Discover four different ways to identify a niche for your freelance business, establish expert positioning, and attract more clients with ease — even if you've tried niching before and it didn't work.
Most freelancers, when talking about narrowing the focus of their business or choosing a niche, are talking about selecting an ideal client and defining an ideal client persona. The success of this approach to niching a freelance business is undeniable, but let’s face it…
Most freelancers, especially designers and developers, have trouble identifying one ideal client.
Maybe you find yourself in the same boat? I know I did! One ideal client didn’t make sense for my web design and development agency. I worked with a variety of clients across all sorts of industries, male and female, enterprise and small business, B2B and B2C. But eventually, I was able to define a clear niche and it took changing the way I thought about defining an ideal client.
There are four different ways to niche your freelance business and focusing on an ideal client is only one approach.
01. Niche By Ideal Client
The most common method of narrowing your focus and choosing a niche is to identify an ideal client you want to work with. An ideal client is a client who understands your value, is happy to pay your worth, and is excited to work with you.
With this approach, you need to create an ideal client profile or persona — a representation of your real life, perfect-fit clients — and have a deep understanding of exactly who they are.
This will require data gathering and research on things such as:
- Demographics: Objective, factual, statistical data like age, gender, ethnicity, income, mortgage amount, homeowner/renter, marital status, geographic location, number of children, vehicle type, occupation, and education level.
- Psychographics: Data about attitudes, aspirations, interests, lifestyle, and other psychological criteria that explain why clients buy from you and what their motivation is to buy. This may include mindset and attitude, beliefs and opinions, goals and dreams, interests, hobbies, how they spend their free time, personality and values, lifestyle and priorities, how they spend their money, and worries and fears.
- Behavior Analysis: Data on the behavior and actions taken in relation to what you are selling, including the types of email they open most, what blog posts are most read, what social media posts have the most shares, real client feedback, sales spikes, why repeat customers continue to buy and what motivated new customers, how prospects gather information before making a purchase, and how are they affected by price, quality, convenience, and prestige.
The data you must gather will be determined by your industry, what you’re selling, and your price point, but the notion is the same regardless — you have to get to know every facet of your ideal client. Once you understand who your ideal client is, you can tailor your brand, marketing, and messaging to speak directly to them so they feel understood and can more easily connect with your offer.
02. Niche By Ideal Service
Many freelance designers and developers struggle to define their niche by an ideal client because they don’t have just one type of client they work with. Instead, they work with a wide variety of clients performing a very specific service. In this case, you can niche by an ideal service instead of an ideal client.
When you niche by ideal service or ideal offer, you’re positioning yourself as a specialist and narrowing your offers to what you do best — and while you’re only offering those services, you are willing to perform those services for anyone who needs them.
Here are three examples of businesses that niche by service:
- Plumbers: Offers only plumbing services to anyone who needs plumbing help. They may even niche further by only offering residential plumbing services.
- Web Designers: Choose to only build custom WordPress websites but are willing to build a website for any type of business. They may niche even further by only offering ongoing support for WordPress websites or the design of e-commerce WordPress websites.
- Copywriters: Choose to specialize in website content packages but are willing to work with any type of business. Or they may choose to niche even further and specialize in website content packages for health and wellness websites but are happy to work with anyone and any type of business in that space.
03. Niche By Industry
If you’re a generalist — a jack of all trades — who doesn’t want to niche by ideal client or service offering, another option is to niche by industry. In this case, select an industry that interests you and learn everything possible about it: industry roles, challenges/struggles, business opportunities, overarching topics, who the big players are, and even how revenue is generated.
When you niche by industry, you must become an expert on that industry so those in the industry view you as a trusted authority and hiring you becomes a no-brainer.
Here are three examples of choosing an industry as a niche:
- Real Estate Virtual Assistant: Offers a wide variety of digital support services to those in the real estate industry, including realtors, mortgage brokers, lenders, appraisers, real estate attorneys, or property managers.
- Construction Industry CPA: Offers bookkeeping, accounting, and tax services to those in the construction industry, including licensed contractors, home builders, remodeling contractors, painters, drywall contractors, roofers, stucco contractors, pool builders, tile contractors, electricians, plumbers, etc.
- Hospitality Marketing Specialist: Offers a wide variety of marketing services for hospitality businesses such as hotels and resorts, limousine companies, bars and restaurants, caterers, travel and tourism companies, airlines, cruise companies, casinos, marinas, and entertainment venues.
If you narrow your focus to a specific industry, watch the relevant trends, shifts, research, news, and predictions carefully — especially those that are contradictory. This way you can prepare for any major changes coming that could negatively affect your business and your clients’ businesses.
04. Niche By Problem
Now, you may be thinking…
“None of these options fit me! I work with all sorts of people in all sorts of industries, on several different types of projects. What now? How do I find a niche for my business?”
If that’s you, you’re not alone. I have been right where you are, wondering if maybe, just maybe I was doing something wrong.
This is normal. Don’t stress. Your niche strategy is just a bit different. Rather than choosing an ideal client, focusing on a specific type of service, or picking an industry to specialize in, your niche may be solving a specific problem. That’s right, your business can specialize in solving a specific problem.
Consider what your clients have in common: are they all trying to figure out how to build their first website, launch an online business, get more clients, or make more sales? Each of these challenges/goals could be a niche!
Things To Consider When Choosing A Freelance Niche
When narrowing your focus and choosing a niche for your freelance business, ask yourself:
- Do I have any experience serving this niche?
- How much do I enjoy this niche? How interesting is the niche to me?
- Is the niche large enough to be viable?
- Are my services familiar, understood, and accepted in the niche?
- Can I easily solve a problem the niche struggles with?
- How important is solving this problem to the niche?
- Do people in the niche already invest in the services I offer?
- What is the average price people are willing to invest in the services I offer?
If you determine the niche to be viable, interesting, and lucrative go for it! Try narrowing the focus of your freelance business, track your efforts and results, and see what happens.
- If you find success, celebrate!
- If you need to make adjustments or do a little course correction, that’s okay too…
There is no one right approach to narrowing your focus and choosing a niche and you can always pivot later if you want!