Having Trouble Defining Your Specialty? How To Determine What Makes You An Original

Struggling to pinpoint a blog niche? Grappling with how to present yourself to editors or clients? Still looking to settle on one particular area of expertise, but unsure of where you really shine?

Even those of us who have clear obsessio-… — oops! I mean passions — (in my case, the publishing industry and… um… cats) can have a blind spot when it comes to our own strengths.

If you’re thinking of starting a blog, but don’t know what to write about… if you’re struggling with pitching yourself to others… if you want to build a business, but are having trouble figuring out what, exactly, that business should entail… it could help to ask yourself the following questions.

1. What do you love to do in your spare time? What would you spend your time doing if you didn’t have to worry about the bills?

2. What do you naturally do well?

3. What have been your greatest achievements? What heart-exploding accomplishment do you brag about the most?

4. What do you daydream about doing?

5. What do you want to be remembered for?

6. What do other people consistently ask you for advice on?

7. And this final one isn’t a question, but a suggestion. Nay, an order. Ask other people where your strengths lie.

Now remember: Just because you daydream about — or enjoy doing — something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the ticket to big riches (or moderate riches that allow you to buy lots of sexy boots and pretty dresses). I daydream all the damn time about being the next Ingrid Michaelson or Kate Miller-Heidke, yet I know myself, and I know that performing on-stage the way they do would make me projectile vomit and then pass out in a puddle of my own puke. But I’ve used that knowledge about my passion for singing as a jumping-off point and, at the moment, I sing funeral masses for money. (I still get clammy hands from nerves, but what can you do.)

So use your responses to these questions as jumping-off points. Perhaps even use a mind map software to brainstorm ways to take an interest and turn it from a hobby into a business.

Also, consider the ways in which various interests can overlap. I love my cats in a way that borders on the insane, and I also love writing. Because of that, I should probably be pitching Cat Fancy, and similar publications. (Seriously. Someone start paying me for being a crazy cat lady.) Could you possibly tap into one interest by using another skill?

How have you turned a hobby into a heaping pile of money?

This post was inspired by a question from a coaching client. If you have similar questions, please do send them my way. I will either answer them here on Freelancedom, and/or include them in a soon-to-be-released publication that I’d rather not talk more about now because I don’t want to jinx myself. Crap. Too late.

Related: Cornering The Market? Or Feeling Cornered?, To Be or Not To Be a Generalist, Are Your Supposed Weaknesses Actually Your Strengths?


  1. None of the questions aligned with what I do – until you got to the last one. 🙂 I write insurance and risk management stuff. I love it now, but if you’d told me I’d end up there eleven years ago, I’d have laughed and mocked you. LOL

    May I add one to the list? I’d say look for things that pique your interest, and not just things like fashion, politics, etc. Look for things that are off the trail and ask what you’d like to know about it. That’s sustained me my entire career.

    A puddle of puke – LOVE your imagery! LOL

  2. All good advice, Steph. I would add: give yourself some time to figure out your niche. Sometimes you have to try on a few things before they fit. Case in point: I thought I’d offer a lot of recipes on my food blog. But I quickly discovered that many others do this, are more qualified than I in this arena, and frankly do a much better job.

    So, rather than trying to compete, I carved out a niche (reporting on the intersection between food policy and food culture) within a niche (food writing).
    Does that make sense?

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