How to Select a Niche Focus for Your Freelance Business
By Connor Gillivan
Some get it right the first time; most struggle with finding their freelance niche. And that’s okay. It’s not easy to choose and stick to a single freelance niche. But it’s important to get there at some point as you establish your freelance business and work to build it up.
So let’s answer the whys then get to the how of niching down comfortably.
Why You Need to Select One Focal Area
Everyone has got more than one skill, and most of these are marketable skills. You’ve probably thought, “Well, I have these 12 skills and they’re all really useful. So why not offer all of them to clients?”
Sure, I get it, why narrow your options by choosing just one or two?
You could do that, like a lot of freelancers out there are already doing. It only seems logical since more skills means more potential clients and projects, right?
Yes, in a sense, but there’s a better alternative.
The problem with failing to niche down is that you will tend to spread yourself too thin. And when this happens, there are side effects that can damage your freelance career.
Jack of All Trades
I personally don’t see anything wrong with someone having multiple skills. I think it’s awesome. But when it comes to running a business, it isn’t usually a wise choice.
Let’s look at the unusual cases first.
If you’re aiming to be a project manager or something similar, then having several skills is exactly what is called for. For instance, if you manage marketing projects, you’re probably coordinating between varying sets of teams:
– landing page designers and developers
– graphic designers, copywriters and social media managers
– social media managers and knowledge brokers
– audience analysts, funnel experts and content writers
– content writers and SEOs
– copywriters and newsletter designers
And the list goes on. But you know what I’m talking about. You need to know enough about each area so you can adequately relate to each person to help projects flow more smoothly – that’s your role. You also need to be able to bridge the gaps between the different areas so that everyone can understand each other and how their individual contributions link up to form the complete marketing strategy.
But not everyone is a project manager.
If you are more like someone in the different roles listed above, it makes a lot more sense to niche down.
If, for example, you want to do web design and development, how far could you go with that? Both these areas in themselves are so broad. Learning and developing a skill like logo design or Facebook marketing graphics or WordPress plugin development or Shopify storefronts could take years.
It just doesn’t make sense to try and take on and juggle all the different projects you’d need to develop 12 different skills to the level that you need to build a successful freelance business. And forget about expanding. You’re playing a challenging game of Twister all by yourself and you can’t handle more hands getting involved.
Master of None
So you can do 12 different really cool things, but how many of them can you do at a really high level? Do you think you can become an expert in all 12 areas? Most likely, the answer to the first question is not more than one or two, and to the second, a vague maybe.
When you’re doing too many different things at the same time, you will invariably get rusty in the areas that you aren’t currently using. Then you have to brush up all over again every time to get that kind of project. It’s a game of whack-a-mole. You can’t level up because you keep sliding in some area or other and facing the same challenges over and over again.
On top of that, some skills may require more creativity while others are highly technical. It’s unusual for one person to be excellent in both areas. You may not be able to achieve mastery even if you wanted to. This would not be a good use of your time or energy.
But do you need to master them all?
Think of it this way: If you were the client looking to hire someone, would you hire a dedicated expert, or someone who’s got their hands in several cookie jars all at once?
It may not be an accurate assumption, but the second guy seems like someone who doesn’t know what he wants, and doesn’t have drive or passion. Sure, it also depends on the task that the client is actually hiring for. And maybe you’re a really reliable person who just happens to like variety. The bottom line is, however, that most clients will not admire you as a Renaissance Man. All they will see is that you don’t seem grounded.
Clients want to hire only those who show clear focus and mastery.
Focus and mastery is the fuel formula that will blast your freelance business to the heights of success.
And that means targeting a single freelance niche. It’s the better alternative because it allows you to focus on what you’re really good at. You will use your natural talents and abilities and become intrinsically motivated so that you can use your energy to grow instead of simply surviving week to week.
Find Your Freelance Niche
So now, ask yourself what you really love doing. What would make you smile first thing in the morning as your mind begins to focus on the tasks ahead of you? What would keep you so energized throughout the day that you’re just so happy doing it from sunup to sundown?
It may be one or two things among those 12 skills of yours. It may be none of them, and that’s perfectly fine. A lot of people have been schooled up with this and that skill to get a job and make a living, but it isn’t anything close to their true passion. That’s the wrong way to go.
The key is to find what you love doing so much that you can’t wait to start every day and are so passionate about it that you never stop wanting to learn more so you can grow professionally and always deliver the best to your clients. Until you find that, you’ll forever be poking around in different areas because your core will never stop seeking your true love.
When you find that core passion, then you can start building a freelance niche around it.
Once you discover what you love and will happily spend your days on, break it down and find where it fits into different roles, established or not.
To follow from the example above, imagine someone who loves organizing things, and making things flow smoothly makes them happy, and they could spend all day every day getting things set up nicely.
That right there is the makings of a great project manager. It could also make a great technical writer organizing advertising and marketing copy for large campaigns given excellent language fluency, or a newsletter or landing page layout artist given artistic leanings.
What other roles could that fit into? In the ecommerce world, that could be inventory management or online store product and category management or an administrative role keeping schedules tight or organizing events. You get the gist.
And don’t be afraid to blaze your own path. Did you know that just 40 years ago there was no such thing as a knowledge broker? But Tony Robbins made it a thing, building that niche from scratch and growing with it to heights most of us can only dream of. Today, there are tons of people around the world making an excellent living doing what everyone back then said Tony was crazy for trying (and that he should get a “real” job!).
Just keep brainstorming different ways you could turn your passion into a service and pick the one that makes you feel all warm and tingly inside. The rest will take care of itself.
Take your time and be kind to yourself as you go through the process of understanding the benefits of niching down and discovering your true calling. It’s the journey to your life’s purpose and should be given ample time and your full attention. Do this right and it will give you wings so you can stop dragging your feet.
Don’t let past mistakes haunt you throughout your freelance career. Regardless of any investment made up to this point, if you’re not doing something that lights you up inside, then it isn’t worth it. It will just be downhill from here unless you turn it around. Cut your losses and start on the right path today. As you see your business from the perspective of focus and passion and watch it grow from your seemingly bottomless founts of energy, you’ll soon realize how quickly you can leap ahead.
Connor Gillivan is the CMO and Owner of Ecombalance and Outsource School. He has 10+ years of experience as an entrepreneur, is an active investor, and writes on his own personal blog, ConnorGillivan.com. He lives in Denver, CO.