Many so-called copywriting gurus will tell you that the path to success is to proclaim a niche right away. But that advice is 100% wrong and, worse, it’s potentially damaging to your career. Read on to hear why and find out what you should do instead.
The other day, a student said to me, “I’ve heard that I should pick a niche and focus on building samples and finding clients there. Do you agree?”
This is certainly not the first time I’ve gotten this question; I’m pretty sure some copywriting teachers hang their hats on the “niche” advice as if it’s some kind of magic key to success.
Except choosing a niche when you’re just getting started is not a magic key at all. In fact, it could be deeply, deeply detrimental to your career.
Let’s discuss why that is.
How Do You Know What You Like Until You Actually Do It?
When you’re just starting out in your copywriting career, you can’t possibly know yet what kind of copywriting you’ll like. And, even if you think you like a certain niche, you can’t know whether or not you’d like another one just as much or better.
Like any job, the people you work with can largely make or break your experience. So, even if you love travel, for example, you may find that you don’t love writing 10 banner ads around going to Cancun—without actually getting to travel to Cancun.
You also don’t necessarily know what mediums you like to work in. Saying you’re only going to write emails when you’ve never written a sales page or a Facebook ad is a surefire way to limit your career and prospects. Every email project is different so you may love one and be less jazzed about another. But the key is most clients want a copywriter they can work with on multiple types of projects.
Now is not the time in your career to limit what you’ll be working on.
Of course, if you love travel, you may focus some of your initial pitching on companies that align with this interest. But it doesn’t mean you have to put a permanent stake in the ground and design your entire website around this niche.
You’re Unnecessarily Limiting Your Career
But in addition to limiting the kinds of copywriting you’ll enjoy, you also may be severely limiting your career. For example, what if you choose healthcare copywriting as your niche, and there’s no market for that in your city? Or what if the current market dries up? Or the market that exists just isn’t big enough to support you? Or there are already too many other copywriters with more experience to compete against for each job?
Each one of those possibilities is very plausible.
Bear in mind, too, that in that scenario, all of your samples on your portfolio site will be for your healthcare niche. If someone from another industry is interested in you and they come to your site, it’s likely they’re going to assume that you don’t even want their work because it’s in another industry.
Does all of this sound scary?
Get More Experience Before Deciding to Niche
At this point in your career, you need to get as many different types of samples in as many different types of industries and for as many different types of clients as you can. Collect samples for ad agencies and in-house agencies, for B2B and B2C, for banner ads, emails, newspaper ads, brochures, websites, magazines ads and anything else you can.
Having a variety of different kinds of samples lets you demonstrate your depth and breadth of ability to any prospective client or employer that visits your site. You want them to see how versatile you are so that it’s much easier for them to imagine you doing great work for them.
This also helps you start learning what kinds of work you do and don’t like. (If, indeed, there is anything you don’t like—I happen to be partial to any work that will pay me money.)
When to Choose a Niche—If You Do At All
Eventually, you may decide to choose a specialty, but, first, you don’t have to. I never have, and I’ve been perfectly pleased with my career. But if you do choose to, you need to do it only once you’ve had experience with all kinds of different copywriting, and you have a good understanding of how much work that industry has to offer.
And when I say “eventually,” I don’t mean a few months into your career. I mean no sooner than five years into your career. Build your samples to show variety and you’ll give your career a flexibility and potential for growth that choosing a niche or specialty just won’t allow you.
Think of Copywriting as Your Niche
As a copywriter, you are the expert at understanding features vs. benefits and how to lead with the most compelling benefit to consumer. You know how to get users to take the next step with a clear call to action. And you know how to write in a brand’s tone of voice to connect with the target audience and build trust.
Think of copywriting as your niche.
You’re not a jack-of-all trades marketer, dabbling a little in copywriting while also knowing a little tiny bit about SEO, a little tiny bit about running paid ads on Meta, and a little bit about running an A/B design test on a landing page.
Your clients are the experts in their business. You are the expert in taking their knowledge and translating it into wildly effective copy.
On Episode 5 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate dig further into why choosing a copywriting niche is so detrimental to copywriter careers. It’s a complete myth that you need to choose a niche to land high-paying clients. And it’s also a myth that there are only certain profitable niches—you can be a profitable copywriter in any industry!
Here’s the thing: we have no idea what’s going on within a business. There are tiny companies that are wildly profitable, making multiple 7 figures. And there are giant companies that seem successful that are struggling to turn a profit. Unless you have an inside look at the finance records of a company, you can’t make assumptions about who does and does not need a copywriter and who can or cannot afford your copywriting rate.
Watch the full episode for more on why you don’t need to choose a niche and what to do instead.
Your turn! What other dubious (or downright bad) advice have you gotten about building your copywriting career? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on July 4, 2023