Have I become too niche for my own good?
Since I’ve been freelance writing, I feel conflicted complaining about being in the position I’m in. I cover everything Street Fighter at Red Bull eSports. I have a regular news writing gig at IGN. I work hard and have accomplished a lot of things in a very short amount of time. I’m incredibly lucky and thankful every day of my life for these opportunities.
As a full-time freelancer, I have to supplement my income with more work to make sure I’m bringing in the same amount of money each month that I did at my old job. I barely missed my financial goal the last couple of months so I’m not in danger of going back to a shitty 9-to-5, but I’m starting to wonder if I’m painting myself into a corner. Not to mention, those regular opportunities could go away at any moment. That’s something a freelancer should be prepared for.
When I talk to people, sometimes I get suggestions like, go cover this or that and that really isn’t the solution to my problem.I spend so much of my time is spent on a specific section of niche gaming and trying to fill the financial gaps with other work that coming up with ideas for work in other areas is difficult. I often find I still don’t have a great deal of time to put into playing new games. Go figure, this job isn’t about sitting around and playing video games all day.
There are times where I certainly could be better about managing my days more efficiently. But that’s part of my struggle. I’m in my head and as many creative people know, being in your head can be extremely counter-productive. I’m prone to depression and anxiety. When I’m too concerned with what I’m not doing or getting done, I’m not paying as much attention to what I need to be doing. I find myself unfocused some days. It doesn’t help if work isn’t as abundant as it usually is, pushing me to consider what I should be doing even more than I already do.
It should be noted that this isn’t the same as writer’s block as I see it. There’s countless things I can write about but the problem is, what are the things I can make money writing about in my chosen profession?
How do you get past it? That’s a great question. If you find out, let me know. In the meantime, I have great self-awareness and that’s a key part to the solution. Knowing where I am and what I’m feeling, I can attempt to do something about it. Having patience with myself helps. This won’t last forever. It can’t because this is a business where I work for myself. Nothing comes to me.
I also have to be wary of watching what I see other people doing and feeling like I’m not meeting some standard that isn’t in my control. While I’ve been going through this through the week, I had two features go up on Red Bull eSports that were very well received by the subject featured in them and the community. I have to be able to celebrate those victories. In fact, if it wasn’t for those, there’s a possibility I’d be losing my mind to what I perceive is some sort of failure.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. One of the greatest things about our freelancing community is that most of us are genuinely happy to help each other out by either listening or offering suggestion. I almost quit doing IGN news because I was struggling badly. I told myself I’d ask for help before quitting and I’m glad I did.
Even on this very topic, I emailed Nathan Meunier, freelance writer, game developer, author, and co-host of The Freelance Game Podcast, and this was a good takeaway from the conversation.
“It’s tough to find that balance between killing it in a niche and not painting yourself in a corner, but it’s doable. But just be careful not to set yourself up for a big fall. I think it’s good that you’re thinking about this stuff, but don’t let it get to you and slow your down. Just start pivoting gradually while keeping things going with what you’re doing.”
I don’t know how I’ll work through this, but I do know that when I’ve struggled in the past I continued working because, well, I have to put food on the table for the family now. I also have some projects coming up I feel will help me creatively, though, they are still fighting games related. If anyone has stories or suggestions they want to share, feel free. I’d love to hear and share them with other people.