You know the old saying – “Jack of all trades, master of none” ?
It’s something I’ve learnt is incredibly true for freelancers as well.
When I first started freelancing, I took a very general approach to it. I believed I was a good enough writer to write on any topic.
What I didn’t realise is just being a good writer isn’t enough to get paid the high rates. Especially on Upwork. I was spreading myself thin across a variety of niches and by doing every type of job, I wasn’t becoming an expert in anything.
So if you’re here wondering how to make money on Upwork — my advice to you is start niche-ing down
So how did I find my freelancing niche?
The reason I’m here telling you it’s important to niche yourself as a freelancer (especially on Upwork) is because I didn’t do it for so long! In fact, I found my niche by accident.
I applied for a job to blog for an online furniture store. This coming from someone whose furniture-buying experience at the time extended to buying one couch and one desk. Needless to say I didn’t get the job.
However, the guys who owned the company also had another business – an agency that provided social media marketing services. After checking out my experience and portfolio, they contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in writing about social media marketing. They said my experience in the industry made me a better fit for this role.
Of course I said yes.
Having those articles to prove my expertise in the niche further, I was able to apply and get even more jobs in the internet marketing space. Immediately, I was able to increase my rates and start making more money on Upwork.
Why should you niche yourself on Upwork?
Recently we had to get our GoPro camera repaired. We hunted down a GoPro camera specialist and got him to look into it for us. There are hundreds of camera stores in Ho Chi Minh City but we preferred to take it to the guy who was the expert in GoPros.
Um, what does this have to do with making money on Upwork? The fact that — we all love and trust experts.
So, as a freelancer when you pick a niche to specialise in, you start to establish yourself as an expert.
Expertise = better prospects
When you narrow your focus, you tend to attract better prospects. When you take a general “I can do everything” approach to your freelancing, your clients see you as just another freelancer. However, once you start to hone your niche and establish your expertise, you start to attract clients who are looking for niche expertise as well.
Get jobs without freelancing experience
The catch-22 of every job market, including freelancing, is that everyone wants someone with experience but how do you get experience when no one is willing to give you a go? How to make money on Upwork when no one will hire you? *sad face*
If you have expertise in something, or are particularly knowledgeable about a specific topic – you become a preferred candidate for a job even if you have never freelanced before. Clients are more interested in your knowledge than your freelancing experience.
Be paid better
Making money on Upwork is a lot easier when you’re an expert. When you establish yourself as an expert in an area, your clients will be more willing to pay you higher expert rates.
How to find your freelancing niche
Don’t wait for your niche to find you (like I did) but instead start to actively think about it.
1. Do you have any professional expertise?
Think about what expertise you can bring to the table as a freelancer and then think about how you can carve yourself a niche within your field of expertise.
Johnny’s chief area of professional expertise is in online advertising. Now there are thousands of other online advertising freelancers on Upwork, so we started thinking about how he could stand out.
He then decided to niche himself and market himself as an expert in Facebook Advertising alone. He immediately saw results with clients preferring to work with someone who was an expert in one particular type of advertising.
2. What are your passions?
While my professional expertise is in online marketing, I do have other interests and passions as well.
I used to write for a health and fitness blog. I got this job because healthy living is something I’m very passionate about. Although I’d never written about anything to do with health and fitness, I was able to convince the clients by writing an article about my personal experience of attending a Body Pump class (which at the time, I attended twice-weekly.)
When you have a passion or a hobby, you tend to become very knowledgeable about it. So start to think about your passions as a marketable skill.
3. How big is this niche market?
Before you niche yourself, it’s important to consider whether there is a demand for the niche. You might be an expert in knitting little mittens for kittens and have a wealth of knowledge in the area but how many clients are looking for kitten-mitten experience? 😉
Always consider the demand for your expertise because without demand, you won’t get paid.
4. Learn by practising
While niching yourself is important, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find your niche right from the beginning. You may have to try on several different hats first to see which one fits. Give yourself the time to experiment with your skills and passions.
Practice and pay attention to what you enjoy, which projects inspire you, which clients you enjoy working with and what type of work makes you feel passionate. Gradually, you will be able to hone in on your niche.
Should you only have one niche?
I don’t necessarily think we need to limit ourselves to one niche as freelancers. As I’ve mentioned above, as a freelancer writer, my niche is online marketing but also health and fitness and travel.
These are all topics I’m passionate about and know a lot about so I believe clients can see my expertise.
I definitely think you can be an expert in 2-3 different areas however I don’t recommend trying to sell yourself as an expert in 10 different areas. Your approach then becomes too general and clients are not going to see you as an expert in anything.
The employer’s perspective on niche freelancers
As someone who now employs freelancers as well (for our agency), I definitely know that clients would also rather work with someone who’s an expert in something.
When I advertise jobs and get responses from freelancers who want to be everything from an SEO expert to a web designer to a WordPress developer – they almost always go in my reject pile. The lack of focus is very often proof that they don’t really have the time to hone one particular skill.
This is an example of all the skills listed on the Upwork profile for a freelancer who applied for a job I had advertised.
Their profile had no specific focus and by trying to be a jack of all trades, they definitely didn’t stand out to me at all.
Understanding yourself as a freelancer takes a bit of time. You’re definitely not going to wake up tomorrow and have it all figured out. Have patience, experiment and you will soon figure out what your freelancing niche should be.
I definitely believe having a niche is one of the key strategies for those of you looking to make (even more) money on Upwork.
Ref: Fulltime Nomad