As freelancers providing a *great* service (of course), we’ve put ourselves out there to meet all sorts of challenges, as presented to us by our clients (all delightful, of course).
But because there’s so much competition (and by that, I simply mean so many others providing a similar service), we know we need a niche, the ‘one thing’ that differentiates us, makes us stand out from the rest.
So, here’s the thing.
You know it makes your marketing message stronger, your marketing efforts easier and prevents you from wasting valuable time trying to appeal to people who won’t buy from you.
It’s supposed to give you an unfair advantage over your competitors.
If you know all this, why is it so difficult to find (or let’s say, define) and then use it to attract potential clients?
The process of defining (and even refining) your niche can take time, but there’s no shame in that. You need to keep a watchful eye on what your audience wants and be prepared to tweak your offer in response, so it’s something that can evolve over time.
But here’s what I’ve learned from many years of getting it wrong:
Despite the rhetoric, your niche is not solely dependent upon what your audience needs..
Think about it – people need food, they need clothes, they need shelter, and so forth. Yet we have a variety of different foods, different brands and different styles – all pandering to a variety of tastes, likes and dislikes.
A car can get you from A to B. Yet the buyer of a Bentley clearly uses more than the need to get from A to B to influence his or her buying decision, over let’s say a Fiat. There’s a perceived value wrapped up in the Audi, that its buyer is willing to pay over the odds for.
So, the process of defining your niche is more to do with the perceived value of your offering – from your client’s perspective.
Have a think about the service you offer. What’s the underlying value to the client?
– Are you potentially saving your client money? Time?
– Will your service make your client feel better, or do something better?
– Will it prevent them from making costly mistakes?
If you’re providing what matters to them, that’s the clincher. That’s your niche.
Your niche should, by definition, be unique.
Sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many service providers find this difficult to get.
Unique doesn’t mean gimmicky. It means finding a way to define what you stand for, what it is that drives you, keeps you going in the face of adversity, gets you all fired up in the morning, and then finding a way to relay that to your audience – typically through your branding and/or your marketing.
No-one is quite like YOU, so even if you’re one of 1000 Accountants, you can still be uniquely different from the 999.
Are you memorable?
This is far more than finding a catchy slogan for your spanking new website?
It’s whether people think of YOU whenever they have a particular problem to solve.
Whether they view you as the go to person in that field?
Back to the Bentley versus the Fiat. Whichever one you prefer, there’s an emotional connection involved in the decision-making and buying process.
– Do people emotionally connect with you, and if so, why?
– Have you found a way to tap into their fears, their worries, desires and aspirations?
– Do they really get you, and do you really get them?
When you take the time to develop and nurture a relationship with your audience, they feel a connection with you which in turn, leads to ‘brand’ loyalty (with you as the brand in this scenario).
And we all know that brand loyalty, leads to sales … and repeat sales.
Keep learning and refining
It takes a good deal of research to really understand your audience, and how your niche satisfies them.
It means determining where your clients tend to hang out, so you can hang out with them and find out what they need. Then you can make great service products – on the fly if you fancy – to meet that need.
But the truth is, it’s an ongoing process and many service providers skip it because it’s the seemingly boring part of business.
There’s only one way to find out who your ideal clients are, what they want and why they want it. That’s by talking to them – and you can only do that by engaging with them in some way.
When you do, you’ll have a much clearer picture how to propel your freelance biz forward.
feature image: Unsplash