For some people, their niche – the area they want to focus on or specialise in – is obvious straight away. I’ve long admired those who always knew they wanted to be a doctor, or a gymnast, or an accountant (this must have been someone’s childhood dream?!)
Those people can see their career path clearly ahead of them, knowing which qualifications they need, placements to have and connections to make. It’s not always so easy, though, particularly when you have an idea that seems like a great fit for everyone.
When you start out in business, it’s natural to want to work with all the people you meet, especially when you’re struggling to pay the bills and you’re hopeful of getting word of mouth recommendations and good testimonials.
I had a brief stint as a virtual assistant when I first became self-employed, because admin was a field I’d worked in. What I forgot was that it didn’t fit with my passion, and saying I would work with small businesses was nowhere near as niche as I thought. For instance, start-ups can’t afford to work with you at all, so that’s one section out straight away.
Realising What my Niche is
Actually, I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, and have provided articles and reviews to local and regional publications on a regular basis throughout my working life. The traditional journalism route gets harder as you get older (salaries for trainees are woeful) and it there weren’t enough opportunities in my local area. Plus, as someone who wants to be location independent in the next year or two, working for a newspaper wouldn’t be feasible.
Nowadays, there are more ways to make money from your passion, and people will pay to benefit from your expertise. I’m always fascinated to hear about businesses that people have set up for themselves, offering products or services to cater for a niche I’ve never even heard of.
Know Your Niche
Knowing your niche and who you want to work with means that you can really target your marketing to these people. You know what matters to them and what they need to know about to succeed in their industry. You can share articles and helpful information, write blog posts that addresses their pain points and has suggestions to overcome these, and it allows you to become an expert in your field.
While your primary focus is on those who are most closely aligned with your niche, you can still work with other people, who have some but not all of the requirements of the first group. For me, good copywriting and fresh content is something that all businesses need, so I wouldn’t exclude a small business if they wanted to use my services.
Having a niche allows you to work with your ideal customers, and avoid people who aren\’t the right fit for your business.
On the other side, identifying your niche is also useful for helping you identify who you DON’T want to work with. If we’re honest, some people are a better fit with our ethos and way of working than others. Acknowledging this allows them to find someone who is more attuned to their goals and way of working, and lets you concentrate on those clients you really have an affinity with. My writing style is very different to other copywriters, so I’m not always what potential customers are looking for.
Finding Your Niche
So how do you find your niche? It can be easy to do, even if you don’t harbour a lifelong ambition to be a vet or an artist. Natalie Sisson, as well as many other entrepreneurs, describes finding your ‘sweet spot’ – this is the conjunction of what you’re good at, what you love to do and what people will pay you for. This is where your years of experience come in, whether from work or a hobby.
This is great if you’re struggling, and amazing to think you can get paid for doing something you do for fun. But really, isn’t that how life should be? Like most self-employed business owners I meet, I do this because it makes me happier than working in an office for someone else. Actually, this makes me happier than almost anything else!
What else can you do to find your niche? One way is to ask other people what they think you’re good at and what your strengths are. You may hear some answers you weren’t expecting, but if you trust the judgement of those you ask, they may come up with something that you’ve never thought of.
When I was considering my niche recently, I made a long list (two sides of A4!) of all the things I enjoy doing, and aspects of previous jobs that I liked too. I included hobbies, types of books I like reading, everything that makes me smile. I was quite surprised by the list. I took that one step further and made a list of jobs that I’ve heard about that intrigue me. I’m unlikely to make any of these my career, but I’d like to know more about people who have, and maybe write for or about them.
Ultimately, I’ve decided that I want to work with entrepreneurs and thought leaders, people who are making a difference in the world, finding new ways of doing things or coming up with niche ideas. The lists I made will help me niche down even further in the near future, but it gives me a clearer view for now. I hope to be able to do some travelling again soon, and be inspired.
My ideal customer (avatar) has evolved over the last couple of years, but it’s still someone who is respected as an influencer in their industry, and it’s so rewarding for me to be able to help them help others.