What is a niche, why do you need one and how can you find one? If you’re looking to start a creative business or online business, this is the first place to start. It’s a step that you don’t want to miss, and you definitely don’t want to take it lightly.
Naturally, this means that you’ll also be focusing on a very small group of people. The natural tendency for beginners is to start broad, large and general. This is okay when you’re first starting out as you get to test out what you like, what you’re good at, and who you want to deal with. After a while, it’ll be a good idea to find a focus.
Staying too general might mean you’re stuck competing with the big guys and you’ll have no room to squeeze in when you’re starting from scratch.
The secret sauce to small business owners succeeding is finding a niche that they love, flourish in, and know will have a demand.
Finding a niche means targeting and specializing in something. That something can be a few things – an industry, an offer, a style, a medium. It can also be a combination of all of those things.
For instance, a really specific niche is: Elegant Showit web design services for entrepreneurs in the wellness industry. That’s one example and you definitely don’t have to niche down that far if it doesn’t feel natural or enjoyable to do so.
You know those small ceramic trays that are sold in home goods stores? They’re called catch-all trays. Do you know why? Because that’s where you put your random junk that doesn’t have a permanent home.
Stray paper clips, bobby pins, unwanted business cards, coupons, cheap jewelry… you name it and it’s dropped in there. Your more treasured items do not go in there. Like a wedding ring, expensive pen, or smartwatch. Those usually have a home, where you keep it safe and somewhere predictable.
So, if you are a catch-all business, no one will remember you. Just think about when someone is asking for a referral.
“Do you know of a good photographer? I need family photos taken for our holiday cards.”
Though they didn’t specify a type of photographer, it’s easily distinguished in their needs. They didn’t ask for a general photographer. They want a family photographer. One who’s experienced in taking great photos of large families. Most likely, they are comfortable with the chaos that comes with trying to keep small children still.
In time same way, when you’re beginning this journey, you’ll know what your brand is based on what people say. Word-of-mouth goes a long way for new businesses.
Ask yourself this: If someone asks for a referral, what would you want them to say?
Person 1: “Do you know of someone who [service]? I need help with [problem].”
Person 2: “Yes, that’s [your name]! He/she is a [specialized profession].”
Next, how do people buy products and services? By their gauge of trust with the business. No one will buy from you if you’re not a trustworthy source.
By niching down into a specific industry, you will have a very clear business model. For instance, you might focus on feminine stock photos for bloggers. That’s it. Just that. You actually have a lot to talk about and a lot to offer by limiting your services.
For income, you might offer bloggers a customized package based on what they want in the photos. You give them a set of images with their color scheme and items that speak to their branding.
Now, you can also blog about photography and how that can impact someone’s online presence. You’ll be able to expand that and talk about websites, social media, and portfolios. You can offer courses and tutorials for passive income. And it’s still all related to feminine stock photos for bloggers.
Your services or topics can start off more general, but then you add your niche to the end.
You may be afraid of limiting what you offer because you think you’ll be making less. That’s not the case when it’s a set in stone properly. All you’re doing is strategically asking the people who are willing to buy from you to pay attention.
Instead of saying, “Hey small business owners who need photos!” you’re saying “Hey bloggers with feminine branding who need stock photos!” They’ll respond positively because they’re now thinking, “That’s me!”.
Need more proof?
Just do a little bit of math next time you go to an Instagram account with hundreds of thousands of followers but no clear branding.
For example, a fit young beach girl. Now look for someone with a few thousand to tens of thousands of followers. Get more specific. Find a vegan yoga enthusiast.
Now, look at the ratio of followers vs. engagement. The percentage of likes, though fewer, is actually higher on the yogi than the beach girl. Why? The niche! The followers are more targeted to their interests.
When you’ve found a specific problem to solve, it can really pay itself. Let’s go back to the stock photo example and the bloggers who need them.
What’s their “problem”? They need photos for their blog when they’re writing consistent content. So, as long as they’re blogging, they will need stock photos. As you’re probably realizing, it’s not for all bloggers.
The target market is bloggers who are very involved, at least somewhat successful and are producing a decent income. They like the unique touch of branded photos for each post. They will continue to spend money on photos as long as their business is running in this same format.
