Think it’s impossible to find profitable freelance writing niches in 2020?
Here’s the truth:
While some niches, like travel, have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, other industries are still doing well.
In this post, we’ll cover the different niches available to freelance writers, and give you guidance on how to choose the right one for you.
Now, before we begin, here’s a warning: Don’t get hung up on the perfect freelance writing niche for you. That’s a way to procrastinate and never get started.
Ready? We’ll begin with a few fundamental questions…
What Exactly is a Freelance Writing Niche?
A freelance writing niche is a specialization in either a topic or a content type.
A topic is “what” you write about, and it’s probably the first thing you think of when you think of a “freelance writing niche.” Examples include personal finance, digital marketing, and technology.
You also have content type — the “how” you write about it, or the form your writing takes. Some examples are blog posts, case studies, and white papers (we’ll discuss many more in a moment).
Which should you focus on when you’re a newbie freelancer?
In my opinion: content type.
In fact, you may not want to specialize in a topic at all in the early stages of your freelance writing career. Gaining experience should be your first priority.
Later, you can, and should, consider specializing.
“The Riches Are In The Niches”
You can earn more by specializing, by becoming an “expert” in your topic or industry. Why? Businesses are willing to pay a higher rate to writers who understand their industry and their audience.
After all, as a freelance writer, you are providing marketing services to your clients. And to create excellent marketing content for a client, you need to know how to speak directly to their prospects or customers.
Plus, specializing helps you write faster. Besides the knowledge in your head, you’ll develop a bank of abundant research resources you can draw on in your writing. And the quicker you can write, the higher your hourly rate will be.
Also, having a freelance writing niche gives you a starting point in your marketing strategy. You’ll know which businesses to pitch and what writing services to offer them.
And pitching businesses, or proactively seeking writing jobs, will pay more than passively responding to content mills and job board ads.
What Makes a Freelance Writing Niche Profitable?
Profitable niches can come and go. Depending on what happens in the world, trends can shift at any time. Formerly profitable industries can be crippled overnight, as we’re currently experiencing due to COVID-19.
Focus on these three key concepts that determine the profitability of a niche:
- The type of freelance writing that pays the most is the writing that has the most substantial impact on a client’s SALES.
The more revenue your writing can potentially generate, the higher rates you can earn.
- The marketing budget or the money clients have available to pay for content or copy, will determine rates.
Obviously, if a client can’t afford to pay you, you won’t earn much. However, it’s easy to forget this, especially if you focus only on what you WANT to write about.
But if you want to maximize your freelancing earnings, go where the money is —where there are profitable, successful businesses with a marketing budget.
- Pay rates are influenced by the ratio of the supply of writers to the demand for those writers.
Aim for niches with a low supply of writers, but high client demand.
For example, there is a high demand for writers who understand search engine optimization (SEO). But there aren’t as many writers with this technical skill, so the pay for this type of writing will be higher.
Conversely, avoid niches with lots of willing writers, or high supply. For many of the “fun” topics, there’s an ample supply of writers who want to write about them. But since there is only so much demand, the high supply of writers will drive rates down.
Okay, so now let’s dive into the most profitable freelance writing niches to consider.
We’ll start with the different content types…
Freelance Writing Niches: 9 High-Paying Content Types
Remember, the more your writing can impact a client’s sales, the higher it pays. So all of these content types are either under the umbrella of content marketing or copywriting.
1. Long-form Blog Posts or Ultimate Guides
These types of posts aren’t fluffy 500-word ones written off the top of your head, but instead, detailed, well-researched posts over 2,000 words in length.
Ultimate guides provide in-depth information. They contain all the information a reader will need on a subject, all in one post.
Long-form content has a conversational and accessible writing style. Making complex topics easy to understand will be a superpower in this niche.
You’ll also want to learn basic SEO tactics to compete. That way, you can do everything you can as a writer to help your posts rank in search engines such as Google.
