Do you want better projects with bigger budgets?
The way to get them is to specialize. As a specialist you can charge more money, be more memorable to clients, feel less scattered in your own marketing efforts and save time for everyone involved. Finding your niche, however, is an art. And once you find it, you have to make sure it's a viable niche. Here are 5 questions to answer before you commit to a niche:
You need to know the current state of this niche. If it's in a growth mode, it may be a good time to enter. If not, you might be better off waiting and watching until things turn around. A niche is viable if it is growing, not shrinking. Choose healthy niches that are growing (like healthcare, technology and financial services currently). How do you find out which industries are in growth mode? You study the business media. You follow the trends to see what's growing. You can even ask the people in it!
In a growing niche, also look at what size and what types of projects are available. Are they the kind of projects that you enjoy and are capable of doing? Or do the projects conflict with your values or with existing client relationships?
If you are passionate about a niche that is shrinking, there might be enough work in it for just you, but it's probably not going to pay very well. What is the evolution of the niche that is shrinking? What is the next thing? What is it turning into? Don't get stuck in what once was. Look at where things are now - where they're going.
You may perceive a need or see a group as a perfect niche for your services, but if the niche itself doesn't perceive that need, it isn't worth your time trying to convince them.
Are there other service providers like you already serving this niche? If not, there may be a good reason. There's either no need, or this niche doesn't value services like yours. This is a very important piece of information that can save you a lot of time, so find out as much as you can. Answers to all of these questions can be found by attending an event or two, starting an online discussion or reaching out to people you find online.
Underneath it all, business is about people. If you don't get along with the people who make up the industry you've decided to focus on, you won't have it easy. The point is that you are in the driver's seat. It's your business, so why not choose a niche that you want to work with and people you get along with?
Is there a trade association for your target niche? That alone could make it viable, because a trade association brings people together at events, as well as compiles and publishes information in directories and on websites. It is much easier to find your actual prospects and clients if you can find the trade association that represents it.
Consider joining the association, even as an associate member. This is usually a very worthwhile investment. As a member, you will have access to the members-only directory. You also need to know where your prospects meet, both online and off. If you can find those gathering places, it could very well be a viable niche. You need to know what they read - again, both online and off. As part of your content marketing strategy, you could contribute content to be published in the online or offline magazine or blogs of the trade association.
Finally, you need to be able to find lists of prospects. Some are available to buy, of course, but there is a lot of information available at no cost online if you look for it. LinkedIn, essentially a database of professionals, is a goldmine for prospecting. If you find a LinkedIn Group for the niche your interested in, the list of members of that group could easily be used for warm email prospecting.
Or, look for Exhibitor Lists of trade shows. For example, if you target the food industry, the exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show could be your prospects. Therefore, their exhibitor list - often posted on the website - could be your prospecting list. It could be as simple as that.
Once you've got positive answers to these 5 questions, you can confidently begin your approach toward your niche. But remember that this is a process and it takes time, so don't be impatient. Go step by step until you become the go-to resource for your niche.
Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing-Mentor.com and Program Partner for HOW Design Live, is a business coach exclusively for creative professionals - that's her niche!