For many freelancers, there’s a disconnect between doing work they love and getting paid well.
I often hear fellow writers talk about “bread and butter” jobs that pay the bills but are snore-worthy, and “dream jobs” that get their hearts racing but don’t put much money in their bank accounts.
Now, obviously, this depends largely on the kind of freelance work you do and who you do it for. For example, someone who freelances for banks or corporate companies is likely to have higher earning potential than someone who chooses to work for charities.
Regardless, there’s always a middle ground.
At the start of my career, I was writing for travel companies which was an absolute passion of mine. I couldn’t quite believe it when I got to tell people I was a Travel Writer.
But, while I did land some lucrative gigs in that arena, most of the jobs weren’t well paid because there were thousands of people out there who also liked to be able to call themselves a Travel Writer and accepted much less money for the privilege.
When I realised I would probably have to venture away from the travel world, my heart sank.
I was going to have to work in an industry I wasn’t passionate about in order to get paid more.
But this wasn’t strictly how things went down.
In fact, my change of niche was such a gradual thing that I barely noticed I wasn’t writing for any travel brands any more. And I was still enjoying the work. Obviously I couldn’t call myself a travel writer any more, but that was a small price to pay.
It turned out I wasn’t just passionate about travel.
In fact, I was passionate about a lot of things. When I switched to writing for ecommerce and SaaS brands, there were still a lot of similarities with the travel writing I’d previously done.
Despite the topics being worlds apart, the process was still similar: I’d research, find sources, dig out any relevant data, structure each piece into an outline, fill it out into a draft, run through the edits, rinse, and repeat.
It turns out I loved the process of writing, regardless of the topic. I loved putting words next to each other and finding the simplest way to convey something. The topic at this point didn’t matter.
And over time, I came to love my new niche. The more I wrote about it, the more I learned, and the more fascinated I became with it.
Passion Comes in Many Different Shapes and Sizes
If you think you’re only passionate about one thing, think again. In fact, grab a piece of paper right now or open the notes app on your phone and list out everything you’re interested in.
This might include:
- Your hobbies (I love to upcycle furniture, practice aerial silks, go to art galleries, travel, look at classic cars, paint, and read)
- The news articles you’re most interested in (weirdly enough, I’m fascinated by research about neanderthals, the human brain, space discoveries, women in business, and new tech trends)
- The little parts of your job you enjoy (i.e. I love the process of writing, but I also love topic ideation, creating compelling headlines, and generating punchy taglines)
This activity will quickly reveal that you have a lot more passions than you originally thought, and there are probably many that have the potential to get paid for, too.
For me, the next logical step was to move into writing for ecommerce and SaaS brands because I was fascinated by startups and small businesses and I’d already started to land work in that arena.
At that point, I didn’t have to check if it was a more profitable niche because I knew that pretty much any niche was more profitable than travel.
However, there are some key ways you can determine if a niche you’re passionate about has the potential to earn you money:
- Research other freelancers in that niche (run a simple Google search for “freelance interior design writers”, for example, and check out if there’s a healthy supply of them, what kind of rates they’re charging, and what kind of clients are in their portfolios. You can even reach out to them and ask them if you’re feeling particularly brave)
- Research jobs in that niche (run another Google search for “freelance interior design writer jobs” and see what comes up)
- Consider whether there’s a need for your service in that industry (for example, there is a need for good content in the SaaS world in order for startups to stand out, but there might not be such a big need for aerial silk content)
Passion and profitability aren’t exclusive of each other.
In fact, there’s always a happy medium if you spend time really digging into your interests and the parts of your job you enjoy.
For example, there have been days where I’m writing about an incredibly dry topic but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed creating beautiful sentences. You won’t enjoy every project that comes your way, but if you can safely say you enjoy 80% or more, you’re onto a winner for getting paid for your passion.