Define Your Writing Niche and Style to Build Your Business

I struggled to answer, “What do you write?” as I re-built my business and sought clients. Learning how to give a firm answer helped me understand my goals and business structure.

Computer screen and paper.
Computer screen and paper.
My work area gets a little messy. But, I’m a “writer” after all.

My Lack of Clarity

In 2013, I joined a small business networking group that was informal and I was after a particular objective. I wanted to offer my writing services as a blogger and long-form article writer, but I made the mistake of introducing myself as a writer.

The response was, “What do you write?”

My answer was muddled because I talked about the different types of writing I did — big mistake — and business professionals couldn’t grasp why they would want me to write their blog posts. And they weren’t convinced that blog posts or writing books would help them find new customers from their target audience.

Here’s why I couldn’t explain the writing that I offered.

My Writing Background was Mixed

My first job was in radio news and for 22 years, I wrote and hosted a human interest radio spot show that focused on holidays around the world. I worked in the nonprofit world and it was a NPR approach but not hard news.

I worked in a grassroots nonprofit after that and handled writing our few marketing materials and combined that with public relations work. I interfaced with local media and worked with a three person crew from ABC News who did a feature on us.

But I didn’t see myself as a writer. I saw myself as a nonprofit executive.

That changed when I left the nonprofit in the early 2000s and began consulting with small businesses. But I made a decision that led to my skipping around for a few years.

I was working in the consulting company with two partners and, unfortunately, it wasn’t a fit for me. I was offered a sales position in consumer sales for roofing and I took that. The money looked good and it seemed more cut and dry than the challenges that I faced in landing marketing clients and then making them happy with their website design and copy.

But the roofing industry went south in Southern California during 2006. And I began experimenting with blogs. I stumbled around with Wordpress and went to Blogger. I created my own blog that focused on a myriad of topics and morphed into a business blog dealing with cash flow tips.

I kept adding and adding to my writing and although I was building an audience, I wasn’t clarifying who I was or what I did.

Becoming an Online Journalist

I started writing online with a passion in 2008 while I was working for an online marketing agency — an interactive agency, as they referred to themselves. They were doing work for a well-known gasoline brand through a PR agency and I wrote an article on one of the content mills focusing on top tier gas.

The article took off and for over two years the views ratcheted up. Success! I made some money and I entered the world of online journalism. I studied how to make a blog fit a specific niche and then after a couple of years, public relation agencies found me. They liked my writing and pitched clients. I interviewed them, wrote up the interviews in about 500 to 700 words and I was a hit with the agencies.

They performed for their clients and they had me to thank.

I interviewed CEOs with known brands — banks, service companies, entrepreneurs who were hitting a stride in their business. I wrote and wrote and then realized — I wasn’t making any money.

Here I was, interviewing highly successful people, dealing with marketing departments within companies, boutique and mid-size PR agencies and I didn’t earn enough to buy a carton of milk. Sometimes I did. But buying both milk and a loaf of bread was out of the question.

So here I was, a journalist. I could see that the exposure could be leveraged but asking for money didn’t make sense. The content mills were already advertising and I was building a name for myself on a third party site that paid little instead of building my own presence.

My Fiction Came from Chaos

I was scrambling with my personal life and it muddled my brain. This one of the reasons I was deliberately going back into networking — to unclutter my thoughts and lay the foundation for finding new clients.

I also started writing fiction during a time of great stress. I studied fiction in college and wrote short stories that got good reviews. I had been wanting to write fiction for some time. I began writing short stories and novelettes. The fiction flowed from me and I got published through a small press.

I Became a Brand Journalist and Author

Cup, pen, and paper.
Cup, pen, and paper.
My favorite cup for coffee. I like jotting notes on paper.

Many solo professionals and creative types do more than one endeavor or at least the work is related.

For me, the interviews kept rolling and I rolled with them. I knew that blogging would work, but I still couldn’t formulate anything more than I was a writer. Then it struck me. Sponsored content was popping up all over the Internet and companies still needed organic traffic.

I saw an opportunity to combine my skills as a journalist with my work in marketing.

Brand journalism became my occupation instead of writer. And I no longer spoke about all the different types of writing I did, but I only focused in on writing long-form content for business professionals and growing companies.

In the past several months, I’ve been writing blog posts for clients as diverse as chiropractors and an office supply enterprise. I also ghostwrote a book for a dental specialist who specializes in treating oral cancer.

I still continue writing fiction and I’m co-authoring my fourth novel that will be published soon.

My Writer Mission/Vision/Slogan

I’ve started saying that I write to Inform, Inspire, and Entertain. I can do those three for a business client needing content writing but ultimately I see three areas to a business.

  • Inform points to my long-form blog post and article writing for clients.
  • Inspire is my interest in human interest stories, magazine style non-fiction which I’m developing here on Medium in a publication, So Cal Live Work Play.
  • Entertain is my fiction.

If I launched a media company, I see those as three legs.

I also have in mind a Mission and Vision statement for my target audiences. As a content writer I work well with independent marketing consultants and on-staff marketing directors who need someone reliable to turn to.

I make their lives easier, reduce their worries that a job will turn around and know how to write to meet the organization’s goals and objectives.

Both my magazine-style articles and my novels could also have their own Mission and Vision statements.

All of this solidifies who I am and what I do which makes it easier for others to relate. Let’s face it, writing is dealing in ideas and making the abstract become understood. So do your best at being specific.

Should You Say Writer?

You can introduce yourself as a writer, but I’ll guarantee you that in certain circles it’s going to be vague. There are many types of writing: fiction, poetry, content marketing and non-fiction memoir.

Identifiers like Content marketing specialist, fiction author or real-life memoirs, or simply novelist are to the point and make it clear what you create.

Being a writer is great. When someone hears it, even other writers, they’ll invariably ask, “What do you write?”

And then you have to explain so they’re no longer confused. You lose valuable time getting them to view your work online or ask about your latest project because they’re trying to figure out what you do.

If your answer is simple such as “Young Adult fiction author” or ad agency copywriter then they have a good idea of what you do.

Lead with a strong identifier and then you get to chat about your work instead of spending time unraveling their confusion.

To see how I’ve integrated all 3 aspects of writing visit my personal website for a closer look.

Written by

Don is co-author of the Tom Stone Detective novels on Amazon and writes content for businesses. Visit /

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