How to Discover Your Ideal Freelance Niche
By Craig Cannings
Many of us have heard the quote “the riches are in the niches” as motivation to niche down our freelance or virtual assistant business. And that alone is keen motivation for finding your niche.
When you heard the quote, however, did you think of riches in financial terms? That’s often the first image that comes to mind. But niches also bring us other kinds of riches that provide long-term benefits for our businesses.
In this article, we’ll outline some practical steps for evaluating yourself and the market to determine the best type of niche to pursue. But before we do that, let’s back up and define what a niche is.
What is a Niche?
In our course, “The Fine Art of Niching Down,” Freelance University co-founder and instructor Craig Cannings defines a niche as “a specialized service and/or market that is suited to your personality, passions, proficiencies, and professional background.”
Those four elements are part of the “Niche Identification Matrix,” which we’ll explore in more detail below. They show that finding your niche involves looking deep inside yourself and evaluating your experiences.
Brad Hussey, in an article titled “How to Start a Freelance Business in 2021 – Complete Guide,” says, “The overlap between what you are good at doing, a problem for a specific group of people, and the solutions you can provide to them is called your niche.” This definition shows that an outward focus is also part of a niche. In essence, you need to consider your past, present, and future as it relates to yourself and your target audience.
The Benefits of Having a Niche
What if you’re just starting out and don’t know what to specialize in? Can you do more general tasks that serve a broader client base? The answer is yes. It’s okay to try a variety of tasks to see what you enjoy doing. But in the long term, finding your niche will have a more positive effect on your business and client relationships. And on your own well-being.
Consider this tale of two freelancers:
• Willing to perform a variety of tasks, anything from bookkeeping to graphic design to social media management
• Has a large target audience spread out over several freelance niches
• Performs a specialized set of tasks involving social media management for restaurant owners and brick and mortar businesses
• Has a target audience focused on particular industries and served by a specific freelance niche
The benefits of having a niche are evident when you start to explore the process of running your business and marketing it. At first, offering a wide variety of services can help build your client base. But over time, you may start to feel stretched in too many directions. When you want to hone your skills by seeking additional training, you have double or triple the number of courses you’re taking.
You might realize you enjoy some tasks more than others. But you can’t devote as much time to them as you’d like because you’re busy with other types of tasks. Your business might become weighted towards your least favorite tasks if they’re more in demand. And the more you do work you don’t enjoy, the more your enthusiasm and energy will wane.
In an article titled “How to find your niche as a Freelancer,” Viktor Marinov asserts, “Finding your niche can result in more projects and work, boost your income, and ultimately make you happier with what you do.” He believes that it’s “often the best way to take your business to the next level.”
And instead of limiting how many clients you have, it provides more targeted opportunities. The VA Handbook article “How to work out your Virtual Assistant niche” lists reasons why having a niche or niches is beneficial. For instance, “you will always be able to explain what you do and how you can help,” and “marketing becomes easy because you know exactly what type of client you are looking for.”
Finding Your Niche
How do you identify the best niche for your business? Let’s go through some practical steps. First, we’ll return to the Niche Identification Matrix from “The Fine Art of Niching Down” course.
Consider the four elements — Personality, Passions, Proficiencies, and Profitable Niches — and ask yourself the following questions:
• What are the personality traits and qualities that make me unique?
• What tasks or areas interest me?
• What are my unique skills and background experience?
4. Profitable Niches
• What niches present the best client and income opportunities?
Spend some time reflecting on these elements and use a paper notebook, online note-taking or mind-mapping tool to record your thoughts. Don’t rush. When going through the first three elements, describe how you really are, not how you think you should be.
Viktor Marinov has some additional great advice in his article, where he puts the concept of finding your niche into perspective:
“Talk to people who focus on different things and think about what drives them. Does it sound like something that you could be into? Try it out. Think of it like this – you have five different kinds of candy. You can either keep eating without switching out of convenience or alternatively try all five and find out what you like most.”
And the VA Handbook article above suggests that you could unexpectedly discover your ideal niche. For example, if your client introduces you to a task you end up enjoying, you might ultimately become proficient enough to offer it as a service.
How to Explore Profitable Niches
The fourth element, “Profitable Niches,” deserves some focused attention. When you want to discover which niches present the best client and income opportunities, Craig Cannings recommends researching the following questions:
1. What do the stats say?
For example, search on statistics portals like Statista, and read specific articles that talk about your chosen niche to see how many businesses are using a particular service. That way, you can see how much demand there is and whether you’ll be filling a gap for clients.
