I’ve been writing online for almost two years now, and throughout that time I’ve seen the same debate rage on:
Should you stick to your niche?
Writers and content creators consistently discuss the importance of writing for your niche. As a Content Marketer by trade, the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specialist in me would say that you should. You need to write around the same subject in order to build authority on it. You need to attract the right audience for your product, even if that product is simply your blog posts.
But writing for SEO is different to writing for content. In my day job, I’m focused on bringing people to our site to book a holiday, and so I focus on relevant travel content. And initially, for my after-hours job, I believed my purpose was to spread awareness about mental illness, namely BPD. I felt that I had to write solely about that in order to be successful.
So I wrote dozens of articles focused on mental health and wellbeing, and something never felt right. It was only a year in, when I decided to write a different article on a whim, that I realised the issue. In my articles, I aim to be my most authentic self and break down all barriers, but by only writing about a tiny part of who I am, I wasn’t succeeding in this. I was negating all the other aspects that make me who I am, and make other people who I am.
By sticking to a niche, you’re removing reality from your work.
One of the main arguments for niche writing is that you find the right audience and you keep them interested. By writing about mental illness, I was building my authority in the subject and finding readers who wanted to know more about it. So each article I wrote would likely resonate with a large portion of my followers.
I’m not saying that this line of thinking is incorrect, merely that it’s like a horse in a racetrack with those vision shields on. They can only see straight ahead, which is where they run. But this makes you miss so much else around you, and I see a niche to be the same thing.
When you read content online, is it always on the same subject? Do you only read about books, wellness or pop culture? Do you never stray into other subjects?
It’s likely that you do read about more than one topic because you’re a human being with multiple interests. Think of if someone asked you what your hobbies were, and how many answers you’d be able to give. It’s in our nature to be curious about more things. We may enjoy reading, but we also like watching Netflix, going for runs and keeping up with celebrity gossip. We’re complex beings who have the potential to be interested in multiple subjects.
So why would we expect our content creators to only produce within their niche? If readers don’t stick to a niche, why should writers?
You could argue it comes down to expertise and only talking about what you know. If you know more than one subject, then you’re less likely to be an expert in it. This is true for some areas of writing online, but a lot of us aren’t experts in what we discuss. We’re merely writers who are thinking out loud, posing questions and piecing information together.
I recently wrote an article for Pop Sugar about ‘Killing Eve’. I don’t have a PhD in Television Studies - if that’s even a thing. I don’t have direct access to the creators or actors of the show. I’m a fan who watched the episodes numerous times and happens to be a writer.
When considering whose articles I rush to read, it’s never people who stick to one niche. It’s writers who focus on what interests them, what compels them most. I get to see multiple sides of myself reflected in someone’s work, and that’s what I look for.
I write about mental health and I write about feminism, because people can be interested in both. I write about books and I write about television shows, because people often will engage with both.
People don’t fit into a niche, so why should our work?
If you only write about one subject and do so regularly, you’re likely to have a content burnout. You’ll reach a point where you either have nothing more to say or don’t want to say stuff anymore. It can be exhausting to discuss the same topic, particularly if it’s a difficult one.
When writing solely about mental illness, I often felt like I had purged myself emotionally for the reader. I was talking about the worst parts of my life and felt a deep need to overshare for their sake. It felt worth it when I’d receive feedback from people who appreciated my work, but it was also draining my love for writing.
By switching between subjects, you not only have more to write about but also more will to write. You can base your content on what intrigues you most at the moment. You can follow how you’re feeling, and go for a lighter article on a day that you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed.
Don’t stay in your lane, switch between lanes, as then you’ll be more alert driving and be able to go on for longer.
People often think that you’ll become a better writer by writing in the same genre or subject over and over. It’s sort of the writer’s version of the 10,000-hour rule.
Maybe that’s true, but I also think that there are so many benefits to writing between styles. I think that there’s something to learn from every genre when writing, which is why writers should read across genres. I think that writing across subjects also gives you the opportunity to refine your voice so that you can find your consistency without depending on the subject matter. How I speak to my reader in an article about haircuts isn’t all that different to when I’m discussing mental illness, because these are both subjects that matter to me in different ways.
The consistency between your articles shouldn’t be the subject but rather you, your voice and what you bring to your piece. I don’t follow writers only because of the topic they discuss, but rather because I appreciate how they discuss them. I follow a writer for their style and voice, for their way of explaining things and relating to me as a reader.
Writing across subjects allows you to make connections that you might not have realised before. I get to discover links between haircuts and relationships, reading and mental illness, and so much more. This gives a deeper touch to my work and differentiates it from other articles out there on the same subject.
When I’m writing a piece, whether it’s for work or my personal blog, I am always wondering what I can provide the reader. Why should they read my article over someone else? What am I giving them that other articles aren’t?
Often that will lie in my level of detail or including personal experiences, and other times it’s simply through knowing about several subjects.
Consider what you bring to your reader and through what subjects you can bring this to them. Don’t constrain yourself to one box in the name of a niche, and instead embrace who you are as a writer. Your followers can choose not to read one article if it doesn’t relate to them enough, but that article might pull in other people who never would have discovered you otherwise. The cage of a niche is one that is self-constructed, and yours to break. Choose to show every side of yourself in your work in order to show your readers the person behind the words.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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