Why us freelancers need to stop obsessing over our niche
If you could choose one last meal, what would you eat?
I always did struggle with this question…
Similar to picking my favourite colour despite having preferences, I could never just choose one.
Entrepreneurship holds similar tones, from a marketing perspective choosing your ‘soul mate client’ impacts your messaging, your positioning and your ability to sell your goods and services to the right people, and yet picking a niche can feel so rigid.
Do you really want to box yourself in? Most entrepreneurs left the system to avoid this very notion.
The creative has many arrows to her bow, and yet suddenly throwing out a new service can effect your user experience if you suddenly offer something slightly out of line to your usual demographic, thus jarring your brands associations and seeing your audience fall away at the hint of the next trendy new flavour because you got bored of your existing business model.
Still, I don’t want a certain type of client month after month, churning out the same result, I want diversity, challenges and refreshing projects.
Hence, I do resonate with the ‘free’ in freelancer, despite it not describing free to switch services, it feels more adaptive to my notions of a bohemian lifestyle and business practices.
There is a phrase I quote in my mind often from an old dog eared National Geographic magazine I keep with my few treasured possessions that contains the phrase, ‘adapt and thrive, leave or die’ depicting a non native plant species growing through the concrete in an urban environment between the metal stairwells of an overpopulated immigrant tenement in 1970’s U.S and I have applied this to my business endeavours.
Having learnt more from my failures, than any success or business manual ever taught me, the ability to adapt to the market and the customer has seen me ride different niches within my abilities as needed.
After all, freelancers gotta eat, and this freelance mum has many mouths to feed!
Now clearly we cannot change our services and skill set like the weather, however here are 5 key points to keep in mind to ‘adapt and thrive’ as you grow your business and reputation.
Have a can do attitude
If there is a task or project you instinctively feel you can handle, step forward.
In my nurse training, I distinctly recall being the go to in times of pressure and stress.
Not because I knew more (I was still very much newly qualified) but purely on my attitude. I was all hands on deck in a crisis.
Any assignment you are relied upon, step into it with a ‘can do’ attitude and expect repeat requests for your assistance, the bonus being you can charge accordingly over time.
Since this year another key game changer in my attitude is the continuous commitment to upskill to meet the ever changing digital age.
From copywriting to SEO strategy, keeping up to date with digital skills allows you to stand out and bring fresh knowledge to your industry. We have never been so connected to knowledge and data driven information so stay fresh and find the time to learn key skills your clients and customers will benefit from.
No one just gets lucky, but with a proactive attitude you will be surprised how work seems to come into your lap. Pick something today you can learn, to compliment your existing services and bring your game face, people will notice your energy and enjoy working with you.
In fact, YOU might just become their lucky charm!
If a task is bigger than you or you lack certain skills but possess some for the job, combining forces is the solution.
As an example, myself and a co-partner combine our skill set to offer a service that stand alone we could not deliver as individuals.
When we launched The Biz Lab we knew our markets and what we could bring to the industry. We now get to enjoy a diverse work load and bounce ideas off one another, plus gain insights into each others expertise.
Location is no issue when working as a team provided you have the workflow and systems in place to keep communications open and everyone clear on their designated roles within a collaborative project.
Be open minded
Now, I am not saying desperately take on all and every opportunity but particularly if you are new and need to fill your diary with activities other than Netflix and walking the dog for the third time before 3 pm, think about what you can offer, suck it up, deliver and get paid.
What do people need?..
From branding, to copy, admin to accounts management, what can you assist with that you enjoy and the lay person does not?
Pitch them professionally, do a great job, expect them to suggest other opportunities as you build referrals and recommendations and watch less TV shows as a result.
Look for clues
What do your network in business and life come to you for?
Are you ‘that one friend’? Can you monetise this?
Observe the market, join freelance groups on social media, and see if you can apply your strengths in a sales letter, break down your offerings based on what others say you are good at, and cash in.
What have you got to lose?
Turn into a niche gap detective, spend a day finding your potential clients weaknesses and politely offer to fill the gaping hole they are neglecting to nurture in their own business.
Just don’t send those desperate emails freelancers do about all that’s wrong with their website and business! No on likes a asshole just looking for a freelance gig!
Online noise and business development books tell us pick our niche, in fact I have even suggested to clients to ‘niche your niche’ and there is some truth in this.
However, having a solid service or mission and remaining static to demand are two very different entities.
To stand out, you must be original. How about including adaptive originality in scaling your business?
From a brand identity perspective no one wants to be beige, at the same time being flamboyant for the sake of it can leave you with egg on your face if people soon realise you are an attention grabber with no substance, so really unpeel your core messages and take some time to carve out your brand story.
After all, in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different. – Coco Chanel
Just don’t forget to walk the dog when you are in demand and bathing in the richness of many projects on the go…
*This blog was originally posted on Thrive Global in October 2018