The dream of any freelance writer is to make a good living doing it. The flexibility is astounding, with the ability to work remotely and write anywhere, at any time, as long as deadlines are met and quality is kept up. It's no wonder that large numbers of people turn to writing as an option, never realizing just how challenging it can be.
In freelance writing, writers can choose to be generalists or specialists. Specialists focus on one or two niches, learning enough to be expert, authoritative writers on those subjects. They can competently write for projects that require a level of knowledge the average generalist can't reach.
Generalists succeed in their ability to write about anything, for anyone. Where a specialist is more likely to find a few loyal clients to provide ongoing work and high pay, generalists can keep a stable of potentially dozens of clients, so there's always work to be done.
There's always that external factor, though. A writer who does a lot of product descriptions can make a lot of money, but it's more because they can churn them out in seconds than because of the value of the niche. On the other hand, a writer specializing in a high-requirement, high-oversight niche like medicine or law will be able to make comparatively more per word.
If you're the kind of writer who values expertise and depth of content over the ability to write surface-level content about anything, you'll likely want to seek out high-paying niches to specialize in.
The only question, then, is what are those high-paying niches?
The entire spectrum of health and wellness is a massive industry. Every aspect of the overall topic is an industry unto itself, often with billions of dollars of revenue and expenses every year. The cosmetics industry is huge, the supplements industry is huge, and the diet industry is huge; it's all huge. After all, every single person on this planet has a body, and the health and function of that body are critical to survival, so it's a subject that inherently has a 7+ billion-person audience.
The challenge for a freelance writer is that there's an immense amount of information and an even more immense amount of misinformation available for pretty much every subject. There are studies proving and disproving every point, with biased sources on both sides, and it's extremely difficult to come to a consensus.
Moreover, since health and wellness fall under Google's YMYL definition, there's more scrutiny and more burden to cite sources, provide authoritative facts, and be generally correct in your writing. There's less room for fluff, minor embellishments, or "white lies" in the content you produce. The added burden means an expert is that much more valuable to anyone in the niche looking to grow a blog.
While as a writer, you might be able to call yourself a specialist in medical writing, you're more often going to be even more specialized. Maybe you'll be a diet writer, a sexual wellness writer, a health insurance writer, or a writer specializing in a specific ailment. There's a ton of room in the niche as well, which makes it an excellent option for many freelance writers.
One particular sub-niche of health and wellness is Cannabis writing. Writing about weed is an especially prominent industry right now, as many states push to legalize the substance, science devotes more time to studying the potential health benefits of CBD and THC, and more. In a way, it's a modern-day gold rush, and since it's adjacent to health topics, it's extremely (potentially) lucrative.
If you read that bit above about YMYL, you'll notice that the YL part covers the first section. The YM part (your money) comes into play here.
Financial advice is both highly regulated and extremely important. It can cover everything from simple topics about how loans work all the way to the complexity of managing investments and much, much more.
Writers specializing in money matters can do anything from writing for a financial advice column in a financial magazine like the Financial Times, to blogs from fintech providers, to blogs run by banks and credit unions. Money is almost as essential as healthcare (and through insurance, the two are linked), so it's a similarly valuable industry.
The "gold rush" industry within personal finance is the combination of finances and technology: blockchain, cryptocurrency, and all of the modern and future technologies that are impenetrable to a layman but lucrative for someone who knows what it all means.
Law is another niche that has a huge burden of knowledge. For one thing, the law is largely impenetrable to the average individual. At any given time, you're subject to municipal regulations, county-level regulations, state-level laws, and federal laws. All of these laws are written in legal writing, squirreled away in often-inaccessible websites, and can be extremely difficult to understand without specialized training.
Moreover, since bad legal advice can get you in a lot of trouble, there's an extreme burden of truth to the niche.
Law writing is a very intense specialty, but it's one where an expert can settle into an extremely lucrative career. Whether it's writing for a law firm, a company that specializes in a particular kind of legal process, or even just as a support and advice site for various legal issues, law writing can be extremely beneficial.
When you consider the topics that are most lucrative, they all come down to basic human needs, things every person needs to survive. Money, health, and now shelter.
Real estate writing can take many forms. While you might think you just end up writing fluff about properties (this gorgeous craftsman home overlooking downtown…), it can have much more to it. They may write city guides to the local nightlife or culture scene, the local school systems for a region, various attractions and benefits to a neighborhood, and more.
