Q&A: Can you make money writing in a small niche?

4 tips to turn writing you love into paid work

Sneak peek: I’m launching my first writing contest in July, and I’d love for you to submit! I’m looking for personal essays that answer this question: How has your identity as a woman affected your career, jobs and/or your relationship with money?

I’ll share more details as we get closer to opening submissions, but I wanted to give you a heads up so you can get a head start on your essay before I spread the word to everyone else :)

I recently shared a, er, passionate missive with Field Notes subscribers to remind you you absolutely can make a living writing if you want to. You can access the full post with a $7 per month subscription, but here’s the gist:

Don’t let anyone scare you off from trying to give writing a real go. You CAN make a living at this.

One reader responded with a question I bet many of you have, so this month I’m sharing with you what I told her.

Q&A: Can you make money writing in a small niche?

Thanks sincerely, Dana, for this. Even though I've tried in the past to get paid for my writing, it hasn't happened to date...

As an animal-centered writer/ecopsychologist, finding paying work has thus far been only a pipe dream. If you have easier, clearer ways in which to make this a paying career, I'm all ears...



I get it, Denise.

Figuring out how to turn writing you love into paid work is challenging for everyone. You feel like you either have to sell out and create boring technical or marketing content, or accept your fate as a starving artist with integrity.

You don’t have to choose. Here are some thoughts on finding paying work in a tiny or creative niche:

Target the right publications

This is usually the biggest hurdle for any kind of writing, but especially if you write within a small niche. Make sure you’re targeting the right kinds of publications (that have the right audiences) for what you write.

For example, it looks (from your email signature) like you write personal essays. . In that case, be careful not to pitch journalistic outlets, and focus instead on outlets that publish and pay for essays. Like those on this list from The Write Life.

Build your own audience

This is a much heavier task than freelancing, but it's an option. Build a network in your niche through online communities, conferences, other blogs, etc., and slowly monetize your writing through a platform like Substack, Patreon or Medium.

You can even take it step further and create books, courses, webinars and events to sell to your audience, as well.

Find tie-ins to your niche from other niches

Options for ecopsychology-focused publications might be limited, but tons of publications cover climate change. Is there a crossover from your field to that topic?

Find ways to connect what you love to write about with broader niches, so you can stick to what you love without being restricted to a tiny niche.

Explore other niches

Especially if you're just getting started, I recommend not limiting yourself to a niche. I'm now a personal finance writer, but I would have never imagined this niche for myself when I first started. I made my way here by writing about work and freelancing and taking a chance on a job opportunity I wasn't sure I'd love (but I did!).

I still get to talk about freelancing and careers, and my options for making money are broader because I can also write about mortgages and retirement accounts. 

You can always continue writing in the niche you're most passionate about, but exploring others could help you find paying work more easily, as well as enrich the writing you do in your favorite niche.

Further reading

🧡 17 High Paying Freelance Writing Niches for 2021 (+ Yearly Salaries) (Elna Cain): Freelancer Elna Cain explains how to choose a niche and how she landed in the digital marketing niche. She also shares a huge list of lucrative niches to explore if you want to earn good money writing.

💚 How to Make Money Writing: 5 Ways to Get Paid to Write in 2021 (SmartBlogger): This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a great place to start to get an idea of the range of ways you can turn your writing skill into a paying side gig, business or career.

💜 These Tips From Creative Writers Will Help You Get Published — and Get Paid (The Penny Hoarder): Writer Adam Hardy talked to a poetry blogger and a creative writing instructor to learn how to get published in literary magazines — and paid for your creative writing.

💙 How To Become A Freelance Writer In 2021: The Ultimate Guide (Make A Living Writing): This is freelance guru Carol Tice’s definitive guide to getting started as a freelancer from scratch and finding your first paying clients.

💛 The Unusual Business Writing Niche That Pays $500 an Hour (Make A Living Writing): Fundraising strategist Kendell Rizzo shares an unexpected writing niche that pays better than most — a great reminder that wherever you find words, you could find writing work!

Next month

5 things in your writing that make you look dumb

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