With thousands of freelancers competing for the same clients, it’s more important than ever to stand out. That’s why it’s vital to “select your niche” — i.e., pick something you excel at and can easily define, then specialize in that area.
Sounds simple enough, but many creators agonize over limiting their offerings to focus on a select type of work.
Before you get frustrated by the thought of turning down clients that don’t fit your niche, understand the unique benefits to this strategy. Niches can be as broad or narrow as you see fit, but the more specific you get with your skillset, the more likely you are to attract the right clients.
Better clients, more money, and a happier work experience can all be the rewards of sticking to a niche. And you can pick yours in 6 simple steps.
While you may want to jump in and get right to work on your new freelance business, taking time to consider your niche is important.
Investing this time now will help you avoid having to rebrand your site and marketing materials later. Your niche will also make it easier for former clients and current colleagues to refer you when it’s a good fit. Get your messaging right from the start and you’ll move your word-of-mouth marketing in the right direction.
Walk through the following steps to ensure you’re showcasing your best work and attracting the most relevant clients:
Your USP matters to your brand. It’s what makes you stand out from everyone else in your niche. It’s what gives clients a reason to pick you over the competition. Define this early on and craft your niche messaging around it.
Your USP might be connected to a specialized ability or previous work experience. Knowing American Sign Language or having access to a hard-to-reach demographic of users are both examples of a distinct advantage you have over your competition.
Remember to include any crossover skills — i.e., abilities or experience in a field other than design. A designer with a sales background will have an advantage when bidding for a marketing tool project. If your crossover skill is especially rare, it’s even more important you include that skill.
There’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned work ethic. In fact, it may be more valuable to a hiring company than someone trained on that hot new software. Companies can always train people in new skillsets — but they can’t teach honesty, integrity, punctuality, or excellent communication skills. If you’ve ever been told that you excel in these areas or that a client chose you because of these qualities, humbly market them as an asset.
Learn everything you need to know about making the leap to freelancing, from how to find clients to how to price your services.
Maybe you lived in Japan for 10 years, have ties to the military, deal with a unique health condition, or are passionate about a cause. Whatever sets you apart, you have experiences others may not. So don’t forget to mine your personal background for that something special you’ll bring to a project. You don’t need to share the intimate details of your life, but your experience can shape your personal worldview and inspire your niche.
Origin stories — how you came to know and love your profession — are especially compelling in defining your niche.
If you’re gifted with a particular software, but grumble every time you have to use it, don’t list it. Excelling at something isn’t reason enough to include it in the DNA of your niche. Maybe substitute a similar skill that you actually enjoy. After all, you’ll be doing this work day in and day out. Clients will probably notice that you don’t like it. Include examples of work that you’re passionate about in your portfolio. Feature a passion project in your marketing materials. Your investment will shine through.
Don’t forget to earn a living. Seasoned professionals master the art of doing work they love with a price point that pays the bills. If you’ve got more than one passion, there’s nothing wrong with focusing on the one in high demand that will make you the most money. (In fact, this is probably what you should try to do.)
For more on how to calculate your freelance rate, check out the Freelance Rates Explorer from Bonsai.
Proposals should position your services for profit and be good value for the client. You want a prospective client to look at your offer and think, “I can’t believe we get to work with an expert in this niche!” Pricing should come second to their interest in your skillset and offerings.
Successful techniques include:
You’re likely a talented freelancer with no shortage of marketable skills. The challenge now is to get noticed by those clients most likely to appreciate – and pay – for your skills. And keep in mind that skill alone isn’t enough for success — pay attention to market differentiation and building a good reputation.
Be thoughtful about your niche and don’t leave contract terms to chance. You won’t regret being purposeful about your business and carving out time for the work you love.
Have you already found your niche? We’d love to hear about that journey in the comments.
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