How To Find (And Dominate) Your Freelance Niche
Do you need a freelance niche?
You can be a freelancer without a niche, and I know many freelancers who never found theirs. There’s just one small problem. They all:
- Struggle to find clients
- Have shitty rates
- End up hating their freelance business
See that You icon? That’s you right now in the eyes of your potential clients.
There are thousands of other freelancers just like you, all waiting for clients to go find them. Except they are invisible to their clients’ eyes, because they are just like everyone else.
And if you are thinking ‘Yeah well, it took me a couple of seconds to find Me, but I did!’ I’m sorry to tell you that your clients don’t have that time.
So yeah, maybe you do need a niche after all. Now let’s see how to find one.
Not all niches are created equal: the sexiest your niche, the more crowded it’s probably going to be.
The 3 features of any great niche
Every good niche I have ever seen has 3 features.
- The niche is growing or mature/stable
- There is enough demand that you can carve a sub-niche for yourself
- It’s not impossible to target potential clients within that niche
If 1 is missing, you can probably work something out, but you are always going to struggle. If 2 or 3 are missing, that niche is not a good niche and you should run away and find something else.
The niche is growing or mature/stable
You don’t want to find yourself in a niche that is shrinking, or where everyone is losing money.
Newspapers is the first example that comes to mind. If you provide any freelance service to newspapers, you are going to struggle even if you are good, because the market is sh*t. If you offer that same service to niche sites, a market that is actually growing right now, you are probably going to be able to sell them at a much higher rate.
Another example? My translation niche is Forex (mature market with lots of operators) and cryptocurrency.
The demand for Forex translation services is stable – it’s a pretty good market that’s been around for centuries. Crypto is different. The cryptocurrency market is quite unstable and moves in 4 year cycles, with 2 years up and 2 years down. Do you know what happens during the 2 years it spends going down? Demand dies down.
There is enough demand that you can carve a sub-niche for yourself
This is what happens when you go from ‘I’m a copywriter’ to ‘I’m a copywriter specialized in building funnels.’
A bit better, and it starts to get interesting, but still not perfect.
How about ‘I’m a copywriter who specializes in building funnels for investment firms?’
I’m sure we can all agree – if you are a business development manager who’s unhappy about their current funnel and someone like this reaches out, you are going to notice!
For this to happen, though, your niche needs to be big enough for you to be able to specialize further.
It’s not impossible to target potential clients within that niche
This has a lot to do with lead generation and the different tactics you can use to find clients for your freelance business.
If you are targeting businesses, finding them will never be an issue. If you are targeting people, however, make sure that you can identify them first. If your ideal client does not hang out in any groups, can’t be targeted with an email, and you can only reach out to them with a phone call and only after 6PM once he’s done with work… you may have a problem.
Solve that problem. Run away.
If you made it this far, you must be really interested in growing your freelance business. If you subscribe to my email list, you’ll get actionable tips to do that, delivered weekly.
You may not have a niche, but have you considered SME?
Your niche may not be clear yet, but we all have something we’re already knowledgeable about – that’s your SME – subject matter expertise.
First off is your professional/educational background. What do you currently do, or what did you do, in the last 10 years? If you have not spent them working, but rather studying, what was the subject of those studies? Major in electrical engineering? 10 year working as a travelling nurse? These can all help you.
Second, you want to consider your hobbies and passions. Motorbikes? Make up? Scuba diving? There are opportunities here.
Before you start developing a niche, consider your subject matter expertise – it can help you steer your wheel in the right direction from the get go.
How to land your first clients in your freelance niche
If you really want something, do whatever it takes to get it.
As a freelancer trying to break into a new niche, that could mean you will need to work for very little money or – God forbid – for free for a little bit.
And that is perfectly fine.
Extra tip: as you start growing your client base in a niche, consider accepting one or two anchor clients, even if they negotiate a reduced rate (nothing too crazy, though). That’ll give you some time to land other clients, and a couple of industry names as additional proof of your skills.
How to find work in a niche with zero experience as a freelancer
My suggestion? If you need to do some work for free, or for very little money, then work for yourself.
If you are a SEO, build your own website. If you are a writer, guest post on high-profile media outlets (extra tip – this will teach you pitching as well). If you are a web designer, create templates, then sell them on marketplaces.
I realize this may not be applicable for all freelance gigs.
As a translator, translating Wikipedia pages doesn’t impress anyone. As a consultant, you can’t help yourself. And as a virtual assistant, you need someone to… well, assist.
If that is your situation, don’t be scared to work for very little money as you start your freelance journey. Upwork may be a good place to do that.
How to enter a new niche as an experienced freelancer
If you already have some experience under your freelance belt, congrats – the situation is much easier for you!
Here are 3 steps you should take:
- Update your web presence. LinkedIn, industry-specific directories, your website. They all need to show you are looking for work in your new niche.
- Start reaching out to all your previous and current clients to tell them about your new service. They already trust you with other projects, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t trust you with new ones.
- If any new clients come knocking at your door but they seem hesitant, don’t lose the opportunity – give them some kind of introductory fee (a 20% discount should suffice), making clear that it only applies to your first project.
How to own your niche (and kill any price objection)
Authority can single-handedly take your freelance business to six figures… if you know how to build it.
When potential clients see you as their best choice, the only freelancer in the whole world who can solve their pain points and
- save them money
- grow their profit
- give them back their time
They won’t budge when they’re quoted a much higher rate, or that they have to wait for a few extra days before they get the deliverables.
But how do you build authority? Here are a couple of options.
Steal other businesses’ authority
It sounds bad, but it’s actually not.
If I’m an entrepreneur in a given field, what podcasts do I listen to? What niche-specific websites do I visit? What seminars do I attend? Why do I go there, and not somewhere else?
Because they have authority in my eyes.
That’s why guest posting, podcast appearances and talks are so valuable – because they allow you to associate your name to that of authoritative businesses.
Now, some freelance gigs may not be suitable for this tactic – as a proofreader, I get it that it’s hard to find something to guest post about on Fast Company. If that’s your case, don’t despair, because the next tactic can be used by freelancers in any field.
Become the only freelance [Writer/Designer/Whatever] in the room
Are you a writer specialized in health and fitness? If you join the ‘Health and fitness writers group’ on any social network, you are nothing special.
But if you attend the annual conference of health and fitness bloggers, with an entry ticket of $2,997… I bet you are either the only writer in the room, or one of few.
If you choose conferences, then you are going to have to spend some money. Here are a couple of cheaper options:
- Free – Try Facebook groups where your clients hang out. Don’t become a used car salesman. Just be helpful. Answer questions when you can provide value. Always mention what you do. Leads will come.
- (relatively) Low cost – Paid communities! Paid communities for entrepreneurs or people in your industry are a goldmine of potential clients. They are similar to Facebook groups, but the monthly subscription creates a barrier to entry. People who spend money to network and grow their businesses are always interested in great service providers.
Grow your personal brand by posting contents
This is my least favorite method, but it works.
It’s also the simplest – create great contents on social networks, start getting followers (this freelancer gained 150k of them on TikTok) and opportunities will follow.
Why don’t I like it? Because either you know how to do it, or you are wasting hours and hours every single week. As a freelancer, you don’t need an active social media presence. If you decide you want one, then you’d better make it laser-focused on getting leads.