How to Grow as a Writer During Times of Uncertainty
The end of the world doesn’t have to be the end of the world
Just when you thought business was booming and 2020 was going to be your best year ever, along comes a global pandemic to knock the world into uncertainty. While some industries — say social media — are booming, other industries — such as travel and hospitality — are feeling the shadow loom over them.
Now, it would be easy for those of us writing in the social media and digital marketing niche to double down on our work and just ride the wave while it’s still high, ignoring all those freelancers who’ve essentially lost their jobs almost overnight. Or we can take this as an opportunity to grow.
Social Distancing is the Perfect Time to Focus on Your Growth as a Writer
Almost every freelance writer I’ve ever met has wished for more hours in the day. We have a tendency to get so bogged down with client work that we forget to work on our business. We don’t leave enough time for ourselves to work on our marketing strategies, business goals, or growth as a writer.
Now, with social distancing keeping everyone in their homes, we have the perfect opportunity to take some time and work a bit on that growth.
Start by Examining Your Niche (if You Have One)
The truth is, anyone of us could find our industry or niche out the window practically overnight. Tonight, travel and hospitality are all but gone; but tomorrow, home decor and interior design could go. And after that, the Internet could be gone. And if the Internet goes, so goes the social media and digital marketing niche that I love so much.
Not to mention a way of life and a means of working that so many of us have grown accustomed to.
Now, I love my niche, and niching down is one of the first things I tell to other freelance writers who are just getting into the business. “Niche down to blow up.” Niching down has so many advantages in regard to finding work, clients, and getting paid that it often seems like a no-brainer.
But then things like this happen and you realize that sticking too staunchly to your niche can actually hurt you if you aren’t prepared to break into another niche. This is why, as advantageous as it is to niche down, it’s just as crucial to be ready to jump into another niche if you need to. And here are some tips to help you do that.
Is It Time to Break Into Another Writing Niche?
Yes, it is.
Don’t wait until your current niche is suffering before you start looking to expand into other niches. Right now, we can see the travel and hospitality niche drying up, but that might not always be the case. We might have to be able to pivot with much less notice. And that means starting your expansion before you even think you need to.
So, as fond as I am of the practice of niching down, I am equally fond of expanding your niche into other areas to help keep you well-rounded, adaptable, and in-demand.
Define your Three Degrees of Separation
The three degrees of separation are your primary niche as well as two other levels that are related to your niche without being directly involved in your niche.
For example, my primary niche is social media marketing strategies. However, small business strategy, writing, and digital marketing are all areas that can relate back to social media marketing strategy even though they aren’t directly related to it. For the small business strategy niche, I can break that down even further to goal setting, working from home, freelance writing, and being a work at home mother.
Choosing a niche: the three degrees of separation
So, as I map out my own chosen niche, copywriting tips is related to social media marketing strategy. Therefore, it’s not a huge jump to write about copywriting; and from copywriting I could probably get into the copyediting niche. However, trying to jump over to grammar lessons is a much bigger jump. It could be done, but it would knock my audience for a loop and take a bit more time and preparation to build up some relationships within that niche.
Where the degree of separation niche map really comes in handy is that each degree of separation can help you break into a new niche.
If I wanted to make the jump over to grammar lessons without throwing a curveball at my audience, I could do that by following the map: social media marketing >> make money writing >> creative writing >> writing tips >> grammar lessons. As it so happens, I already talk a bit about how to make money writing and creative writing. I could begin reaching out to brands within those transitional niches, building those relationships, and by turning a little more focus into those areas, I can set myself up to make a more natural jump into grammar lessons.
Once I can break into the grammar lessons niche, that opens up a whole new set of niches I can consider that have almost no ties to the social media marketing niche at all: homeschooling, English as a second language, adult learners, technical writing.
So, by expanding on my current niche just a tad, I can have myself set up and ready to jump into another niche should the social media marketing niche ever fold.
Make Sure You Can Reengineer Your Pain Points to Match the Times
As freelance writers, we all know the general benefits of what we bring to a company. However, as time goes on, their needs are going to change. And I don’t just mean during social distancing or even the pandemic itself, but also as they are recovering from the aftermath of the pandemic and adjusting to the new normal.
The attacks on 9/11 changed the way we did business forever. And by all indications, prolonged social distancing brought on by a global pandemic will likely do the same thing. As freelance writers, we need to watch everything that’s happening in the business world so we can keep up with those changes. People and corporations are going to have new needs to fill, and those of us who understand what those new needs are will have the advantage over those who continue using the same marketing techniques that worked last week.
Use Video Conferencing Software to Meet up With Other Writers
One of the best ways to grow as a writer at any time is to meet up and network with other writers. Exchange works, give and receive feedback, and just confer with each other on various things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be work-related, as long as it’s something that helps everyone involved.
Of course, during a global pandemic, meeting up with other writers isn’t as easy as just hopping down to the local coffee shop or Internet hotspot. So that means getting creative. You can use a service like Zoom or Google Hangouts to meet with other writers online in a video conference. Most conferencing software has a free option, so it doesn’t have to cost you anything to get you the networking you need to grow.
Make Sure You Are Writing For Yourself
Writing is just like any other skill: the more you do it, the better you get at it. The problem is that most freelance writers (of the ones I’ve met) often get so busy with their client work and projects that they forget to work on their own projects. They stop writing that book they were working on, they stop writing in their journal, or on their blog, or their short stories.
Here’s the thing: client work is great when it’s flowing in and the pay rates are reasonable. But it doesn’t take long to start feeling burnt out and forgetting why you love writing so much. Setting aside time every week (or even every month) will help you keep your passion for writing alive regardless of what’s going on with your client's work. Additionally, the more you write for yourself, the more you will be able to develop your writing voice and the more you will grow as a writer.
People Are Always Going to Need Content
Right up until the apocalypse actually happens, you can bet that people are going to need content. They are going to need blogs, and videos, and podcasts, and news, and updates, and tutorials, and walkthroughs. Even as the apocalypse hits, there will be those of us, myself included, who will spend the first several minutes trying to look it up on the Internet and complaining that the Internet is down.
Humans are always going to need content. If social distancing has caused uncertainty or even a lull in your freelance writing business, there is always a way in which you can grow, expand, and be ready when it picks back up.
This article was originally published by Naomi Nakashima on medium.