How I found my freelance niche and tips to finding yours

student-with-computer1

You’ve all heard the phrase, “if you try to be good at everything, you’ll be excellent at nothing.”

But unless you’re one of the lucky ones, finding your niche can be really difficult.

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t found yours yet…it took me over 10 years of designing until I found mine.

Here at GDB we talk about how finding your niche (or superniche) can be really beneficial for your business.

Whether it’s blogging or design work, you can boost your readership and increase your clientele by narrowing your focus.

So how did I finally find my niche?

I thought you’d never ask.

(PS: If you’ve already found your niche, leave a comment on this post and tell us what it is and how you found it.)

Finding my niche

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t select my niche. Niches aren’t nicely packaged starter kits; they’re journeys of discovery. My niche – information presentation and engaging content – became clear to me through a deeper understanding of my business, my expertise, and my passion.

Let’s take a look at my journey.

Understanding my expertise and passion

Quite simply, if you don’t know what you’re ridiculously good at or which projects make you giddy, you’ll never find your niche. That’s why it’s a great idea for new designers to intern or work for someone else for a few years to better understand their expertise and passion.

I worked at the design studio on campus throughout my college experience and followed that up with 5 years as an in-house designer before I stumbled upon freelancing and owning my own business.

Throughout that time, I learned volumes about what makes me tick. I found I’m super awesome at presenting information in a creative and engaging manner. I also design well for the professional arena, and I’m a great writer. I love projects that involve “fun” design and my brain loves the combination of left- and right-brain work in reports and infographics. Conversely, I hate working on photo-realistic design and I’m terrible at patterns and abstract swirls.

Follow these tips to find your niche.

  • Understand your design strengths and weaknesses. You won’t know where your expertise lies until you go out there and design! Nobody starts designing with a niche – you find it along the way.
  • Discover your passion. What projects make you excited to wake up and work on them? Which projects do you dread? Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, but know what projects are your bread and butter.
  • Learn about your business relationships. Your niche isn’t just about design work; it’s about your clients, too. Find out what types of clients you develop the best relationships with. Are you thrilled with helping people understand how to use design or happier to extend a marketing team’s capabilities? (I’m an educator at heart, so I love sharing information with clients who enjoy guidance and input.)

Understanding my business

To find your niche, you have to get serious. You have to upgrade from hobby to business and define it.

So when Preston released his ebook From Passion to Profit at nearly the same time I decided to get serious, I jumped on it.

Specifically, I laid the foundation for the future of my business through these exercises:

  • Defining my success. For some, it’s 5 cars; for others, 50 employees. By setting business goals, you develop ideas about what you want your business to become and lay a road map for how to get there. Think big, and think long-term.
  • Characterizing my audience. If you don’t know which clients you’re primarily targeting, you can’t tailor your business to that market. Use your expertise and passions to help characterize your audience.
  • Naming my business. It’s not just “I need a name,” it’s defining how you want your audience to perceive your business. For example, Greer Genius creates a totally different perception than April’s Magic.
  • Developing my business identity. Business name in hand, you’ve got to brand your business keeping in mind your target audience.

This ebook provided the framework and exercises for me to define and understand my business, and I’m absolutely certain my business wouldn’t be as successful without it. (Note: I don’t get paid or encouraged to say this. I really do think it’s a great ebook.)

Have you found your niche?

Leave a comment on this post and tell us how you found your niche, or if you’re still searching, where you are in your journey and what steps you’re taking to progress?

About April Greer

April is a go-to freelance designer with a rare combination of creative expertise and technical savvy. She is available for subcontracting and speaking engagements – visit Greer Genius for more information.

Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

    • Alex,

      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!

  3. No, we don’t think you’re getting paid to promote his book. It *is* a great book! :-)

  4. 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!

  5. 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

    • Diane,

      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!

  6. 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.

    • Barbara,

      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!

  7. 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…… :)

  8. 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.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] your Freelance Niche. Finding a niche takes a lot of time and experimenting- this is a great article to read at the [...]

Join the conversation

*

css.php