Like most creative female entrepreneurs, you may have heard the advice that you should pick a specific niche for your service-based business. But I bet you have questions like:
“How do I know what my niche should be?”
“How can I focus on one niche when I’m already having a hard time signing clients as it is?”
“Won’t that leave a lot of people out?”
“I can’t afford to say no to potential income right now…”
Below is the ultimate guide to what a niche is, how it can help your freelance business, and how to choose your niche. You will also find my personal story about what happened when I finally chose a niche for my design business!
If you’re just starting your business, I would also encourage you to download our free value-packed cheat sheet that has everything you need:
What is a niche?
A niche is a focus or specialization for your creative business. Rather than being a jack-of-all-trades, when you have a niche for your creative business you can dominate one small section of the market. Most niches for service-based businesses fall into these two categories:
1. A medium
A medium-focused niche involves reducing the number of services you offer. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you are capable of designing many types of print and online materials. But to set yourself apart, you could specialize in logo design only rather than “all designs.”
Clients who need logo design would be attracted to the fact that you specialize in this medium versus trying to design everything. Meanwhile, a different designer who specializes in flyers for home decor brands would have a completely different set of potential clients – even though you are both graphic designers.
2. An industry
Maybe you like working in a variety of mediums and don’t want to give one up – that’s fine!
You can also specialize in an industry. In our graphic designer example, you could specialize in creating visual designs for salons and spas. You would still be working on different projects like logo, web, packaging, and print design, but your clients would primarily be salon and spa owners.
As another example, if you’re a freelance writer you could choose to specialize in landing pages and website copy (medium-focused niche), or you could specialize in any writing projects for the travel industry (industry-focused niche).
A key benefit of niching is that you get to become a valued expert in your medium or industry since you spend so much energy and time on it.
Your niche isn’t meant to limit you – it’s simply a marketing tool that gives your business more focus. Your niche is the special sauce that will build your reputation and help you attract customers who see your website and say “I have to reach out to her” without even bothering to look at the competition.
We created a short guide with 9 additional ideas on how to grow your freelance business. You can get that guide for free here:
Why You Need a Niche
I know that for most women reading this article, you aren’t completely sold on the idea of a niche yet. I completely understand! Even so, here are a few reasons why you should at least consider choosing a niche:
– You will build trust with clients.
All of your clients want one thing: they want you to solve their problems. Maybe their problem is that they struggle with writing, or their website looks terrible, or they don’t know how to make a professional video.
By focusing on a niche, you create trust with potential clients. They immediately breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you are familiar with their pain points and can handle their exact situation. When you fully own your niche, there is no competition.
– You will save time.
When you flitter between different industries constantly, you will spend time researching the industries of each client beforehand. This time can add up quickly, and many entrepreneurs don’t adequately factor this time into their pricing.
When you pick a niche, you save an immense amount of time because you’re already well-versed in the medium or industry.
You get faster at what you do, and you can jump on a call without having to smile and nod your way through. You can also help your clients in deeper ways like helping them avoid awkward camera angles or be more strategic about their logo colors.
– You will grow your revenue.
Your ability to live comfortably is important. Your ability to pay your bills, and have a peaceful home, and go on vacations, and do whatever else is important to you – all of that matters! And the only way you can get there without working yourself into the ground is by taking on less clients at a higher price point per client.
When you have a niche, you can charge more. It’s that simple. Your clients will pay extra for the peace of mind that comes with knowing an expert is working on solving their problem.
What Happened When I Niched My Business
When I started out as a freelance designer, I wanted to help everyone.
I was just getting the hang of how to freelance: what my client process looked like, how to manage their expectations, how to structure their payments, and how to get clients at all. I didn’t want to close myself off and limit my income by picking a specialization.
I went for several years without a niche, but I was hobbling along instead of truly succeeding.
My income hit a plateau, and despite my ample experience and skills, I would still get inquiries from people in random industries who wanted me to design them a logo for $50 or a super cheap website. They didn’t see me as an expert – they saw me as one of many designers to choose from.
Looking back, I wish I had a community of fellow freelancers who could have guided me and nudged me to choose a niche sooner. If you’re craving the community of like-minded women graphic designers, you can join our free Facebook group here.
Instead, I hired a marketing agency to help me refocus and position my business, and we took a hard look at the projects I had already done. We took note of which ones I enjoyed, which ones resulted in my happiest clients, which ones were the most profitable, and which industries I tended to work with already.
