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.
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.
Now is not the time in your career to limit what you’ll be working on.
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?
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.)
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.
Your turn! What other dubious (or downright bad) advice have you gotten about building your copywriting career? Let us know in the comments below!