Published on 15th Nov., 2016
The Importance of Building a Niche Writing Portfolio
Freelance writers know how to get shit done. There isn’t really a rulebook for what we do, which makes it all the more exciting and worthwhile for so many of us. It’s a welcome challenge—a chance to take this craft that’s your calling and be able to exist in the world by doing it.
But existing in the world means, of course, that you need to make money. You’ve been told time and again that, before you can even begin to think about earning a living as a writer, you have to build up your portfolio.
However, it’s nearly impossible to build up a writing portfolio—to have your pitches accepted and to keep getting writing gigs—if you don’t have anything to show for yourself in the first place. And, once you have your portfolio, it’s much easier to get writing gigs in the same verticals as the topics you’ve already written about.
The importance of a niche writing portfolio simply cannot be understated. Let’s look at some of the ways one can be so beneficial.
It Showcases Your Authority
Credible publications—the ones you want to write for—rely on their writers and reporters to be voices of authority.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that, if your writing expertise centers on the real estate market, you need to be able to name the top commercial listings in the metro Atlanta area at the drop of a hat. However, editors will expect you to have some expertise on the subject you’re writing about—some evidence that you’ve written about it before, you know where to look for sources and reliable information, or that you have experience that’s given you a unique perspective on the topic at hand.
The same goes for your social media presence. If you’ve covered a topic enough times and regularly engage in conversations about it, you’ll have established a reputation for yourself in that arena. You may even have such a strong online presence that people will eventually start coming to you for writing without you even having to pitch anything.
It Takes The Place Of Your Resume
You’ve likely heard this before, but we’re going to tell you again: Your portfolio is your resume. It doesn’t always matter what other jobs you’ve done—your writing will speak for itself.
Many editors look at you as a writer and nothing else, so the only thing they need to know about you is how well you write about the subject at hand. Other times, they’ll need to know that you have certain expertise or a specific background on a subject—in which case, your writing will speak for itself.
Think about it this way: A science teacher would have a much easier time landing a new teaching job at a different school in a science department than in an art department, right? Your portfolio acts as your resume because it not only showcases that you’ve done a job—writing—well, it illustrates that you cover a specific topic or small range of topics quite well, too.
It’s Not Necessarily Your Favorite Topic To Write About
Many reporters fresh out of J-school know they want to write about arts and entertainment—so many, in fact, that these verticals often pay less than others, because the supply of writers to fill them is so high. Try and expand the topics you’re willing to cover, and find a new niche for yourself that’s not so easy to come by. Who knows, you may even find you prefer writing about small business—you’d just never thought to explore it before! By building up a niche writing portfolio that’s a little harder to come by, you’ll very well be giving yourself an edge.
On another note, maybe you’re a creative writer at heart, but you need something to pay the bills while you’re writing the next Great American Novel. Copywriting may not be as fulfilling, but you still enjoy it, and it allows you to utilize your well-honed skill set while actually paying you. It might pay to have two separate portfolios, or separate sections of your portfolio, in these cases, to show off your various niches. Just like an actor wouldn’t use an acting resume to get a food service job, you can’t always expect your creative writing clips to get you the copywriting gigs that pay a pretty penny.
Where Do You Begin?
If you’re looking to break into a niche that you haven’t covered before, it can be difficult to find your footing. Consider publishing writing on the topics you want to cover on your own personal blog, or self-publish them on a site like Medium, if you’re not finding paid work in those subject areas. (You can even try and monetize your personal blog if you build up enough of a following, but that’s a topic for another time.)
Remember, no one is keeping you to a deadline for self-published pieces. It may be important to publish them in a timely manner if your piece deals with a time-sensitive news item, but otherwise, take your time. They’re your chance to show off your writing to the best of your abilities, so that when you add them and start building the niche writing portfolio you want, you’re more likely to get jobs from them in the future.