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Being Authentic Is a Little More Than Niche

FundsForWriters founder C. Hope Clark shares why being authentic is a little more than niche when it comes to freelance writing and freelancing success. And why it's also not selling out.

On the outside looking in, the business of freelancing gives the impression that the writers morph and shape-shift to whatever the customer requires. After all, if a writer can manipulate thoughts, facts, and syntax into whatever the paying entity needs, they basically sell their soul for the dollar.

(4 Key Places for Writers to Find Those First Freelance Clients.)

The thought cannot be any further from the truth. The successful freelancer is a far cry from that perception. Freelance writers must build a business like any other entrepreneur, and like any other entrepreneur, the brand they gravitate to has to be solid, appealing, and memorable.

Being Authentic Is a Little More Than Niche

Let’s say a potential client has a very specific vision for a series of blog posts. They start hunting for a reputable writer who has a history of blogging. The blog is about the sport of running.

They not only seek a writer who at least quasi-understands the sport, but they also prefer someone who enjoys the mindset that comes with serious running. It doesn’t mean they have to be a runner, but maybe they’ve written about people who believe in what they do, or started at one point and strove to better themselves to reach a higher mental or physical plane. Or they have written about how to set goals and obtain them. Or they’ve written wonderful profiles on successful athletes. The connect might even be as far as health and food.

Walking the Walk

Believe it or not, the potential customer is envisioning the writer as someone who has lived in some of these worlds they’ve written about. The customer wants someone who can walk-the-walk, or at least talk-the-talk having talked-the-talk before. The customer seeks a comfort level with this writer in some way, from some direction, and they might not even understand what that might be.

The novice writer might think they can write anything about anyone from any angle, when in reality that only carries a writer so far. And a potential client can tell. Faking it, trying to be all things for all clients, can sabotage your work when your street cred falls short of accurate.

Be Familiar With What You Write

Mandy Ellis is a six-figure freelance writer based in Austin, Texas who assists high-end businesses and national publications in writing about the worlds of food, real estate, travel, health, and insurance. She’s written articles, blog posts, web content, and marketing emails for clients like Costco, Conde Nast Traveler, WestJet Magazine, Pizza Today, and The National Association of REALTORS.

That doesn’t mean she just covers food reviews or how to travel in Texas. The parameters of the topics can range far and wide while still protecting her brand. Topics like the mental health of real estate agents, or insuring travel plans can intersect her niches. Food stories can cross over into the restaurant business or even the peripheral businesses that cater to the restaurant business. Her work connects to who she is and what she specializes in, and she feels that it’s important to remain true to herself, to include work ethic and style.

You've got to build your own business in your own way, understand the value you're bringing to your clients' content projects and charge accordingly, and be yourself so you end up signing contracts with clients who are truly the right fit. That's how you get paid what your work is worth both in quality and conversion, and end up building a business that you love. If you pretend to be someone else, building some other business model, and acting differently on your potential client calls and emails, you'll end up hating your business and working with clients who don't understand your work.

(How Much Should Writers Charge Per Word or Per Project?)

When a client picks up the phone or reaches out to Mandy, they have an initial feel for her skills. And since she goes with her strengths, she feels more comfortable in conversations with them. The communication starts ahead of the game, being more than a stranger talking to a stranger to see what they might have in common. There’s less dancing before getting down to business.

It’s More Than Niche

This is just deciding a writing niche, you might say. While niche is a large part of your decision to become a successful freelancer, it’s just a start.

There’s a believing-in-yourself factor involved, not just in niche but in self. You know what you can do and how you can do it. You promise what you know you can deliver. That doesn’t mean you do not occasionally stretch your muscles with an assignment that tests your limits, but it does mean that you attempt to work in a certain realm in order to remain true to yourself.

Avoid the temptation to pretend to be what you are not. Keep a grasp of who you are, what you do well, and what drives your confidence. Keep growing, but drive your career with your strengths, slowly reaching further with your education and earned experience. Groom your confidence. Listen to your gut. Keep this career enjoyable and it shows in your presentation, your communication, and the finished product. 

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