Maybe a Niche Isn’t Everything

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

I was recently talking to a freelancer friend who was trying to find her niche.

As a copywriter, she had a lot of options, but she wasn’t sure how to narrow it down. Should she focus on online course creators? Established businesses? Sustainability-focused companies?

As they say, “the riches are in the niches,” and there’s a lot of business advice (including some articles I’ve written) to niche down as quickly as possible.

But now, I’m wondering if niching fast is the best idea. Maybe taking your time to find your niche is better in the long run.

I started freelancing for two reasons:

First, I wanted control over my own career. Second, I wanted to have a more direct impact by working with folks who could benefit from my skills the most — usually, small businesses.

So I did what I heard you should do. I mapped out client personas. I spent a lot of time deciding what kinds of businesses I wanted to work with. I crafted my website to align with that ideal client’s pain points and motivations, as any good copywriter should. I thought about what industries I wanted to focus on, and what solutions would work best for them.

But as my business grew, I realized that a project’s success depended less on what industry the client was in, and a thousand times more on what the client was like herself.

Was she easy to work with?

Did she trust me?

And most importantly — did she have a clear idea of the work she needed done to begin with?

Regardless of industry or niche, professionalism and personal chemistry has proven to be the number one indicator of how smoothly a project will run — regardless of industry, the age of the business, or business model.

Yes, a niche is important in the long run

Many smart people will tell you that finding a niche is what made their business take off. When you choose a specific industry and a specific solution you offer, you’re able to get better at delivering that solution. As a result, you gain skills and referrals, and you can charge more.

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But if you’re early on in your business, it can be valuable to interact with lots of different kinds of businesses before narrowing in. After all, how will you know if you like working with a certain demographic or industry if you haven’t done much of it?

This is a working hypothesis, but…

My belief is that early in business, you should focus on individual clients more than whether or not they belong to a certain niche. Find the people you like, who in turn like your work.

Work on homing in on the type of work you like to do, but go slowly when narrowing in on the kinds of industries you like to work in. This will allow you to develop expertise, but it won’t put you in a box too early.

Niching can be the fast track to profitability — but it can also lead you to build a business you don’t love.

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