Real estate can also lean towards ways to improve and customize a home once it has been purchased. Most people might not consider DIY to be part of real estate, but they do both engage with a home; it's just that one is about buying the home, and one is about maintaining, repairing, fixing, improving, or polishing it before selling.
Real estate is also one example of a type of value that a niche can have. Many niches rely on a large volume of low-value purchases to succeed. Healthcare supplements, for example, are never all that expensive but make up for it in volume. Real estate, meanwhile, is an industry where every sale is worth a lot of money to the people who facilitate it, which means there's a lot of value out of every bit of marketing that refers those sales.
Entertainment and media writing is a highly lucrative industry but requires a keen interest in the subject, as well as a very fast turnaround time. It's an extremely time-sensitive industry, where news can cycle through and be made irrelevant in hours or days, and the idea of "evergreen content" is nearly foreign.
Thus, a good entertainment writer needs to be proactive, attentive, and always on the clock, able to write something on extremely short notice. Relatively few people have the flexibility and luxury to be able to dedicate their lives to media in such a fashion, so a good entertainment writer is likely to be well-compensated.
Sports is similar, but not quite the same. Sports have set schedules, and while there's plenty that can happen outside of games, such as drama with players and organizations, a lot of it revolves around a particular season or schedule. Some writers also have a keen love of a particular sport already, so it's easy enough to convert it into writing about it.
Interpersonal relationships are inherently complex, and many people turn to the internet for advice. This set of niches has a lot of overlap with others; for example, parenting can encompass the whole of pregnancy and all of the health concerns inherent in it. Parenting can also involve child-rearing practices, warning signs, techniques, and advice.
Relationships, of course, are typically a precursor to parenting, and the health of an interpersonal relationship can be a subject with a lot of interest. You can do anything from Buzzfeed-style aggregation of Reddit's R/Relationships board, all the way to a Loveline-like advice column and more.
Education is increasing in importance as well, especially as vast numbers of parents across the country turn more towards homeschooling due to societal pressures. Education can also encompass advice and techniques for new teachers and much more.
Freelance writers can specialize in topics, or they can specialize in formats, or both. Specializing in a format allows for opportunities that a generalist writer might not be able to handle and a specialist writer might not want to do.
One of the most common highly-lucrative formats for writing is the eBook or book. Ghostwriting a book for an industry thought leader can be extremely lucrative, with a single project valued at easily $5k-$10k or more. For specialized niches, the modifier gets even more lucrative; it's not uncommon for a talented, connected specialist writer to only need to write 2-4 projects a year for a living wage.
Another example of a format is white papers. Many writers hate white papers; the formality and format make them difficult compared to something like a blog post. On the other hand, some people find that kind of format comes naturally to them, and the more conversational tone of a blog post is harder.
Press releases are another example, though these can be tricky. The heavily formalized format of a press release means that a generalist writer can "fake it" and write something reasonable, so many press releases aren't well-compensated. However, taking up other PR duties in addition to creating press releases can be lucrative.
Video script writing is another option. Video is increasingly important as a marketing channel, but script writing can be very difficult because it requires a kind of conversational tone that even casual blog writers may find challenging.
Various formats can all contribute a modifier to the value of content created for a client.
Another way a freelance writer can specialize is by taking one particular focus and applying it to another industry. The easiest to demonstrate is technology.
Healthcare is one major topic, but technology is a modifier within that industry. Healthcare tech, from the modern science of implants to wearable fitness trackers and virtual reality fitness apps, is an industry of its own. Finance is the same; fintech is massive.
Modifiers like this (technology is just an example) can help freelancers with an interest in one thing branch into another. Technology on its own is a huge industry, but it's also extremely well-covered, and without first-hand access to insider information, it's very difficult to land a lucrative gig within it. But, applying knowledge of a specialty like technology to an industry where the average writer might not know what's going on is a great path to a unique and lucrative niche.
While picking a niche that interests you is one part of the equation, you still have to build up your expertise and find clients that can compensate you appropriately for your time and skill. For every industry, there are any number of sites and clients hoping to under-pay experts who will accept the work out of desperation, lack of experience, or just lack of confidence.
Finding the right clients is just as essential as finding the right niche. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to you, including many that I provide here on this site. If you have questions, please feel free to ask!