The best part of this content type? Businesses have a never-ending need for blogging content, which creates ongoing demand.
Plus, there is the opportunity for retainers. Retainers pay you a fixed amount in return for a set amount of blog posts, for example, $1,200 for 4 blog posts per month. As a freelance writer, this gives you a bit of security and stability, always a plus!
E-books are excellent marketing tools for both large and small businesses. They are used to both generate leads and to position the company as an expert in what they offer.
E-books are typically published as PDFs and can be anywhere from 10-20 pages long. Like blog posts, they need to present useful information, such as “how-tos,” on topics that interest the company’s prospects or customers.
E-book pricing varies widely and can range anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 depending on the client, industry, and the amount of research necessary.
They pay well because they can be lead magnets for your clients. The e-books are free in exchange for prospects’ email addresses.
That prospect is then placed in an email sales funnel or will receive the company’s newsletter. The hope is that through “nurturing” that lead and forming a relationship, the company can convert that lead into a paying customer.
Here’s an example of an e-book from the Freelance Writer’s Den:
Some businesses refer to their e-books as a “white paper,” which leads us to our next niche:
3. White Papers
White papers tend to be more formal and serious in tone than content like an e-book or blog post. They may contain technical information. They are popular in the technology niche and are usually written for the B2B or business to business market.
White papers present a problem, then explore solutions, one of which will be your client’s product or service. They try to persuade readers without crossing the line into sales. They don’t directly sell anything. Instead, they assist in the sales process.
Most of the data will be supplied by your client, although your interviewing skills will come in handy here to get the information you need.
White papers can vary in length, although they are typically around 5 to 10 pages long.
Like e-books, they are typically used as lead magnets for email lists. Since they can lead to sales, they are more profitable for you as a freelancer.
How much do white papers pay? As reported by That White Paper Guy:
“According to the biggest industry survey ever taken, it costs $5,000 to $7,000 to hire an experienced white paper writer.”
As he notes, the study referencing these amounts is 10 years old, so rates could be even higher now.
4. Case Studies
Case studies pay well because they help drive sales. They provide social proof by showcasing stories of customers’ success using the product or service of your client. They demonstrate the transformation a customer experienced.
The classic format is:
- Describe the challenge the customer faced.
- Explain the solution the company provided.
- Show the results the customer achieved by using the company’s product/service.
- Provide a conclusion designed to help prospects make a buying decision.
Case studies may involve interviewing both your client and their customers to get the best information. These are long-form testimonials written in story format. These stories need to be interesting and provide value to the reader.
5. Email Writing
This niche sounds easy, but it’s challenging to do well. You’ll need to create content that can gain readers’ attention, in direct competition with all the noise in their email in-box.
You’ll need a background in copywriting or at least a solid grasp of copywriting principles and formulas. After all, the primary purpose of email is to sell, but carefully. You need to engage the reader first, before attempting to sell them anything.
Email has an excellent return on investment for your client. According to HubSpot:
“You might be wondering if email is still a worthwhile marketing strategy. In fact, email generates $38 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 3,800% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available.”
This means that clients can afford to pay you! But to earn well, you need to be able to convert your clients’ leads into customers.
You could create email sequences or emails for sales funnels. You’ll want to take your email readers on a buyer’s journey from the awareness stage to acquisition, or the point where they make a purchase.
You could also write email newsletters for your clients. These help keep subscribers engaged with your clients and informed about their business.
Consistently producing newsletters help your clients build a relationship and trust with their subscribers. And since your client will need to communicate regularly, newsletters can be an excellent retainer project.
6. Sales Pages or Landing Pages
This content type requires you to write compelling copy, so put on your copywriter hat!
You could write website copy for a company’s home page, for their “About Us” page, or for product pages. You could also create the opt-in pages for lead magnets (like the e-books or white papers we covered).
You’ll write copy designed to either convert visitors to customers, to get prospects to buy, or to capture leads.
Writing copy for web pages is a challenging form of copywriting, so you’ll want to start by establishing yourself and becoming an expert in a topic first.