Sometimes though, your business model is not practical to have long-time repeat customers. For example, graphic designers who design for brand identities aren’t going to have the same client for the same service month after month. In fact, if the designs are that good, they will have long-lasting visuals!
However, the need is still strong for people who are looking to brand their businesses professionally. Whether that’s for a new business or an up-and-coming business with new profits to spend on getting a professional look. From there, you can niche down more and say you design brands for entrepreneurial moms in the fitness industry.
This is going to involve a bit of brainstorming and soul-searching. This is should also be the fun part. Maybe you already have the industry you’re working in, but you haven’t made it specific yet. If not, pick one or two in the general industry, and then write the answers down for the following questions.
You should be able to answer this one very easily. If you can’t think of anything off the top of your head, there is a lot of evidence around you.
Sometimes your hobbies or passions are different from how much you know. What can you say you’re an enthusiast with? Think of topics that you feel give you an expertise level on.
It may be as simple as thinking about your conversations. When you’re with people, think about the topics that you jump to. Also keep in mind what you spend most of your time talking about.
These are good indicators of how you can serve others with your business. Friends who come to you for questions usually have a topic that’s asked over and over. Also, have you had anyone tag you on something on social media? What is it about?
To narrow down your list of passions, let’s get more practical. You want to make sure there’s a real problem in a relevant niche market you can solve. Then you want to make sure that your solution is in line with one of the items you listed above.
For instance, if you have a lot of knowledge in design, how can you leverage this to help others?
Think about both products and services you can offer. They don’t necessarily have to be household items or a staple service. If you create something with amazing quality, that “want” can very easily turn into a “need”.
It’s time to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Will you make money on this? Is the demand there?
If it’s one of your passions, would you buy this for yourself? How about one of your friends or family members? We can go into more detail on the demand and validity of the niche idea in the next section.
Off the top of your head, think of stores, websites, and general businesses that offer this. This is usually a good indication and starting point to measuring the success of your idea.
First, let’s check out our friend Google. You’ll need to use their Keyword Planner. If you’ve never used it before, it’s free as long as you have an account or email address with them.
Type in a general keyword of one of your ideas. For example, “stock photography”. The wonderful thing about this tool is that it will let you know the search volume for the keyword. It will also list out related, and hopefully relevant, keywords. It a good place to find more ideas and use the correct phrasing.
If the search volume is under 1000, it may not be a good niche or keyword. Try playing around with the phrase before giving it up. If the search volume is at the highest (1 million), it’s too broad. Try making it more specific.
I wouldn’t worry about the column for competition. It does not indicate the validity or success of a business. It simply shows the competition in the Google Adwords.
Another place to look is just on the Google homepage. Start typing in your keyword but don’t press enter yet. Ain’t to see what Google uses to autofill your search term. You can get more ideas this way.
If it’s not looking too inspiring, press enter and check out the search results. Look at the keywords used in the websites that come up first. Then scroll to the bottom and check out the “related search terms” section. You’ll be able to see even more ideas of what people wrote. The way it’s worded is good to note since Google populates it based on common search terms.
Continue on Google but this time, browse the websites that are seen on the first page. What kind of products and services are offered? Do they seem to be getting decent traffic? Does the website have a blog?
Copy the URL of the website and check its monthly traffic volume. There are a few websites to check for that information. The one I use often is SimilarWeb. Paste the URL of the website in SimilarWeb and see how many visitors come to the site. A few thousand or more is a very good sign.
Tens and hundreds of thousands of visitors mean that the niche is doing well. You’ll want to bookmark some competitors for further research.
In the creative industry, it’s also good to check social media. Find popular hashtags related to your niche. Are the top accounts successful with their followers? Look at followers and engagement, not just followers.
Pinterest is also a good one to gauge validity. Are people making boards related to your niche? And are the individual pins getting pinned to a lot of accounts? These are all good signs of healthy competition and demand.
Finally, after doing extensive marketing research, you should have a pretty good business idea that validates your niche.
With all this gathered information, you’ll be able to execute a business plan for your product or service. You’ll know the best places to go online. You’ll know which social networks to put focus in. And now, you’re ready to become an authority in your space.
In addition, every month I set aside some time to talk to people about their creative businesses. We go over branding and business planning.
If you have an idea but don’t know how to start, I can help you along the way.
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