I just hung up the phone. Lost a writing job. Actually, I turned it down. And I’m smiling.
“I’d like three articles written about my business,” he said. “And I need to place them in newspapers. Maybe in online directories, too. How much would you charge for that?”
I used to be the Ninja Copywriter. I could do it all. Bobbing and weaving (wait a minute, ninjas don’t bob and weave).
I wrote copy for annual reports. Brochures. Newsletters. Print ads. Websites. Training guides. Postcards. Fliers.
I wrote for hospitals. School districts. Colleges. Retail stores. Restaurants. Banks. City governments. All kinds of service businesses and nonprofits—large and small.
Okay, I was a generalist. And it served me well for many years.
But back to the phone call.
“I don’t do article marketing anymore,” I said. ”My specialty is helping small biz owners in service industries develop unique online presences. But I can give you the names of at least two outstanding writers who would be a perfect fit for you.”
Why would I do that? Turn down work, especially these days?
Because a niche makes you stand out. Makes you different. Special.
8 good reasons to have a niche
I know a CPA whose niche is water company operational audits. He’s doing very well.
I read about a yoga instructor who specializes only in yoga for pregnant women and new mothers. Over one year, she increased her income by more than 30%.
The owner of a remodeling company that started focusing on making custom window coverings for oddly-shaped windows in 1999. Today, his sales exceed $1 million a year.
So, the money is a great incentive.
But are there other reasons to have a niche?
Well, actually, yes. With a service or product niche, you:
1. Become the best at what you do. When you stay in one specific niche, you will learn so much more because you are constantly perfecting that specialty. Learning new strategies. Reading. Absorbing. Getting better.
2. Build credibility as an expert. This is huge. With time, you will become the go-t0 expert. Offering advice on social media forums. Writing articles. Being helpful and solving people’s problems.
3. Are less frustrated. There is never time enough to learn everything about a general field or industry. As you build your specialty, though, there will be fewer instances where you are stumped when looking for solutions for a client. And that means less stress.
4. Get more referrals. Bob, my biz partner, narrowed his graphic design/web development work to only
WordPress blogs and websites. When he did that, an amazing thing happened. Happy clients started telling friends and colleagues about him and his schedule began filling up—fast.
5. Have a shorter learning curve. It’s easier to keep up on new strategies and tools in a niche market than in a broader “I can do everything” business. And when you have the opportunity to practice the new stuff you are learning every day, it becomes part of your repertoire more quickly.
6. Have less competition. There may be a billion copywriters. But how many specialize solely in helping clients develop authentic and unique online identities? Not as many, I suspect.
7. Stand out in directories and on social media sites. Some sites, like Biznik, let you list yourself under
the specific category of your choosing. And that means, with a niche, you may be the only person (or one of just a few) in that category. And people looking for that specific service can find you easily.
8. Actually get more of the clients you want to serve. It’s like a magnet. When people know exactly what you do, they will come to you when they need that specific thing.
How to make a niche work
A good niche is one that follows your passion, uses your expertise and fills a real and specific need in the marketplace.
But how specific should you really get?
When I started exploring niches, all I could think of were tiny little groups of people. A target market of, say, Swedish cowboys who collect Star Wars memorabilia.
Or an event planner who specializes in weddings for brides who scuba dive and want a rock star theme.
All right, maybe those niches went a little too far.
To start your niche thinking, try mind mapping. Draw a large circle in the middle of a piece of paper (or on a whiteboard). Write the broad name for your industry/business/role inside the circle. (Photographer, for
Now draw lines out from the center circle, draw more circles and keep going from the general to the specific. For example, a photographer may go from photographer to commercial to outdoors to aerial photography.
The farther you go out with your circles, the more specialized your niche.
Look at the answers that came from your mind mapping exercise. Take a yellow highlighter and mark the niche ideas that you feel attracted to.
Take a green highlighter and mark the ones that are niche areas that you can identify as needs or trends.
Of course, there is more work to do. Like researching the actual needs in the marketplace. Listening. Lurking on forums. Tuning in to what current clients say they are looking for.
Just don’t worry so much about whether you are qualified or experienced enough. To establish a niche, you don’t necessarily have to have a Master’s or PhD. in a subject. But you do need to:
• Be interested/passionate about it. If it is something you truly care about, that love will come through. When I discovered my niche of online identity development, I knew I had hit on a passion: helping people develop their whole selves, complete with real and authentic personalities.
• Build on what you know. Use what you know, your strengths and background, to develop and refine
your niche. My experience as an educator and degrees in psychology were a big help.
• Be willing to learn more. You can’t possibly know everything about your chosen niche right now. If you read, interact with colleagues, and embrace that lifelong learning thing, your skills will keep growing. And that’s a good thing.
• Talk it up. Everywhere. Tell everyone you know. It’s actually easier now because you know exactly what you do and you can describe it in very few words. No more rambling and confusing elevator speeches for you.
What about you?
Have you gone the niche route?
Are you thinking about it?
What’s holding you back?
Have any tips to share?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments.