As a writer, you intend to create a consistency in your work, showing your readers you have the necessary knowledge and experience. This means you will have to be proficient in your writing niche, the specialized branch of the market (for a particular kind of product or service) that you’re writing or creating content for.
Two types of niches to know
You can think of niches as two distinct areas:
- Format, the form your writing takes. This is how you write and whom you’re writing for.
- Genre, the topic you are writing on. This is what you write. It connects to and cannot exist without the format.
Both niches will be predetermined for you in some cases, commonly at school or at a job. But if you are looking to break into the market on your own, you can choose those yourself. The niches you choose to write in should be ones that you know well and, ideally, have maintained your interest for a long time. To make things easier, prioritize clarifying the form and structure by choosing your format first and your genre second. (More on this later.)
So, how does format differ from genre?
The format can be the essay you write for class or the landing page your boss asked you to create for a website. It can also be that novel you always wanted to write. The genre will be the topic you will write about. It serves to keep your audience’s interest and can present in various formats. My favourite topic is vampires, and this genre niche has taken many forms, such as full-length novels, short stories, essays, blogs, and even a full-length publications course.
Some additional examples of the interplay between format and genre are:
- Landing pages (format) on the local election (genre)
- Blogs (format) covering travel (genre)
- SEO (format) for medically relevant webpages (genre)
- Short stories (format) unveiling small-town crime (genre)
- Novels (format) on—wait for it—vampire romance (genre)
Now that you’ve gained insights into these differences, the next step is to decide on your niches. This will be helpful when (or if) you’re looking to break into the industry—or maybe even the next time you have to determine the format and topic for an open-ended assignment!
Two steps to finding your niche
Step 1. Consider niches separately
First narrow down the format, then pinpoint the genre. To do this, ask yourself these big questions:
- a) What am I passionate about?
The first (and sometimes hardest) thing to do is figure out what you love. Writing is never stress-free, but it can seem impossible if you aren’t interested in the topic or dislike the format. So, wanting to write can save you time and help create a positive environment for writing.
What do you love to read about, think about, and dream about? Write down at least five things you are passionate about: gardening, baseball, travel, baking, motorcycles, etc. Then think about sub-topics that include your passions: gardening in winter, Canadian baseball, and so on. You will find so many niches this way.
- b) What are my strengths?
To determine your strengths, you can look at your successes such as class assignments and work performances you received high praise on.
You can also find your strengths in your areas of knowledge on specific topics. Which credentials do you have? Do people come to you with questions about a particular subject? Are you the go-to person for certain skills at work? Is there a topic you know an (unreasonably) ample number of facts about? That could be the best topic for your genre niche.
- c) What’s happening in the market?
Some niches are more popular than others. For example, novels are thought to be more popular than essays, as they tend to be much more engaging. Common niches have larger markets, but some can be oversaturated. Others can be neglected, where no one is really getting attention. That may indicate it’s best to select another opportunity.
So, do some research: Look for opportunities in the market. Your market may already be available to you through work, but if you write on your own, look for what is in demand.
Also consider what’s popular online. To do this, research your niche on social media, Google, post-secondary libraries, and digital bookstores (such as Amazon and Indigo).
So far, you’ve had a chance to reflect on your passions, strengths, and desired markets. Now, consider your two niches together:
Step 2. Understand the crossover between your two niches
Even if there is a market for SEO writing (your tentative format) and werewolf fiction (your tentative genre), there probably isn’t much crossover between the two. In such scenarios, you may benefit from a different combination.
Some crossovers may be obvious. If you’re writing an open-ended essay for a journalism class, you can choose a topic related to the syllabus.
However, some circumstances aren’t as intuitive. For example, news sites reporting on events at amusement parks may not be something you’d expect to be popular, but WDW News (a leading source on all things Disney Parks) seems to be constantly hiring new writers.
Researching the market may lead you to ditch a format you thought was perfect. These setbacks can happen, but they are part of the journey to find your perfect niches. With research and trial and error, you can find the ideal mix.
Once you have chosen your niches, understand them better by checking out even more of the research resources available.
Additionally, you want to stay in the market, so now that you have started, let your audience tell you how they feel about your writing and its format(s). Sometimes it will be easy to find out if people like your content, such as where your only audience is your instructor or where you have data like sales. What if you had a blog? With it, you can check views, comments, and shares. You can try tools like Google Analytics and see how much time people have spent on each page and if and how they engage with your content.
For better results, do more research on who your audience might be or consider rethinking your niche. If this is the case, ask your audience which new formats or genres they want to see. Eventually you will figure out what your audience is looking for, and maybe this will even help you discover a new audience entirely!
And if you hope to retain your previous niches, don’t abandon them altogether. Instead, find offshoots and new crossovers, since branching from your original niches is always good if you want to write something else and still want to keep the same audience. For example, you can explore formats within the same genre and, as a bonus, this can help you become an expert in a genre niche.
Ultimately, determining your niches, both format and genre, will be helpful for school, work, and explorations into any new industry. If you ever hit a snag, take a breather and remember that your passions, strengths, and market research can be your guides.
Link Coordinator at BCITSA