As freelancers, we often feel like we have super powers and are able to take on any project, any customer, and any challenge that comes our way.
This “do-it-all” attitude is a great way to build our skill set and personal growth, but is it the best way to grow your freelance business?
At a certain point in your freelance career, it may be time to go niche. Contrary to popular belief, focusing on a targeted niche (and turning away anything that doesn’t fit) is an effective way of marketing your services and growing your business.
So what does it mean to go niche? Well, take my recent experience as an example. I’m a professional web designer. When I first went freelance, I did all sorts of web design projects for freelance clients. I created blogs, shopping websites, HTML emails, web-apps, you name it. Then, a few years in I decided to focus only on WordPress web design. Now, with my latest company, Restaurant Engine, my niche is WordPress web design for restaurants. Get the idea?
Benefits of Going Niche
First, lets look at it from the perspective of search. Did you know that the most popular, broad, one or two-word search terms (like “writer” or “web designer”) only make up 30% of all search engine queries?
According to SEOMoz, 70% of queries lie in the “long tail” of search — longer, targeted phrases. For example “blog writer in Omaha” or “magento e-commerce web developer”. The point is, people tend to search for narrowly targeted solutions to their specific problems.
Finally, you can build on your success in a particular niche to become the “go to” expert in that space, feeding more and more clients into your business.
It’s true on a practical level as well. Think about it: If you’re remodeling your kitchen, wouldn’t you prefer a company who specializes in kitchen remodels over a general contractor? There’s a certain comfort the customer gets knowing that you’ve performed this specific service successfully, again and again, for clients just like themselves.
Finally, you can build on your success in a particular niche to become the “go to” expert in that space, feeding more and more clients into your business. Plus, by repeating the same types of projects again and again, you can refine your systems and make your operation more efficient, making it easier to hire help and scale up.
How to Pick The Right Niche For Your Business
So how do you know which niche you should focus on? It’s a big decision, considering that you’ll be dedicating a significant amount of effort and resources to this niche for months, if not years to come.
Here are four steps to figuring out which niche is right for you:
- Assess your current business. Take a close look at everything you’ve been working on up until now. What’s been working? What was stressful or resulted in problems? Which areas make you the most money? Which areas are the most enjoyable for you?
- Which service do you love doing most? Take all of your areas of expertise and choose one — only one — that you love doing more than the others. It shouldn't be difficult to choose.
- Which clients/industry do you prefer working with the most? Now think about all of the clients you’ve worked with. Do you prefer working with small clients? Big companies? Non-profits? Which industry have you had the most success in serving?
- How big is this niche market? Think about the industry you chose in the last step. Is it a large and growing sector? Can your projects in this space be easily replicated?
If your chosen niche aligns nicely with these four questions, then you’re on the right track.
Understand Your Customer
Now that you’ve picked a niche to focus on, you must do everything you can to understand your target customer. Ideally, you’ve already done a project or two for clients in this niche, so start there. If not, try and learn as much as you can when you pitch new clients or simply go out and talk to some.
What are the most common requests you’ve received from these customers. Make a list of services and sub-services that apply to all clients in this niche. But keep it short! You don’t want to overwhelm clients with options. Instead, you want to offer the exact things they’re looking for (which won’t be many).
Next, take note of the common questions you receive from customers in this niche. Are there issues you find yourself having to explain again and again? These questions give you a clear idea about how to tailor your communication to suit this targeted niche.
Marketing Your Niche Service
Now that you know WHO you’re serving, WHAT you’re offering, and HOW to communicate with these customers, it’s time to use all of this to inform how you market your niche service.
Design your website and web copy around these targeted services. Create a FAQ to answer those common questions you’ve received. Present case studies that speak to those common problems and how your services have solved them.
The key is to put yourself in the shoes of your targeted niche customer. Every page on your website, every case study, every email campaign, and every other marketing piece you put out, should speak to this customer. They should relate in some way to everything you’re saying. That’s the beauty of marketing to a niche: It’s infinitely easier to tailor your communication to a focused set of customers rather than the whole world!
Niche Marketing Tactics
By pinpointing a particular niche, you also have the opportunity to focus your efforts on niche marketing tactics. Here are a few ideas:
- Industry associations - Most industries have a local and/or national association. Join the one for your niche to start networking with your target customers.
- Industry conferences/meetups - Seek out conferences and meetups that relate to your niche. It’s another way to make more connections and build your reputation within your niche community.
- Industry message boards and forums - Participate in targeted online forums where your customers discuss topics related to your niche. This is a great option if your niche isn’t location-specific.
- LinkedIn Groups - LinkedIn has a feature called “Groups” where specific industry people get together and network. Join a few groups related to your niche, or better yet, start your own group in this niche!
I hope this article helps you think about new directions to take your freelance business. I’d love to hear how you’ve found success by focusing on a niche. Share your ideas in the comments.