Your best writing will always be in industry niches that you’re already familiar with. That means that you’re going to be limited by your own personal interests or past work history when you get started as a professional writer. If you’re in marketing, that kind of limitation can cost you a lot of contracts, which you probably can’t afford.
As you go, you’ll inevitably get a client who wants you to write something in a niche that you know nothing about. Knowing how to successfully tackle an unfamiliar topic with an unfamiliar audience can be difficult, but it’s perfectly doable if you’re smart about how you approach it.
When you get started in a new niche you’ll be a total outsider; you simply won’t have anything relevant to tell people who are surrounded by it everyday. If you try you’ll inevitably come across as either badly under-informed, or just incredibly condescending.
You can circumvent that by just ignoring them for now, and writing for a totally different audience: laypeople.
You can translate your research on the industry into articles that your client can publish to reach out to the greater community. Being an outsider is actually kind of helpful when you’re writing an educational piece, because you won’t accidentally infuse your writing with industry jargon and unfamiliar concepts without bothering to explain them.
When you’re writing one of these pieces you’ll need to follow a few important guidelines that’ll help you become more proficient in the new niche until you develop the background necessary to comment intelligently on subjects that are relevant to the niche group.
Take a Minute and Read
Even if your client is giving you some basic points to write off of, you need to do your research on the industry. Go and find a few relevant industry blogs and familiarize yourself with the community and industry-specific language.
Find out who’s important, follow them on twitter, and listen to what they’re saying.
Don’t Pretend to Be an Expert
In those first few articles it’s always tempting to make yourself sound like a long-time expert in whatever field you’re writing about. Besides violating the trust of your readers, that’s also going to undermine the quality of your work.
Instead, take a more academic or journalistic approach. Cite and quote your sources to lend authority to your writing, and think about publishing an interview with a real expert, like, say, your client.
Ask Questions To Break In
Once you’ve written a good handful of articles in your new niche it’s time to start shifting your focus to the professional community. This new audience could be your client’s customers (often also businesses), or any other individuals who already have a real interest in the niche (kind of like you!).
Start asking informed questions that matter to you (and your readers) and write articles that bring your client’s answers to the masses. These articles are usually about broader industry news, or just more specific information about how things are run.
Becoming an “Expert”
Being a niche expert as a writer is VERY different than being an actual expert. An industry professional has to operate an industry; their writer just has to understand what they’re doing. That’s lucky for us, because it means we can become relevant pretty quickly.
A writer becomes an expert when they’re integrated into the larger niche community. It’s a gradual process and you can think of it in a variety of ways.
Personally, I like to just go by how other people treat me. If people know who you are, you’re invited to industry tweet chats, and other professionals are citing your work in their own writing, you’ve probably arrived.
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