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Finding your freelance niche can be an important step in growing your freelance business.
There’s a reason the phrase “The Riches are in the Niches” has become almost cliché when it comes to modern business (there’s even a book by the same name).
That’s because when you figure out how to find your freelance niche, you tap into something special. It seems counter-intuitive at first: smaller audience should mean less opportunity, right?
But, in many cases, the complete opposite is true.
When you find your freelance niche, you end up positioning yourself as an expert to your target audience. And when you’re an expert, you can charge more because demand for your freelance niche expertise goes up.
I spoke with one writer whose business completely took off after discovering clients were willing to pay 10x his usual rates for highly technical development blogs. He had to hire 50 contractors in 12 months with all the demand he was getting from this new freelance niche.
Finding a freelance niche can mean an explosion in new clients and revenue. But with so many freelance ideas out there, picking just one niche can feel a bit overwhelming.
So today, I’ll walk through some questions you can ask yourself in order to find your freelance niche while still doing work you enjoy and without losing clients in the process.
Here are 5 questions to help you find your freelance niche:
1. What kind of work do I enjoy most?
While this list of questions is not in any particular order, I think it’s critical to address the question of work satisfaction first.
For me, everything hinges on this question. If you choose a freelance niche you don’t enjoy, you’re stuck doing work you hate for the foreseeable future.
In fact, you could even become known as the “go-to” person for work you despise. That would be an utter failure.
So start by asking yourself: what kind of freelance work could I see myself doing for the rest of my career?
Of course, you don’t have to stick to it forever (that’s a long time), but it’s good to start with work in a freelance niche you actually enjoy.
2. What kind of work already pays me well?
Of course, enjoying your work doesn’t pay the bills. And your freelance business is a business after all—not a hobby. So the next question to ask yourself is which freelance niche has the highest revenue potential.
Depending on where you are in your freelance career, you probably already have clients that hire you for a variety of different services.
I know one freelancer who offers video services, social media management, and copywriting—three very different skills.
But as you’re trying to nail down your freelance niche, consider which services you already get paid more for.
This is a question we ask our guests on Freelance to Founder all the time: “which services give you the biggest return for your time investment?”
If it’s also work you enjoy, you’re well on your way to finding the perfect freelance niche.
If not, take a look at the second and third most lucrative services you offer. If there’s still not a match, you’ll have to hatch a game plan to slowly transition your current high-paying services out of your repertoire as your new freelance niche takes priority.
3. What do clients come to me for?
Next it’s important to ask yourself which freelance niche service your clients already come to you for.
If you’re already known in some circles, finding clients becomes much less difficult and word of mouth marketing can become a huge source of new business for you.
Of course, you don’t have to stick with the same niche you’ve already got clients in, but it can definitely be a major advantage if you’re already known as somewhat of an expert in a certain area.
4. Who can I already effectively reach?
Once you’ve identified a few freelance niche ideas that clients already come to you for, it will be helpful to determine a freelance niche in which you have easy access to potential clients.
If you already have a great presence in a certain social media group, consider identifying what that group might hire a freelancer for and explore related freelance niches.
Perhaps you’re talented at public speaking and could offer a free monthly class at your local library or elsewhere in order to build up demand for your freelance services.
Or maybe you already have a list of previous clients you could reach back out to with your new niche offering in order to have them work with you again.
5. Which freelance niches are currently growing?
If you plan to freelance for a long time or ultimately go from freelancer to agency, it’s smart to do some research to find which freelance niches are growing—and which are declining.
For example, a freelance designer could opt for a freelance niche in UX/UI design (which is booming) as opposed to print design (which has been on a steady decline for years).
Of course, some declining specialties also cause a sort of exodus of freelancers from that particular niche, which could put you in a nice place. But when the overall pie is shrinking each year, even a larger slice of pie eventually has an end.
A few more thoughts on finding your freelance niche
Asking the five questions above will be a GREAT start when trying to figure out how to find your freelance niche.
In addition, I’d like to share a few pieces of advice I’ve gathered after working with freelancers for 10+ years.
Don’t worry about finding a freelance niche too early
You might read all kinds of advice online or in books about niching down and find yourself thinking: “wow, I need to do that NOW.”
In my experience, there’s such a thing as getting into a freelance niche too early.
If you’re still in the very early stages of starting your freelance business, be wary of turning down too much work before you become profitable. This can lead to suffering through the feast/famine cycle and never getting your freelance business off the ground.
You can always change your freelance niche later
Some people find themselves debilitated by the idea of finding a freelance niche.
They ask themselves things like “what if I don’t like my niche in a few years?” or “what if I pick a bad niche?”
While these are valid concerns, it’s important to remember: you can always change your niche as you go.
Of course, it’s better to stay the course as long as possible since your reputation and client list will grow over time in your specific freelance niche. But when you’re running your own business, you’re in charge. You can always pivot.
There’s no such thing as “the wrong freelance niche”
If you find yourself worried you’ll pick the wrong niche, let me help you find some peace about it.
There’s no such thing as “the wrong freelance niche.”
There are freelancers in thousands of niches you’ve probably never even heard of.
Yes, there are some niches that will be a bad fit for you. But if you ask yourself the questions above before finding your freelance niche, then you should be just fine.
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Great post, April!
Finding your niche is one of the best ways to guarantee success as a freelancer – and gets clients that you actually want, too!
Finding a niche was very easy because passive income is our passion. When we first began we conducted all the research ourselves. It is good to do the hard work even though it is often time consuming because you can learn and also improve– because the learning never stops.
thanks for the advise beautiful, wonderful
Great stuff April!
