Ever heard of a niche? Ever had someone tell you you should find yours?
While it’s certainly not the be-all-end-all solution to boosting your income or building a connection with your audience, there is something to be said to be recognized within your industry.
What is a niche?
In a business context, a niche, if you don’t know, is a unique and specific focus in a broader market. For example, rather than being “An artist”, you could instead be “A graffiti artist who creates large-scale murals”. Because an artist could be anything from a dancer to a singer, specifying that you’re a graffiti artist and your specialty is murals on a large scale, you’re carving out the ability to be known for something.
In all good marketing, we want to ask ourselves “How am I remaining top of mind in the eyes of my clients?”. In other words–how are your customers being reminded that you exist and are available for hire (or to purchase something from)? Niching can often be a way to attract new customers.
“The ________ Person”
There is value in being “the ______ person” in your local market. Your goal is to be the first name someone thinks of when they need something specific; something you specialize in.
Let’s say you’re a watercolour painter and your passion is animals; dogs specifically. If you were to focus your Instagram on paintings you’ve done of dogs (even if it were unpaid work in your free time), the second someone gets a new puppy and decides to have a unique portrait done of their new friend, you’re the first person they’re going to think of.
Al’s Pizza & Ye’s Chinese
One time, my sister-in-law was in the mood for Chinese food, so she went to her local spot Ye’s Chinese to grab a bite to eat. While she was waiting for her takeout to be ready, she inquired with the man behind the counter about the seemingly weird combination of Al’s Pizza which seemed to share the same building (and even kitchen!) as Ye’s Chinese.
She asked the guy, “Who is Al?” and the man, presumably Ye, said, “I am Al.” After a little more inquiring, my sister-in-law found out that he is Ye and that Al, in essence, isn’t a real person. He makes both the Chinese food and the pizzas people order.
My sister-in-law asked, “Well, why did you name it ‘Al’s Pizza’?” and the man replied, “You would not buy pizza from Ye!”.
It seems hilarious but he has a point. By offering two separate “specialty” restaurants, he has a better handle on the market rather than simply labelling it “Ye’s Chinese & Pizza”. Would you have ordered Pizza from the same place that made Chinese food? How good could that pizza really be?
Why Being a Generalist Can Hurt You
Real quick I want to be clear: there is a time and place for everything. In certain industries or contexts, it makes more sense to be known as a generalist rather than to have an ultra-specific niche. Keep that in mind.
The Ye’s Pizza story is meant to illustrate how being the one-stop-shop for everything and everyone isn’t always beneficial. I don’t know about you, but in general, I think Ye has a pretty good point.
If you become known for too many things, you are known as a “Jack of all trades; master of none”. If you’re a carpenter who does intricate woodwork but you also do tile and drywall and framing and foundation pouring, how good are you at any one of those things? Or more importantly: How good will your potential buyers perceive you to be at any one of those things?
If instead, you focus on building your reputation as the Woodworking guy, you may find more work in the same niche and earn higher paying clients for work you enjoy most.
Deciding on a Niche
Now just to be clear, niching doesn’t have to be specific within your industry. That very same carpenter in the last example could’ve had the niche of “One stop shop for young homeowners”. Then when that client’s tap sprung a leak in the middle of the night, that carpenter might’ve been the first person they called because the couple knew he could help them with any homeowner-related problem.
Sometimes niching is specific to your location. Do you have a web store that sells globally? Or is your business made up of local clients only? Sometimes, your niche can be as simple as the city you live in.
Consider the type of work you love most and how you can begin to curate your online storefront (social media, website) to reflect what you want to be known for. This is the trick to getting more of the specific type of work you dream of.