7. Video Script Writing
Video is becoming one of the best ways for businesses to reach potential customers. In a recent Forbes article about four content marketing trends to watch, video was number one:
“Video is wildly popular, and mobile video consumption increases every year. (…) When you work video into your marketing plans, it should accomplish two main objectives: Sell your products or services in a compelling way, and share your brand story.”
Businesses need scripts for website videos on their home pages, their sales pages, or for product tours. They may also need scripts for webinars, another sales tool.
YouTube is now a top search engine, and someone has to write all that spoken content. Why not you?
Companies need to both tell their stories and to create information-rich videos to attract potential customers.
8. Online or E-Learning Courses
Online courses and online education is a field that’s booming, and so are opportunities for educational content creators. Especially if you have a background in teaching or understand how people learn, this can be an excellent freelance writing gig for you.
Here you will write content for courses. Most courses involve a mix of text and video, so be prepared to write video scripts as part of this writing job.
9. Book Writing (Ghostwriting)
“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” – Anais Nin
Ghostwriting books is one of the highest paying niches on the list, but, of course, it’s also time-consuming and challenging.
You help your client get their story, or their ideas, out of their head, and into a book. The books you’d write could range from short e-books to self-published books (like on Amazon), to even traditionally published full-length books (for experienced writers).
As a ghostwriter, you do all the writing work, but your name would not be on the cover. All the credit goes to the client. Also, the book needs to be in the client’s voice or style, not your own.
You could be hired by either individuals or businesses who need high-quality content written under their names or brands. For example, people such as business executives, business owners, and other professionals who aren’t writers and have no interest in writing the books themselves.
For this, you’ll earn a sweet fee, and it is not unreasonable to start around $10,000 depending on the size and scope of the book.
Freelance Writing Niches: 8 High-Paying Topics
Before we dive into the list of profitable niches, realize that almost any topic can be profitable depending on a combination of your skills and a client’s budget for writers.
However, the more expertise that is required to write well in a topic, the higher it will pay.
For a helpful list of possibilities, here are some of the most profitable freelance niches.
1. Finance / Personal Finance
If you can write about financial topics, well, this is where the money is. In some cases, literally, this is where the actual money is.
You’ll need to be detail-oriented and careful to check your facts in this space! You’ll want to bring potentially dry topics to life by adding human touches like stories or case studies, but without “fluff.”
You could write for personal finance blogs, and right now, content about budgeting is in demand!
Even more profitable are banks, credit card companies, and mortgage lenders. They all need you to educate their consumers, and many have impressive blogs you could write for or training materials you could help them develop.
Other prospects in this space are accounting firms, financial planning firms, or investment companies.
All of these financial businesses need your writing skills to provide useful information and help form relationships with prospects and customers.
2. Cryptocurrency / Blockchain
Cryptocurrency and blockchain are hot topics related to finance. It involves a good bit of technical writing and know-how, and you’ll need to learn a lot of jargon. But if you understand blockchain technology and can explain it to others in a way they can understand, you definitely want to look into this niche.
3. Technology Writing
This is another area where you’ll need specialized knowledge to land writing gigs. Also, if you can write in a way that engages the reader in this potentially dry area, you’ll be an in-demand freelancer!
You’d be writing about technology such as computers and smartphones. Cybersecurity is also a hot field and one that will only grow as more businesses move online.
4. Digital Marketing
As more and more businesses are moving online, digital marketing companies need content to explain their products and services to prospects.
They are usually looking for long-form, in-depth guides, designed to teach both concepts and tactics.
There’s a wide variety of subtopics in this area. Here’s a few to think about:
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Search engine optimization
- Affiliate marketing
A great way to learn about this niche is by starting your own blog and experimenting with these techniques.
5. SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)
Companies that sell their software-as-a-service need to explain their product to prospects and customers. Not only do they need copy, like website copy, and email newsletters, but they also need long-form blog posts in tutorial and how-to formats.
