The age old freelance writing advice is to write what you know and to seek out opportunities that highlight your expertise. That is definitely a great place to start, but what if you don’t know anything.
Well, I mean you know stuff. Everyone knows stuff, but you feel like none of your life experience or passions line up with what you want to write about or those topics don’t pay money. I was in the same boat.
When I first started freelance writing, I was young, still in college, and my primary interests included watching reality television in between English classes and coffee shop shifts. I had no business thinking I could become a freelance writer, but here I am.
How I Became an Expert Financial Writer
When I tell people that I am a finance writer, they look at me a little aloof. I guess I don’t look like your typical finance person with my short stature, big hair, mom clothes and toddler on my hip. “Is that what you went to college for?” some ask trying not to be offensive. Others flat out ask questions like, “How do you write about stuff you don’t know about?” or “Do you just copy other articles?” (These questions are usually from people who know me personally).
It’s true that if you sit down to coffee with me, I am more prone to talk about kids and recent life happenings rather than tell you passionately why you need to get life insurance right now and not through your employer.
It is also true that I didn’t start my freelance career knowing that I would one day be paid crazy amounts for writing finance advice. In fact, when I first started freelance writing, I was so eager for work that I took any pay and wrote anything.
I stumbled into the world of freelance writing because I was a couponer at the time and liked to share my money tips with a few blog readers. Somehow, the editor for Dave Ramsey’s site found my super humble blog in 2010 and asked if we could exchange guest posts. This allowed me to get my writing and byline on Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover blog (RIP). It also gave me the confidence to take those clips and ask every financial site and blog at the time if they needed a finance writer. To my surprise, this lead to a lot of regular writing positions in the finance field.
From 2010 until 2015, I focused on finance writing but would also take any writing job I could get. I still didn’t understand the importance of niching down. It wasn’t until 2016 that I focused only on finance writing and only broadcasted my finance writing experience. That was a pivotal move for me that launched me into higher earnings and snagging high profile financial clients.
I share my story with you to show that it was a process to get to expert level, but I definitely think I could have expedited the journey had I focused on one niche.
Can You Really Master Any Niche?
Yes! You have the capability to become an expert in any niche that you want to pursue. It’s not as simple as reading one book on your topic, and it can take you several years to feel and be treated as an expert.
However, once you become an expert in your niche, not only will you earn more money, but you will become a faster, more productive writer. When I wrote on several different topics, it took me a long time to research those topics and write on them. Now, if I am assigned a credit card piece or article on financing student loans, I am able to write it quickly and confidently because my brain is a bank of knowledge on those subjects.
How Many Niches Should You Become an Expert In?
If you can become an expert in any topic, then you should take on any writing job you can get, right? Wrong. While I believe that you can be successful in any niche, you can’t be an expert in everything.
Potential clients don’t want a jack of all trade writer that has a portfolio full of different niches. Instead, clients want the cream of the crop to write their content. Think about it. Who would you rather cook you a meal – a person who has devoted the past 10 years of their life training and perfecting their cooking talent or someone who likes to cook and had a catering business once along with a list of other interesting business accomplishments, like owning a nail salon, a pet parlor, and daycare. Both individuals can probably serve you a good meal, but the meal of the first will be unmatched in quality.
Once I started focusing only on finance writing, I grew faster as an expert finance writer and started making as much as $3,700 for a 3,000 word guide. That assignment still blows my mind! This year, majority of my new work and clients have found me. I don’t think they would have pursued me if my portfolio was more diverse.
Of course, I have written several things in the past decade of freelance writing, including pieces about chiropractic care, baby names and dog breeds. I was thankful for these jobs because they helped pay the bills back in the day, but I don’t advertise this experience. Instead, I focus on financial writing accomplishments.
How to Become an Expert in Your Niche
One of my favorite authors/speakers is Brian Tracy. True, some of his advice is old-timey, since he has been an expert in his industry for many decades, but he knows his stuff. He says, “You have to pay any price, go any distance, and spend any amount of time necessary to ‘be the best.’” He recommends reading to become the top of your field, saying, “If you read only one book per month, that will put you into the top 1 percent of income earners in our society.” In his book writing course, he said that to become an expert you need to read 40-50 books in your topic and to know over 100 words for every one word you want to write.
How does this boil down to you as a freelancer? Simply put, read more and experience more. Talk to experts in your desired field. Consume Youtube videos, documentaries, and daily news in your desired niche. Apply your findings to your own life – i.e. I used many of the credit score tools and tactics I learned to radically increase my own score, then I wrote several paid articles on my experience.
I think it is also important to be interested in your niche. Now you might not be interested in every facet of your niche, but you have to find the research and reading interesting. When it comes to the finance niche, I have no interest in investing. In turn, I don’t write about investment accounts or investment advice. However, I do love to learn more about credit scores, keeping up to date on what are the best credit cards available on the market, interviewing people who have taken their credit score from horrible scores to impressive once, etc.
This interest has driven me to become better in my field not because I had to for a paycheck but because I wanted to.
Anyone can become an expert at anything if they stick to it long enough. However, make sure you are growing in areas that drive you. This doesn’t mean that I am excited to write every financial piece I am assigned. Many times, I want to claw my eyes out because finance writing can be dry and boring. As a whole, though, I get excited when I finish a finance article or when I discover a unique way to pitch/write on a popular money topic.
If you can find that spot where your interest drives you to research more and write more, then you will be well on your way to earning a decent freelance writing income. It doesn’t happen overnight.