By Emily Haag
By choosing an unusual niche (equine and pet businesses), I’ve managed to learn a fair bit about niching since I started my proofreading business. Some of it I’ve learned from the advice of others and some of it from my own mistakes.
Why did I choose to niche?
I was convinced by the argument that when people are making a choice between multiple editorial professionals, they are more likely to choose someone who is in their niche than someone who isn’t. That means if I don’t have a niche, people will be more likely to choose someone else. I also had difficulty coming up with unique selling points when I started out, and a niche provided one.
Don’t be vague
Niches help you to refine your marketing so that you speak directly to your target audience. My niche began life as “the equestrian world.” I first ran into trouble with that when I came to write my website copy. I couldn’t speak to authors, publishers, magazines, businesses, and organizations all at the same time. Some of them know they need a proofreader and just need to choose one. Others (mainly businesses and organizations) don’t usually know how a proofreader can benefit them. As a result, I ended up being too general; no one felt my service was specifically for them. As someone has said, if you try to speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one. Therefore, I niched further to focus on businesses and then broadened that slightly by adding pets.
Either niche or don’t
You can’t sort of niche. I was scared to go all in at first, so I made sure my social media posts weren’t specifically horsey. I didn’t want to turn away non-equestrian people. The result was that my posts didn’t attract my ideal client, and the people who did like them saw that I wasn’t in their niche, so they discounted me. That didn’t lead to a lot of work.
Make sure people in your niche know you exist
Of course, it didn’t help that hardly anyone in my niche was in my social media network. People who don’t know you exist aren’t going to hire you. You can fix this problem by looking for such people yourself and following them, sending them connection requests, and interacting with them on their posts or in comments. Writing posts relevant to your niche (and what you do) and using appropriate hashtags should also help. You can also write a guest post for someone’s blog.
Unusual niches make you memorable
This doesn’t mean an unusual niche is a better idea than one that lots of editors are already working in. It just means that I’ve found my niche is a good conversation starter with my colleagues and that many of them think of me and message or tag me when they see something on horses.
How to choose a niche
The general advice on niching is to choose an area where you have a lot of knowledge. It doesn’t mean you have to know everything about it, but you need to know more than the average person. For ideas, you can think about your previous jobs, something you’ve studied, or your hobbies. Since I’m something of an encyclopaedia on horses, the horse world seemed logical when I was starting out.
If you’ve already been editing or proofreading for a while, you also have the luxury of considering projects you’ve worked on when choosing your niche. You may have enjoyed a particular type of project and choose to specialize there. Whatever niche you choose, just make sure you will enjoy it.
You don’t have to niche
Niching isn’t necessary, but having a unique selling point is. People need a reason to choose you over all the other editors or proofreaders out there. Having a specific niche, like historical fiction rather than just fiction, may not be the only way to create a unique selling point, but it’s a good one.
Most clients and potential clients who’ve contacted me have done so because of my niche, so it can be very helpful in your marketing. But be sure to avoid just niching half-heartedly, or it can be more of a hindrance than a help.
Emily Haag is a thoughtfully thorough UK-based proofreader for equine and pet businesses. She also enjoys working on historical and children’s fiction and is a baroque horse addict.
This article was copy edited by Ambrose Li.