It turned out that without even trying, most of my past clients fell under the category of health and wellness businesses! A lot of my past clients represented wellness products, hospitals, and skin care products — I just hadn’t realized it on my own.
I still had some fear around focusing on a niche, but I took the leap. I changed my website and marketing to reflect that my business specialized in branding and design for health and wellness products.
I pulled unrelated projects down from my portfolio, changed my brand colors, and created a new content strategy based on attracting health and wellness businesses.
After I niched my design business, the caliber of my clients completely changed: new inquiries were from people in the wellness industry who took me seriously and trusted me to solve their problems.
Gone were the days of $50 logo requests. I started working with fewer clients per month while making significantly more money than before – all because I finally chose my niche.
Doesn’t niching leave people out?
Yes. It leaves out all the people that you don’t even want to work with. All the clients that can’t afford what you want to make, and all the clients that will end up asking for more for free – they will all be left out.
What leaves people out even more is having a generic website that uses vague language to describe what you offer. When you target everyone, you end up targeting no one.
When you list 20 different services and try to appeal to every industry and situation, the potential clients who land on your website will not get a strong sense that you can help them, and they will go with a competitor whose value is more clear.
If you do great work, make a name for yourself in your industry, and continue refining your creative skills, you will never run out of word-of-mouth referrals – even if they are technically outside of your niche.
And when that happens, you have the freedom to accept or decline the project depending on what feels best for you. This is one of the major benefits of being your own boss.
Let’s say you’re a photographer, and you decide to specialize in wedding photography. You enjoyed the weddings you photographed in the past, so even though you have experience in all sorts of photography, you change your website, images, pricing, and wording to show that your business focuses on weddings.
Now, let’s say a bride whose wedding you shot two years ago has a new baby and is looking for professional newborn photos. She remembers how great you were with kids and how thrilled she was with her wedding album, and she would prefer to work with someone she already trusts for such an important event.
Even if your website focuses on weddings, she will likely still reach out to you to see if you can help her. And when she does, you are absolutely welcome to take on her project. You may even love it so much that newborn photography becomes a future niche – who knows!
Your niche isn’t a set of handcuffs. You don’t have to say no to every paying project outside of your niche. Your niche is simply a marketing focus, and you can always branch out and make exceptions to grow your income and portfolio.
How to choose your freelance niche
Your freelance niche is probably already sitting right in front of you. You can think about these factors when choosing a specialty for your creative business:
Your past clients
Just like in my story above, most of my freelance design clients fell under the umbrella of health and wellness – it just took me awhile (and some outside perspective) to see it.
Take a high-level look at the projects you have already done. Do you see any threads or themes among them? Which projects did you enjoy the most, and why? Follow these answers to your niche!
What are your hobbies outside of your business? What books are on your bookshelf? What do you Google in your spare time?
It’s so important that you genuinely enjoy your niche. When you pick a specialization solely because you think it will pay well, you start down a slippery slope. You first started a creative business to get away from doing things you hate, remember?!
For example, if you don’t have any knowledge or interest in real estate, don’t try to become a web designer for commercial real estate companies out of the hope that it will make you more money.
You will have to spend so much time learning about the industry and possibly finding out that it bores you out of your mind – in which case, you would need to start over with finding a niche again!
Once you have ideas on what specializations you enjoy and have experience in, take a minute to think about the demand in those industries.
If you want to copywrite LinkedIn summaries for upcoming college graduates, that is a small project – and the target client for that type of project likely doesn’t have a ton of money to spend.
Maybe instead you could expand your services to include cover letter writing, resume writing, and LinkedIn writing with a specialty in young adults. This is still an example of specializing, but it casts a slightly wider net and could pull in more demand.
So many businesses and people need your professional services. By choosing a niche, you simply let the best clients find you: the ones who will benefit from your unique passions, expertise, and interests – and who are willing to pay for it.
After you select the niche for your freelance business, I encourage you to go all in. Don’t half-pick a niche while half-trying to remain a generalist – dive in, change all of your marketing, and think about how you can attract ideal clients within your new niche.
Chances are your ideal clients will be much easier to find and convert once you have a specialization. You can pinpoint industry-specific groups, events, publications, and influencers, or you can perform targeted cold outreach to the exact businesses who need what you are offering. We teach these types of practical strategies in The Money-Making Freelance Bundle.
When you look back after specializing and notice that you are making more money and working less hours, I think you will find that niching your freelance business was one of the best decisions you ever made. It certainly was for me!