Writing Outside Your Niche

It's easier than you think.

As you may have noticed, this blog has been pretty quiet as of late. If you’ve been following me on twitter, however, you’ll notice that I’ve been writing quite a bit. I’ve been doing blog outreach for the hundreds of categories on TeachStreet, from Fitness Classes to Algebra Classes.  Oftentimes this outreach takes the form of guest blogging.  Each week we’ve tackled different categories, and though I do get a lot of support from the team, I’ve been doing most of the writing for the guest posts.

I’d be lying if I said this didn’t push me out of my comfort zone as a writer, especially when writing about subjects that I had no knowledge about. It forced me to be imaginative about ways that I could provide value when writing guest posts outside of my niche. I’ll admit that I floundered at first but I eventually did come up with a good system.

The system had three elements:

1. Deep Research — The first real challenge for me was to write for an animal law blog, something I knew very little about. How could I provide value to an audience who knew much more about the subject than I did? The answer was simple: research! I dove deep into the Internet and gathered information on peculiar laws regarding animal treatment around the world. By the time I was done, I was able to provide some interesting examples of laws the blog’s readers probably weren’t familiar with.  I may not have had the legal background that most of the blogs writers did, but because I put in the time to find something interesting I was able to provide value.

2. Providing a Personal Perspective –  There’s nothing more engaging than a personal story.   Perhaps you want to write for a programming blog but you know you have nowhere near the level of programming expertise that you think a blog post would require.  As a beginner, however, you can always provide personal reflections about what starting out as a programmer is like.  Everybody was a beginner at everything once, and it can be refreshing for experts to remember what it was like to be a beginner again.  I used this angle when writing about Zumba (A latin dance cardio exercise) on the TeachStreet Blog.

3. Using your expertise as an angle – I’ve only tried Yoga once (and it hurt) so I know that I’m not very qualified to give any advice on that topic. As an SEO for TeachStreet, however, I know many SEO techniques that would be useful to a yoga teacher who might be interested in promoting their lessons online. It doesn’t end at SEO skills, however.  Maybe you are (or were) an accountant by trade.  You could easily write an excellent blog post about the costs involved to set up and run a yoga studio.  Just because you’re not an expert in Yoga doesn’t mean you don’t know something that yoga enthusiasts would find useful.

One lesson that I’ve learned from all this guest posting is that you should never believe that you aren’t qualified to provide value in any situation.  Doing so will limit the number of new things that you try and thus hamper your growth as a writer.  Give it a shot, and if you don’t hit the target, shoot somewhere else:

If you wanted to have a look at what I’ve been writing here are the links.  Most of these blog posts were published in December:

If you want to start with the best ones, it seemed that the posts on Urban Muse Writer, The Omniglot Blog and the Amateur Traveler were to most commented on/retweeted.

Don’t Know the First Step? Start Learning. (The Entrepreneur on Campus)

Why You Should Master The Art of Downloading People (Oddpodz.com)

Disappointment: The Key to Creative Freedom (The Urban Muse Writer)

Zumba: Adding Spice to Your Workout Routine (Hive Health Media)

7 Ways to Effortlessly Thread a Needle (Sketchee.com)

Why I Still Go To Libraries (hhibner.blogspot.com)

Whatever You Do, Don’t Tell Kids They’re Smart! (SimpleLeap Blog)

Travel as a Spiritual Experience (The Travel Word)

Odd Animal Laws, Odd Culture (The Animal Blawg)

3 Things I Learned About Americans By Not Living With Them (Amateur Traveler)

Learning a Foreign Language While Living Overseas (The Omniglot Blog)

How to Make Money From the Grave (Wills, Trusts and Estates Prof Blog)

The Top 3 Education Trends of 2010 (EduInReview.com)

How To Deal With Difficult Reading Assignments (Psych Futures)

Zumba: A Beginner’s Experience (The TeachStreet Blog)

Bargains to Look For In January (Bargainmoose)

How to Make Your College Application Stand Out (My College Calendar Blog)

My Love Affair With Rotten Soybeans (Swanky Dietitian)

The 121-year-old Nintendo Game (Yehuda Games Blog)

How Making More Money Can Drive You Into Debt and How To Avoid It (Finance Wand)

Mount Nokogiri – Home To Japan’s Largest Sitting Buddha (Travelogue of an Armchair Traveller)

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  • I’m one of those people who consider writing itself to be out of my niche (although I’ve set a goal of trying to write something everyday) but I agree with your point on the importance of personal perspective. I’ve noticed that the blogs that I most enjoy are those where the author doesn’t simply relate some information but does so in a way that is personal and therefore more engaging. It’s something that I strive to do in my own writing.

  • lotus1030

    I am currently having this problem. The school term just began and I have to write at least 8000 words for each research paper for International Relations and Japanese Politics.

    Hahaha! I hope those 5 tips will help me. I am not fond of the subjects mentioned, but I cant complain. It’s part of the course.

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  • Kenji

    Yeah, I think the personal perspective is the way to go with most blogs. Sometimes I do this and I find my writing is a little too self-involved, and may not be of interest to a larger audience. The hard part is finding the balance. While your narrative might be personal, your story should be universal.

    8000 words is tough. Try not to think so much about the word limit though, spend more time reading and getting to know the subject better. Spend sometime thinking about great paper ideas–something will come to you I’m sure.

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  • Good resource. Going outside the niche means developing more business opportunities. I have tried this but have always failed. Will keep visiting the post to get things organized and done. Thanx.