For example, ConvertKit has a blog designed to help you get the best results from their software:
SaaS is a high-margin (profitable) business model, so these companies can afford to pay you well.
6. Alternative Health / CBD Products
Writing about health and wellness in general is a solid niche topic, but alternative health products are an especially hot area right now.
If you are knowledgeable about CBD products, you could target dispensaries, CBD stores, or even cannabis blogs.
In a rapidly changing world, education and skill training is more important than ever. People are looking for education and training to develop skills for either obtaining new jobs or to create new businesses.
Online course providers, universities, and student loan lenders are a few potential clients that need your writing skills.
8. Real Estate
If you want local clients, realtors could use your writing expertise. You could create home buying guides, information pieces about local laws and ordinances, and even some fun articles about home decor and how to stage houses for sale.
Here’s an example from a local realtor’s website:
How to Pick the Best Freelance Writing Niche for You
As explained here, you want to choose a niche that uses your expertise, that you enjoy writing about, and that will pay you well. At the intersection lies your ideal freelance writing niche.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
What is Your Area of Expertise? (Or What Are You Willing to Learn About?)
It’s always best to start with what you know. Look at the industries you’ve either worked in or are currently working in. If you start with the knowledge you have, this will provide the quickest payoff as a freelancer.
But you can learn as you go. By reading content in your niche and staying up to date with industry news, you can develop your expertise. You’ll want to learn the industry jargon and learn the “language” or preferred vocabulary of your target audience.
So either start with something you are already an expert in, or choose an area where you are willing to spend the time to read and learn all about it.
What Are You Passionate About? (Or What Do You Enjoy Writing About?)
Be cautious in choosing a niche only because it might pay well. A lack of passion will show up in your writing, and readers will pick that up and lose interest themselves.
At a minimum, make sure you have a keen interest in the topic.
Look at what you enjoy writing about, or the topics you gravitate towards when there is no profit motive.
If you aren’t sure what you want to write about, don’t worry about specializing yet. By staying open to writing about anything, you may discover interests or passions you didn’t know you had.
How To Validate and Test Your Freelance Writing Niche
Now that you have some ideas of what you want to write about, it’s time to validate and test it.
Is There a Market For It (And Does It Pay Enough For Your Needs)?
If you want to earn well as a freelance writer, make sure there is a market for the type of content you’d like to write. You need to find businesses with budgets.
Remember, you are selling the results you get clients as a freelance writer. You aren’t paid to write, you are paid to sell.
A good way to test the market is to see what’s advertised on job boards. As a reminder, to get the highest pay rates, you’ll want to pitch companies directly, but job boards can help with the research.
The Ultimate Freelance Writing Niche Test
“Work is the bridge between dreams and reality.” – Jared Leto
There’s always a difference between what you think something will be like and what it is actually like. Said another way, you can’t truly know what you want to write about until you start writing about it.
So, to test it out, create a writing sample. This is a low-risk way to try out a niche.
As an example, maybe you think you’d love to write B2B SaaS content for Content Management Solution providers. But then you read about “headless CMS solutions” (yes, that’s a thing), and your eyes glaze over. Not a good sign.
You’ll need a sample anyway for potential clients, so this solves two issues at once. Create a sample to both test the niche and to have something to show prospects.
Bonus Tip: An excellent way to test a niche is to write a guest post. This is a three-for-one deal, as not only can you test the waters, provide proof you can write in that niche, but you could also gain exposure to potential clients.
If Nothing Else, Just Get Started
Take a deep breath.
If you are new to the freelance writing biz, don’t worry about specific niches yet. It’s okay to be a generalist.
Start exploring these profitable freelance writing niches. But think of this process as a series of experiments to unfold over time.
Use this information to pick a few topic niches to position yourself in, and get started.
The important part is to begin working on your freelance writing business. And as you gain experience, be ready to niche down and specialize.
But decide to make a decision. Start experimenting today.