Quite a few of my clients recently have been working through the process of nailing their niche so I wanted to share exactly how service-based business owners can identify (and refine) the perfect niche for their business.
If you’ve been an online entrepreneur for any length of time, I’m confident you’ve been strongly encouraged to niche down, nail your niche or that the riches are in the niches.
While this isn’t entirely false, I come at this advice from a different angle.
Your niche will find you.
In other words, one day you’ll look back and realize you’ve already found your niche. There is no need to hunt them down.
But I understand that’s not really helpful to those who want to pinpoint their niche right now… so thought this article might help.
The art of finding your niche differs depending on which stage you’re at in your business.
The advice I give my clients vary greatly depending on their individual circumstances, but for today, I’m going to break it down into three parts:
- How to find your niche when you’re just getting started.
- How to find your niche when you’ve been in business for a few years.
- How to refine your niche if you’re a seasoned pro.
But before we jump into how to identify your niche… let’s talk about why it’s a good idea and so widely suggested.
The simplest answer is that having a clearly defined niche makes it extremely simple to describe what you do and who you do it for.
With that said, it also makes it easier for others to describe what you do and who you do it for… and thus you’ll be more easy to send referrals to.
Another bonus is the ability to fine-tune your expertise based on your niche. Rather than knowing a little about a lot, you’ll come to know a lot about a little… and this is extremely valuable to those clients.
Lastly, marketing and copy will become much easier for you. When you know what you do and who you do it for in a clearly defined niche it’s simpler to address that audience individually.
There are a number of added benefits of having a well-thought-out niche for your business, so now let’s dive into how you get there.
How to pick your niche if you’re just getting started.
If you’re still in training, just launching your business or have had paying clients for less than a year, you fall under this category.
A huge mistake I see with those just getting started out is getting too specific in their niche too early. This is a common misconception because everywhere you turn you have someone telling you to niche down, niche down!!
But the problem with this advice is that your business is going to evolve and you’ll likely end up pivoting from that first niche. And if you’re too narrow in your niche, your pivots will be very obvious to your audience and you run the risk of appearing inconsistent or wishy-washy.
However, if you choose a more broad niche or just start working with everyone and anyone… when you do end up pivoting it will be more of a refinement and polish than a complete 180.
So bottom line, if you’re in your first year of business and looking to find your niche… start a bit broader and then after you’ve gained quality experience with paying clients, narrow down as you see fit.
How to pick your niche if you’ve been in business for a few years.
Let’s say you’ve got some experience, you’ve worked with a range of clients and you’re ready to get clear on your niche. Great!
Your greatest asset here is your past experience.
This is just what I did going into year two of my design business. I had an extremely successful first year but was pretty much working with anyone and everyone. I was ready to niche down. I figured I could provide more value to my clients if they were all in a similar industry as I’d really get to understand the ins and outs of their businesses and website needs if they were all, essentially, in the same niche.
So I pulled my client list out from the year prior and jotted down my favorite projects. Then from that list, I jotted down the names of the clients I worked with on those projects that brought me immense joy any time they popped in my Inbox.
Then, I looked for a pattern to create my niche.
So if you’ve been in business for 1-5 years and still working on your niche, I encourage you to do the same.
Flip through your client list and jot down on a piece of paper the names of your favorite clients. Then reflect back on the services you provided and the obstacles they overcame as a result of working with you… do you see a pattern?
That pattern, whether it be within the services provided or whom you provided them for is your golden ticket when it comes to identifying your dream niche.
Take a quick mental note on what was subtly mentioned above, too. Your niche doesn’t have to be a person… it could be a style… a unique service… a group… a demographic… anything that specifies a distinct segment in the market.
How to refine your niche when you’re a seasoned pro.
Even seasoned professionals refine and polish their niches at a variety of stages and milestones within their business. This is totally normal!
If you’re a seasoned pro looking to refine, pivot or polish your area of expertise and the niche you serve… I want you to walk through the same exercise I shared above.
Take a look at all of your past clients and quickly jot down the names of the clients that you had the best experience with.
Having been in business several years myself, I regularly perform this self-check on my own niche. When I have an amazing client experience, I take a mental note about what I loved about that relationship and see how that works into my current niche.
For example, in 2021 I felt called to work with more interior design businesses. So I refined my niche, marketing and brand messaging to target that audience. I still enjoy working with a small number of other businesses as my schedule permits, but you’ll usually find me working with more interior design businesses than any others. And that is a very purposeful decision.
So if you’re a seasoned entrepreneur who has had a successful business for many years, take some time to reflect on the clients you’ve worked with where you felt most alive. Is there a pattern you can identify that then will help you refine your niche?
Regardless of what stage you’re at in your business, I’ve come up with a few great questions to ask yourself before deciding on or refining your niche:
- Can they afford you?
- Do they value your time?
- Do they value your expertise?
- Will you enjoy working with them?
- Do their values align with your values?
- Are they looking for your service?
- Do you feel qualified enough?
- Are you qualified?