Having a niche is a must for bloggers these days. But what if you can’t pick a niche?
Today, I wanted to tell you a story about having or not having a niche for my blog.
“Hi,” said the blogger at TBEX.
“Hi,” said I and then asked the most typical question: “So what’s your blog about?”
“I help people stay fit while travelling,” he answered. I recognized this as the so called elevator pitch. It was a good one, too: concise and to the point. I immediately knew what he was blogging about. My reply?
“I have this blog. It’s called the European Mama. I write about parenting, travel, life abroad, writing and food.”
This wasn’t as good an elevator pitch, and it wasn’t because I didn’t know how to create one. I know that you just don’t show up at a blogging conference unprepared.
Why I don’t have an elevator pitch
My problem was that for a good elevator pitch you need to have a niche or you’ll sound too vague. Nothing I said about my blog would make me stand out from tons of other bloggers. Many people write about parenting, life abroad, travel and cooking, some of them with more success than I ever would.
In the highly segmented world of the Internet, it’s crucially important to have a niche. You can’t write generally about dogs anymore. The dog niche got too crowded. Now you have to write about how to clean a dog. Or you can write humorously about dogs. But you cannot, ever, be anything else. You need to be in touch with your brand (whatever that means), and you have to make sure that your message is consistent with your brand’s values (again, I have no idea what that means).
What’s my niche?
What’s my niche, then? When I first started thig blog, I just wanted to write. I wanted to tell stories. Then, I started writing more and more about living abroad. Then having been told that expat writing had no future, veered towards parenting. But I didn’t want to be seen as a “mommy blogger”, and besides, this blog was to be a distraction from parenting, so I started sharing my recipes and family food stories as well. Then I remembered that we used to travel a lot before kids, and also with our kids, and started to write about travel.
After a while of writing about one topic, I usually decide I’ve done enough and move on to something else. I’m already thinking about a new topic to add to this blog.
The reason is simple: I get bored easily, and neither do I want to feel pigeon-holed.
Having a niche can be great
Sure, having a niche can be helpful to some people. When I read a post about writing, or raising multilingual kids, or a humorous post, I am reading a niche blog. Susan of Beyond Your Blog has found herself a great niche for helping writers get published. There are great niche blogs out there. Sometimes, when I want to look for something specific, I google things like “how to format your book,” or “how to make bread.” Those are niche sites I am checking out. I am even contributing to one of them, because what is Food Retro if not a niche site?
So there is no doubt that niche sites can be wonderful and helpful to readers. They are also very helpful to advertisers who can sell their products to the blog’s audience.
Speaking of books, I just wrote one and am writing another one, and have my eyes set on a third, and they will all be different books. The first one, will be about pregnancy, birth and parenting in the Netherlands. The second one, a memoir. The third one, a novel. There are similarities to them but they are all different.
You could say that my blog name, The European Mama, specifies my niche. That I can have up to five topics I can become an expert on, and I have that (parenting, writing, traveling, cooking and living abroad, that’s five!). And that makes sense, of course. It’s always good to be the expert on something, and just like science, blogging has moved towards specialization.
Specialization versus many interests
But that’s the question: do I want to be the expert? Or do I want to simply mull over things and then write about them?
I’ve always been someone who did many things at once. At university, I studied German but I also took up dancing classes, horseback riding, English classes and many more throughout the years. My thesis compared films and books in Polish and German- the same two stories, in two different languages and media. I don’t seem to be someone who delves deep into a topic, but more someone who says, “hey, let’s talk about this!”
Of course, I really appreciate the opportunity to write for niche sites. I love that because it allows me to write about multiple topics and in many writing styles. For me, it’s a little bit like speaking many languages. How sad it would be for me not to be able to use most of my skills.
In the Porfolio Life, Jeff Goins says, “You were made for more than just one thing.” The modern life also calls for a variety of skills, similar to the Renaissance period. People these days are rarely just one thing – also because of the economic reality known as the gig economy.
Similarly, Elizabeth Gilbert spoke out against passion in a very fascinating talk. She said some people simply have multiple passions, and that’s not worse than having “just” one (let me be clear, I think that having passions is like having kids, any number of them is a lot), just different. These types of people are called pluripotentialites- those who have many skills.
See the video here.
In a way, I did specialize, of course: in writing. I am a writer, who just so happens to think and write about many things. If I write for a publication, I adapt my style, length and topic to fit that publication.
Do I have commitment issues?
Maybe I’m shooting myself in the leg with this approach. Maybe I have blog commitment issues.
But my blog is for me. It’s where I get to experiment with writing styles and topic. It’s where I first try out new ideas. It’s my little home on the Internet.
I know this blog sometimes feels like such a mess (I apologize for the mess!). A re-design is certainly in order. But in the meantime, please come in, take a look, and make yourself at home. Stay for a while, if you will. I have cake and hot chocolate, would you like some?