I do believe it’s the passion which is the most important – if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you’re going to burn out pretty quickly.
Expertise, experience, strengths and weaknesses are of course good things to keep in mind. My past has been in development, and I’m absolutely not creative in the design sense, so whilst I’ll probably excel in tech related areas, anything relating to creative is going to leave me absolutely frustrated.
Hi, April! I think a strong secondary creative interest can be a good foundation for a niche to pick. Two real-life examples: 1) If you are a web developer who also enjoys photography you can become a photography website designer (Alex Vita). 2) If you are a graphic designer who also writes you can pick book cover design as your niche (Scarlett Rugers). To some degree, you can then pursue 2 creative interests in one niche.
Thank you so much April ! It was extent read, I think after more than 18 years work as graphic designer my niches are simple design with good color matching.
I’d say my niche found me, not the other way round. One good job led to referrals that led to more referrals and you know you’ve nailed it accidently when youve never advertised but you are always busy. Property marketing anyone lol. And there was me wanting to illustrate childrens books. ah well, still time…… 🙂
I think you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes you need others to tell you your niche. When you’re starting out, sometimes it’s the first indication someone wants your help that gets you going 🙂 Great article, April.
Sometimes niches bonk you on the head and say, “Hey! This is what you’re good at.” No problem with that!
No reason you can’t illustrate too – life is a journey, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.
What a nice little read April. I found it interesting that you mentioned not enjoying working on “photo-realistic design” – I really do not care for that either. However I love integrating subtle textures, patterns and swirls whenever I can into my designs!! I suppose it’s become a bit of my “signature” — maybe going back to my oil painting days as my art teacher would integrate a pattern of sorts into her sig on each painting.
Now I do this with my design work using some cool filters and such as I find it gives the designs more depth. So far clients like it and some have commented – “how did you do that?” One thing I will note is that when I lived in NM, clients were far more open to colors/textures etc. Then again so much of NM is about art and color! Now that I live in a state that is more tech based, I have had to tone it down – but it’s still there.
I would not necessarily call it my niche per se – but more of one of the attributes I bring to my designs.
Jealous! I’m really no good at textures, patterns, or swirls.
A niche is what you carve out for yourself – if a design style is your niche (check out Theresa’s comment above), then go for it!
I loved this article. I have been a designer for over 15 years and still struggle with what I am good at. But when we take a step back I can see things a little clearer but it is hard to get that perspective. Here is what I have found: When I am introduced to someone or when I meet someone new at a party for example, I usually ask lots of questions. My husband always gives me a hard time, saying that I am interrogating them. But most people are happy to talk about what they are doing and what makes them excited in business/life etc.
Recently I have found perspective to find another thing I think I excel at and enjoy, helping business owners and design firms figure out new ways to reach new customers. Sitting down and talking to my clients about expanding their reach gets the business owners excited and energizes me as well. I know I enjoy helping people grow their business and reach their audience.
But one thing I struggle with as a solopreneur designer is staying inspired, motivated, and educated. When I go to a conference (once or twice a year) I get that recharging of my design battery. But I want that energizing feeling more often but I don’t have time to go to monthly meetings. We are busy and work hard and often times late, I feel like I am not alone, that other designers want to connect with other designers and get motivated, inspired, and energized as well, right?
So this summer I began recording live interviews weekly with other designers to discuss topics related to design on an online platform called Spreecast. This free, online community of designers has grown each week averaging 300 views in the first seven days. All the episodes are recorded and available for viewing after each airing and each show is beneficial to designers at any level. Each episode is an hour long and has been described as “a laid-back conversation between designers.”
I am enjoying it and finally feel like “this” is what I was meant to do. April you should check it out I would love to have you on the show sometime it, you can find all the recorded episodes at my website or at http://www.spreecast.com/channels/design-recharge-channel
Thanks for the invite – I’d love to come on the show. And what a great idea! I’m really looking forward to the 12/5 episode.
Let’s plan something for the beginning of the year (my December is already hectic).
Thanks for sharing!
My passion has always been horses and anything western, and most of my clients when I first started out were my friends and fellow horse lovers. Like so many when we’re first starting, I was reluctant to leave anyone out, so I never bothered to define my niche. Once I got serious, and went back to my roots, and decided that my niche would be designing for equestrians and the ag industry primarily, things took off and I have not slowed down. That was about a year and a half ago. I’ve since quit my part time job and gone full time and I can’t believe people pay me to do this!
Congrats! Isn’t it wonderful waking up to a job you love?!
Thanks for sharing!
No, we don’t think you’re getting paid to promote his book. It *is* a great book! 🙂
I provide branding and business strategy to creative, entrepreneurial women.
It took me a while to have the courage to narrow down my target audience. When just getting started, turning away from potential clients and money is perhaps THE hardest step to take but definitely the most rewarding. Now that I’ve taken that step, I feel so much more engaged and energized; it’s a Win – Win!
I know the feeling – the idea of narrowing your focus makes you think you’re going to “lose out” on clients, but really it helps you reach more people because you’re targeting their needs rather than hoping they need your services.
Finding your niche does make you feel good inside!
Thanks for sharing!
Excellent read and I absolutely agree! I first found my passion when I joined my fraternity in college. I was assigned to design the next event’s flyer. Up to this point I never opened Photoshop, but ever since then I could not leave it closed! I fell in love with designing flyers and got better at it over the years. Although I learned many other design skills, designing flyers (especially for other greek organizations and nightlife) and then animating them is truly my niche and passion.
You know you’ve found your niche when you get excited. 🙂 Isn’t it grand when you get a project like that?!
Thanks for sharing!
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