Leverage your time, efforts, and profits with multi-niched silos
Should you niche or be a generalist?
There are pros and cons to each.
Niching helps establish you as a subject matter expert, thought leader, and influencer. It’s easy to build a following.
Being a generalist suits writers who have multiple interests and don’t want to be slotted into a narrow category. While it allows for greater freedom around topics, it can be harder to build a following.
When I started planning my freelance business 25 years ago, niching seemed the fastest route to success. But I was reluctant to slot myself into a single niche. Too many topics interested me; boredom lurked in those narrow niches.
I needed to multi-niche for writing success.
The Multi-Niching Strategy
The bank I was working for was organized around silos — distinct lines of business with some crossover that allowed consumers to be served in more than one line, thus improving profits and customer service. When one line weakened because of the economy, the other lines keep things going, so any hits to income were blunted. The risk was spread.
Adopting this strategy, I identified separate niches for my business, several of which I began working in while still working at the bank. It is a strategy I have used for my entire career as a writer, editor, consultant, and trainer. It helped my business weather economic booms and busts, and it can do the same for you.
Multi-niching works for me, and it can work for you, too.
How to Build a Multi-Niched Writing Business
When you multi-niche, you choose three or more niches for the bulk of your writing. Your goal is to establish a portfolio of credits for each silo. The overall objective is being able to present yourself as a subject matter expert with publication credits in each.
When one market dries up, your favorite editor leaves, or you grow bored with it, your other silos can carry you along.
A niche or silo can be a narrow subject like Fly Fishing, Stamp Collecting, or Gluten-Free Cooking, among others. It also can be a more general type of topic, such as Leisure Sports, Hobbies, Food, Travel, Health, and so on. Avoid choosing too many since you need time and energy to create a body of work for each.
See if you can create niches that allow for crossover marketing. For example, articles for your Fly Fishing silo can be reworked for your Health and/or Travel silos. Always look for ways of making your efforts serve more than one silo.
Leverage Your Current Job in a Multi-niche
Start with your current field of business. Let’s say you’re an insurance agent. Some print and online publication options include insurance trades, consumer protection, money management, general interest, and career counseling, among others.
If you are still working, make sure you understand your company’s policies with respect to writing for publication. It may be prohibited or allowed with limitations. Anything you write may be subject to review by compliance or legal departments. Know the rules to stay out of trouble.
My company allowed me to write for publication as long as I wrote as an individual and not a representative of the bank, nor could I mention the bank or refer to any proprietary or confidential information. That left a wide-open field. I started writing for trade publications about retirement savings plans, which let me leverage the reputation and expertise I had built up at the bank without violating any of the rules.
- Find out the rules for your company.
- List everything related to your job in which you have expertise.
- Research publications (print and online) that might be interested in the items on your list.
- Begin pitching ideas to build up a portfolio of work.
If you are already self-employed, investigate your previous employer and other similar organizations since they often use independent contractors for writing assignments and/or consulting gigs. You want a portfolio for both writing and consulting.
Focus on Your Interests for More Multi-niches
While amateurs and hobbyists may not have the expertise or credentials of professionals, they often can relate better to a general audience. Here’s where the fun of multi-niching begins.
Let’s say you are an avid amateur tennis player. You can use the narrow niche Tennis as a silo and/or slot the topic of tennis into a more general silo, such as Health or Travel. Again, look for silo crossovers.
Choose both narrow and more general niches with crossover options. For example, here are my original silos:
- Retirement savings plans
- Nonfiction articles and books for children and young adults
- Consumer protection
- Consumer travel
- Personal development
- Professional development
Build Your Portfolios for Each Multi-niche
Begin pitching ideas to editors. At first, your goal isn’t to make money — although that’s a nice bonus — it’s to build up credentials as an expert. Eventually, you want to get paid since that is the mark used to separate the amateur from the pro.
Stay within your silos at first. If your pitch is rejected or just dies without notice, keep trying. I have found that some editors want to see how committed you are and expect you to keep trying. When their minimum of attempts is reached, they give you a go-ahead.
Always study the publications you want to include in your silos. You’re pitching and writing to both the editor and their audience, so you need to satisfy both. As you begin to gain credits, you can mention them in your pitches. This often opens doors faster. With persistence, your name will become known within your silo and work will start to come to you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change or Add New Multi-niches
I was a regular contributor to several trade publications for retirement savings plans when the market dried up. Big pension consulting firms were taking over most of the content and doing it in-house. Additionally, my travel silo never got the love it needed and died a natural death. Time to choose new silos and start over with them.
When this happens, try not to pick new silos totally removed from your original ones. For example, I replaced my Retirement Savings Plans silo with Consumer Financial Planning information — a topic within my wheelhouse from my tenure at the bank. However, in addition to focusing on pitching just publications, I also pitched financial organizations. (I never replaced my Travel silo.)
Don’t overlook niches like Workshops and Seminars. The e-learning industry is booming, and every one of your niches offers opportunities here. Keep in mind, that many organizations bring in outside trainers to facilitate employee development workshops, so don’t limit yourself to e-learning. Coaching also is a booming silo to consider. Remember to leverage what you already have expert credentials for.
You don’t have to choose between niching or not niching. Focus on building a multi-niched business to reap long- term success.