If you’re new to the writer’s life, your first question may be, “What should I write about?”  

Many successful writers solve this problem by choosing a niche where they focus their writing efforts. Think of a niche as a distinct market — like the health sector, or the business-to-business world. 

The main advantage to choosing a writing niche is that it means you have only one main writing topic to focus on, which makes your journey a lot easier. It also shortens your learning curve and helps you establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field.   

But it’s not always easy to pick one. Earlier in my career, it took me a long time to decide on mine. In hindsight, it should have been obvious: I’ve had a passion for financial markets and economic trends since 2000. Financial was the niche that I chose after considerable reflection.  

So, how do you find your ideal writing niche?

My first tip is to focus on your passions and hobbies. Make a list of the industries you would most enjoy writing about. 

Then, to narrow it down, the next question is whether a potential niche is big enough to find enough writing work. So here are four steps to determine if a niche is also a viable one, based on my experience. Narrowing down your options this way could help you find your perfect writing niche.  

Step #1:  The Rack Technique

Go to your local newsstand and see how many magazines are in your market. If there are at least a handful on the rack, that’s a great sign you have a viable niche. To stay in business, a magazine has to have enough subscribers and advertisers who read and market in it.  

It’s also a great way to find clients — here’s how: 

Buy one or two magazines and see who’s running full- or half-page ads. These ads are not cheap, so these companies have a sizable marketing budget.  

You can also contact a sales rep (via phone or the e-mail listed in the magazine) to ask how long these ads have been running in the publication. If it’s more than a few months, that’s a good sign they have an in-demand product — and know how to market it. More than likely, they have other products or services for sale.  

That means you’ll not only have proof that a niche is a solid one, you’ll also have the possibility of a client in that niche. 

Step #2:  The Most Extensive Dataset of U.S. Media

The Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) is a database of companies and customer lists in several large print books. It’s available at the reference desk of your local library, or you can access this info online for a fee. You may be able to get a short-term free trial on request – just go to www.SRDS.com. The most important part is the directory of mailing lists. 

The two most important lists are:  

  1. Magazine mailing lists.

These show the number of subscribers (or potential buyers) to each magazine. 

  1. Catalog mailing lists.

These lists show the number of actual buyers — and the average amount of money each buyer has spent.  

Step #3:  One of the Largest Online Stores (that’s not Amazon)

ClickBank is one of the largest online stores, selling tens of thousands of digital products. Do a search in your niche and see how many products have a high Gravity Score. This measures how well a product is selling. The minimum score should be at least 20. The higher the score, the more popular the product. If your niche has multiple products with high Gravity Scores, that’s a good sign you’ve found a solid niche.  

Step #4:  The King of Online Retailers

The world’s largest online retailer, Amazon.com, sells millions of print and e-books along with physical products. Here, you can do a search for the number of products available for sale in your market.  

Also, look at related searches that Amazon offers up as suggestions. The more suggestions you see, the more reach your market may have.  

Finding a viable writing niche doesn’t have to be painful. Go through these four steps, and you’ll be off to a running start in launching your writer’s life.