2. What do my clients and colleagues say?
Speak to your clients and colleagues individually, observing what types of services are being requested. And participate in online groups focused on your peers or on particular industries. For instance, if you belong to Facebook or LinkedIn groups, you can discover information from discussions or from questions you post yourself. This will help you find out what services are being offered and what’s hot.
3. What does Google say?
4. What do the marketplaces say?
Search on sites like Upwork, FreeUp, and PeoplePerHour to see where the demand is for certain services and niches. By observing the most popular categories, projects, and top skills, you can determine whether your chosen niche will be profitable and in-demand!
When you go through the process of finding your niche, remember that it doesn’t have to be set in stone. No matter how long you’ve been offering a particular service, you can still be flexible. As Craig Cannings says, “You can always change, adapt or broaden your niche service as time goes on.” So, it’s worth saving the four questions from the Niche Identification Matrix and returning to them periodically. As your skills and experience grow, so too can your niche.
And consider this powerful quote from Connor Gillivan in a previous FreeU blog post, “How to Select a Niche Focus for Your Freelance Business.” He says,
“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.”
Now we’d love to hear from you! What steps will you take to find your ideal niche? And if you’ve already found it, how has niching down benefited your business? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Other Useful Topics
Discover five ways to build an email list from scratch.
Discover some key strategies for asking for a referral for your Freelance Services.
Here are 7 Online Predictions for 2020 that could have a big impact on your Freelance Business!
Here are three key strategies for creating a success mindset in your business for the new year!
In this post, we’ll share seven productivity tools and apps that can add more time to your week.
Five ways to overcome the Imposter syndrome in your freelance business... this is a must read!
Here are four other practical ways to gain experience in order to build credibility with new clients.
What constitutes a dream office for a freelancer or virtual assistant? Check out some ideas here!
As freelancers, we need to update our skills to stay current in today's virtual industry. Here are 7 ways to succeed in the art of ...
Here are five ways you can legally protect your Freelance business, so you can sleep easier at night!
In this guide, we’ll dispel some of those myths and look closer at five top marketplaces where you can start finding work as a f ...
Discover some helpful strategies for taking time off in your Freelance Business without losing any clients!
Here's a quick guide to writing business proposals that win new clients... this is a must-read for any Freelancer!
Some get it right the first time; most struggle with finding their freelance niche. And that’s okay. It’s not easy to choose a ...
Have a watch of this short "behind-the-scenes" video as I show you some of the exciting changes we have made to the University tha ...
It is never easy to fire a client! In this post, we provide some helpful tips and strategies for ending an unhealthy client relati ...
If you’re exploring new income streams, this “Guide to Creating Multiple Streams of Income for Your Freelance Business” will ...
Have a watch of this inspiring interview and receive some valuable "nuggets of wisdom" on how to build a thriving freelance busine ...
Facebook Watch Party vs Live - two powerful tools to build reach & engagement with your target audience.
Have you encountered failure in your work as a freelancer? Discover how to handle failure and success in your business.
Many of us find networking challenging, no matter what our personality may be. Here are 10 strategies you can use as a guide to ne ...
Here are some tips and strategies to help you optimize your daily productivity so you can get more work done in less time!
In this video, I identify the FOUR challenges and offer a practical solution for overcoming them and making this your best year ev ...
I want to share three "Freedom Stories" from students all with a passion to design a flexible and profitable Freelance Lifestyle.
Here's a success story from one of our students, Renee, who has overcome great challenges to build a profitable freelance business ...
Let’s take a look at some of the top content channels for promoting your brand and business to the masses!
Here are some other places you can go to embrace your location-independent laptop lifestyle in your own home and beyond:
Here are five useful tips for finding and attracting your ideal clients on Social Media. The tips will help you to discover great ...
How do you create an entrepreneurial mindset in your freelance business? Do you find it challenging to shed the attitude of an emp ...
How did you find your first client? If you’ve been a freelancer for a while, you may look back and see that you have an interest ...
Here are some excellent strategies you can use to overcome your worst days in your freelance business!
While it’s impossible to predict the future, and even the best clients can fall on hard times, here are some tips you can employ ...