

    Aaron AtkinsonJuly 28, 2011 at 7:09 pm

  21. I expect to be spending most of my time in Panama and am looking to reinvent myself. I come from a business/real estate background; I have a major interest in travel/blogging/photography and will puruse these avenues regardless of where I am. But, I believe I will take Jay Whites' Autoresponder Apprentice course as my mainstay. It appears to make sense strategically. Does this make sense to you or am I missing something? Do I need a web site, etc; Please advise. Thanks, Duane

    DUANEJuly 28, 2011 at 7:21 pm

  22. Hi again Rebecca! Day 2. Beginning to focus a bit. I have BEEN a Travel Agent (1977 but who's counting?), have a CA. RE License since '86 (like that's going to come back in OUR lifetime?) and an AA in Fashion Merchandising. Love food; love to travel (boy, my eyes are on Agora and Bill Bonner and Lee Harrison and wonder how would I ever get THERE?). Was a gourmet cook in the day so I seem to like the artistic stuff and wonder if there's space for one more newbie? Then again, I tucked my tail between my legs after ONE attempt at the Restaurant Letter and have never reposted it. Keep holding our collective hands and thank you for doing it!

    Guest (Gypsy Woman)July 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm

  23. Hi Rebecca,

    It's me again, the mad commenter. :-) In any case, for day 2, with your help, wisdom and motivational words, I have decided to focus on B2B copywriting, mainly because the type of writing I have been doing for the past 20 years fits nicely with the style, tone, and pace of most B2B projects. With that said, I am going to see if I can turn my passion for B2B into a business that serves books and the publishing industry, because books are also a passion of mine. Thanks again!

    swertzbaugherJuly 29, 2011 at 11:02 am

  24. Rebecca, thanks for the push. Chosen niche is Travel Writing.. 30 years travel industry experience.. living in Riviera Maya Mexico. This week: Registered for Chicago Conference...made a website...printed business cards...checked magazines represented on panel in Chicago... printed their writers guidelines...wrote spa article. Interest is travel writing/inspections of hotels,spas,attractions and restaurants in Rivera Maya area and Belize. Any recommendations, ideas kindly accepted.

    Guest (ole lady in tennis shoes)July 30, 2011 at 11:19 pm

  25. I have chosen to be a copywriter with a niche in the security industry.

    Guest (Yoseph)July 31, 2011 at 5:49 pm

  26. I'm currently doing the B2B course and so far I've narrowed my niche to Specialty Foods--I love pretty yummies and am bit of a foodie.

    The specialty focus is web writing, since I enjoy leveraging the power of the internet.

    Now, I'm wondering if there is a sufficient B2B market or is it more B2C since it's more of a visceral experience. Do you know?

    Thank you.

    GMCApril 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm

  27. Rebecca

    What a delightfully exacting exercise! Fortunately for me, one of my dearest friend's (soon to be testimonial's) and I were discussing this very topic last night.

    Turns out, the niches for me are:
    Niche Small Businesses (copywriting) Alternative Health Care Providers (e-newsletters)

    We'll see how I progress from there.
    Thanks for re-posting this series AWAI!

    Guest (Willowedc)April 25, 2013 at 2:46 pm


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