“To niche or not to niche”: That’s the question every freelancer must ask as they start their businesses.
But all too often we resist the idea. When you’re starting out, it seems ludicrous to turn prospects away because they don’t fit your ideal client profile. And if you’re doing well as a generalist, you may not see the point.
Whether you’re for, against, and indifferent to choosing a niche, this article is for you. Keep reading to learn why it really is a good idea to put yourself in a corner.
But let’s start at the beginning, shall we…
What is a niche?
A niche is one small sliver of the entire marketplace that you’ve decided to serve. This sliver has self-identified as a group, like SaaS or medical devices, grad students or solopreneurs.
Niching can be a big advantage for new freelancers. It clearly communicates what you do and don’t do, so you can stand out from the crowd and attract more clients. That makes it easier for your clients to find you.
It’s also good for established businesses, because it transforms you instantly from generalist to specialist, someone who knows the ins and outs of your area of expertise. In most cases, that gives you the clout to charge more for your products and services.
Why We Sometimes Resist Niching
According to data from 2018 US Census Bureau and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, there were over 20 million non-employer businesses in the US in 2018.
To survive in such a crowded marketplace, you’ve got to stand out. And niching is the best way to do that.
But choosing a niche isn’t an easy exercise. Even when you know the benefits, it goes against the grain to decide you won’t serve entire sections of the market.
And let’s be honest, it is actually possible to grow a six-figure business without choosing a niche.
Trouble is, as you grow your business, a day will come when you hit an unmovable cap to your growth potential. You’ll be ready to scale your business, and won’t be able to unless you narrow your audience.
In other words, choose a niche.
So it’s important to understand what’s holding us back. Why do we tend to resist niching? It may take some soul-searching to answer that question for yourself, but here are some of the excuses I heard:
- Won’t having more than one market mean more potential customers?
- There aren’t enough potential clients in just one niche.
- Aren’t clients more likely to hire you if they think you’re versatile and able to work in a variety of niches?
- Not niching gives you the opportunity to branch out into different fields, which means more money! Right?
All of these excuses stem from the mistaken idea that your offer or service is the foundation of your business. It’s not.
Your business is about who you serve, not what you do. To build a better business, you need a solid foundation. And that foundation is made up of three things:
1. Who you serve
How well do you know your audience? What are their biggest obstacles or pain points? What do they need most to succeed?
The key word here is serve. Put your audience’s needs first — even when you’re choosing a niche.
2. What you do for them
Once you know what your audience needs most, it’s easier to decide if your service or product will meet that need.
You may find that you have to refine or adapt your solution to better solve their problem. Here again your focus is on your audience — not your product or service.
3. Their outcome or transformation
Once you have a better grasp of your audience’s needs and how you can meet that need, it’s easier to communicate how it will benefit them.
How will your service or product change their lives for the better? Will it save them time or money? Will it help them achieve a goal? Will it improve their quality of life?
Your service or product is part of the equation for building a better business, but there’s a lot more to it than just having a good product. You need to be focused on your clients’ outcome or transformation.
When you choose a niche, your business will naturally become more focused on these three things:
- Who you serve
- What you do for them
- The outcome you give them
That makes it much easier to see when your product or service isn’t meeting your audience’s needs and something needs to change. You’ll also be able to dedicate more time and energy to refining your product, because you’re more focused as well.
Why Should I Niche?
Niching is about knowing your audience, knowing who you are, and knowing what you have to offer. But perhaps even more important than knowing who you are is knowing who you’re not.
Here are seven good reasons for choosing a niche.
It helps you talk about your biz
If you’re a Star Trek fan, you may remember Dr. McCoy’s famous catch phrase, “I’m a doctor, not a …”
As a business owner, you need to have an elevator pitch. As a generalist it’s hard to explain what you’re about between floors on an elevator ride.
Having a niche helps you identify who you are and what you do specifically enough to share it in a few short sentences.
It gives you focus
This is a major advantage to choosing a niche. It keeps you from getting distracted by what you’re not about — “I’m a career coach for women in tech, not a website developer.”
It saves you time
Clarifying your message to this extent means you’ll save time and energy. You may indeed know how to build websites, but there are hundreds of website developers out there already. Your secret sauce is helping women in tech navigate their careers in an underrepresented field.
It boosts your revenue potential
As an expert, you can charge higher rates. So focusing on a niche and marketing yourself as THE authority to your audience means better revenue.
People understand that specialists cost more. And they’re willing to pay a premium to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing they’re getting the best person for the job.
It establishes your authority and positions you as an expert in your space
Consider the YouTube channel, Practical Engineering.
The channel explains complex engineering in laymans’ terms to build interest in the field of civil engineering.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 300,850 civil engineers in the US. And the United States only graduates around 70,000 engineers annually.
Yet this channel has 2.28 million subscribers.
Because the creator niched and made content specific to civil engineering, he actually widened his audience. More to the point, even though his content is limited to civil engineering, he’s recognized as an expert on engineering in general.
It makes it easier to stand out and get noticed by your ideal clients.
Since niching forces you to focus on who you serve and what you do for them, it makes it easier to focus your messaging.
Instead of creating content for 100 different (mostly unrelated) topics, you can create a few pillar posts that all focus on different aspects of your niche topic.
This increases your traffic and exposure. You become recognized as a thought leader and someone to watch in your area of expertise.
It makes it easier (and less expensive) to market your business.
Marketing isn’t just about your messaging. You also have to get that message in front of your target audience.
For example, advertising Medicare supplements on Nickelodeon won’t likely lead to high conversion rates. Sure, you might catch the occasional grandparent who happens to be in the room when their grandchildren are watching Sponge Bob. But you’ll be throwing your advertising dollars down the drain.
Having a clearly defined niche means you know where your audience is hanging out. What platforms do they use most? Does your audience spend more time on YouTube, Facebook, or TikTok?
It makes it easier to craft your message
Crafting your message is also easier when you have a niche. When you know specifically who you’re talking to, you know how to talk to them and what they need to see or hear to convert.
What tone or style does your target audience respond to? Do they respond better to audio, visual, or written content? What motivates them?
These questions would be impossible to answer for a generalist, but if you have a clearly defined niche, you can research or test for these questions easily.
It means clients will come to you
As we mentioned earlier, niching establishes you as an authority in your space and helps you get noticed. Clients will begin seeking you out.
You’ll spend less time and energy on sales funnels and advertising and you’ll have higher conversion rates because they came to you ready to hire you.
It makes it easier to take care of your clients
Niching is one of the best ways to streamline your time so you can take better care of your clients.
Research done for one client benefits another. If one person in your target group is struggling with a particular issue, others are likely experiencing that too.
It improves your conversion rate
Your niche is your best tool for boosting conversions. When your message is too broad, it’s impossible to know why some people responded and others aren’t. With a more targeted audience, you can see right away what’s working and what’s not.
Common Excuses for Not Niching
Even if you acknowledge the benefits of choosing a niche, it’s still easy to find excuses for not doing it now.
On the surface, it may seem too hard or too limiting. And If you’re a highly creative person, you may even fear it will make your business boring.
Let’s take a minute to explore these excuses:
It’s too hard
Finding a good niche is hard. But that’s only true if we don’t know ourselves or the market. Take the time to get to know your audience. Focus on what they need rather than what you want to give them. That makes it a lot easier to find your ideal niche.
It’s too limiting
It feels confining at first to narrow your market. But remember, having a niche doesn’t mean you can’t branch out into other areas in the future. Create focus now, so you can grow faster.
It’s too boring
Generalists get to do a wide range of projects. Fun, right? But unrealistic.
People don’t go to an eye doctor for brain surgery, even though they’re both MD’s. Your clients need a specialist who knows exactly how to solve their problem.
However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t treating the whole patient.
Once you’ve helped your client achieve the transformation or outcome they were looking for, you can offer related services or resources that support the deeper need.
Tips on Finding the Right Niche
We’ve talked a lot about why it makes sense to choose a niche for your business. Now let’s talk about how you can do that quickly and painlessly. Here are three tips for finding that small sliver of the marketplace that feels like home.
Tip #1: Take your time
Take some time to think about what you enjoy or are passionate about. Don’t rush it. It’s okay to be a bit of a generalist while you zero in on your target audience.
Tip #2: Be honest with yourself
You want to pick a niche that’s interesting to you. Otherwise, you may lose interest yourself. Avoid chasing the best-paying niches. Be honest with yourself about what you want to do every day.
Tip #3: Look for potential
In addition to finding a niche that you’re interested in, it also needs to be one with good potential. Look at the competition. Are there any gaps in what they’re offering?
Your niche needs to be specific, but it also needs to target a large enough group to be sustainable.
So What’s Keeping You From Picking a Niche?
When you choose a niche, you’ll make more money, stay more focused, market more effectively, and be less likely to burn out. So if you haven’t picked a niche yet, what’s holding you back?
For most people, there’s a lot of fear involved. They’re afraid they’ll pick the wrong niche. It feels like a lifelong commitment, and they don’t want to make a mistake.
If you need help zeroing in on your niche, I’ve created a course to help you do just that. Click below to learn more about my latest course, Find Your Ideal Niche.