“The riches are in the niches.”
– Every successful online entrepreneur. Ever.
We’ve all heard this saying, and it’s really the first bit of advice most successful online business owners reach for when asked how to “make it” in today’s marketplace.
And that’s all good and well for them (and their bank accounts)…but what the heck does it even mean?
I mean, how niche is niche enough?
How do you decide which niche right for you?
And FOR THE LOVE won’t someone please give a real life example of how to get started?
That’s where this student’s story comes in!
Today, we’ll be sharing a Q+A style interview we did with lovely past Square Secrets Business student Michelle Robertson of Perspective Studio to show you just how possible it is for you to find and get serious about serving a niche audience in your own biz!
Michelle runs a successful Squarespace web design business now, but getting there wasn’t without a few mistakes along the way.
Niching being the main one.
I’m so happy Michelle agreed to share her amazing takeaways and lessons learned. I fully believe in everything she’s said here, so get ready for some must-hear truthbombs!
At the very start of my business, when I first started learning and thinking about niching down, I had a mix of things going through my head.
On one hand, it made complete sense. The more you zero in on a specific target market, the more likely you are to onboard the exact clients you want.
It’s tempting to have a “I’ll take what I can get” mentality, which I essentially did. It’s tempting to cast the net wide, and try to catch whatever you can.
This is also tricky in my field, where “marketing” and “design” services involve many different skill sets. Do I offer a plethora of items, to any and all people? Or do I hone in on what I love to do?
Whether it’s graphic design, web design, copywriting, social media management, marketing, branding, etc.—at the beginning I offered it all in a very broad context, to a very broad audience, as I had experience in many of those things.
This is also what I saw many other design and marketing companies doing. They offered a suite of services to a broad market, so I didn’t know any better.
I was just starting out and had limited connections. While I do think there’s a balance in the beginning of establishing yourself and having a portfolio, getting specific about what you do, who you want to serve and valuing your time should happen sooner rather than later.
From the beginning, I took all kinds of clients.
Whether it’s large or small businesses of all kinds, e-commerce, nonprofits, churches, there was no specific target of clients.
Not only that, but I also didn’t have a specific target of services.
(Such as designing a flyer, rather than trying to attract the larger projects that I loved more and brought more income, such as designing entire websites.)
Thankfully, I haven’t had any absolutely dreadful experiences to write about, but I definitely did find some projects more enjoyable than others.
I think part of my problem in the beginning was, while I was onboard with the “niche” mentality, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted my niche to be.
Working with different kinds of clients in the beginning helped me realize who I enjoyed working with and who I didn’t.
I remember there was one specific project in the beginning that I was able to take from start to finish in what I truly wanted to offer my clients, and the entire process was a dream.
She was the exact kind of client I wanted to work with, needed the exact services I wanted to offer, paid what my time was worth, and in the end it took her business to the next level bringing her more sales.
It couldn’t have brought me more joy to play a small part of that process with her.
When I took clients that weren’t what I wanted, it was easy to become bitter, irritated or angry.
However, in the end, it would be my own fault for taking them on in the first place, not trusting myself and undervaluing my time.
It was difficult, because I had several different ideas of a niche audience before choosing one. There were a million different directions I could have gone in.
I couldn’t create a target client profile, because I had multiple different target clients in my mind.
The further I journeyed, however, the more I could define the audience I wanted to target.
Yes, it absolutely was easier!
In fact, I scheduled interviews with a few women who I knew were in my niche market, whether I had worked with them or not, and offered some free “coaching” time and marketing assistance in exchange for them allowing me to pick their brain on how they think and what their specific needs were.
This information was gold as I began to rewrite my website copy specifically aimed at my niche audience.
This is hugely due to the other incredible course I took, Copywriting for Creatives (that’s an affiliate link!) by Ashlyn Carter. I took Paige’s Square Secrets Business Course first, and Ashlyn’s course just built on that for me.
Both of these courses were some of the best investments I’ve made in my business!
It was challenging.
To be fair, I tried to choose somewhat of a niche in the beginning, but I didn’t do any research on it; I didn’t truly learn what the needs were, what they were willing to pay, etc.”
Because of this, marketing was not easy.
Much easier! Everything from choosing the names of my packages, to figuring out pricing, to writing copy–knowing my niche made the entire process much less overwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still hard work and I’m still learning as I go, but this first step of knowing my specific niche and target has been immensely helpful.
Marketing can be very discouraging as a small business owner. You put stuff out there, and don’t know who will see it let alone act on it.
Knowing more intimately about my niche gave me more confidence in my marketing.
This may sound counterintuitive, but…
Rather than casting the net super wide in my efforts, I now feel like my marketing endeavors can even be niche themselves, and very specific.
I don’t need hundreds of clients. In fact, I don’t have the capacity for hundreds of clients (though one day I will get there in having passive income!)
I only need a handful of clients who are my exact niche/target, and I am set.
This allows me to narrow in on specific ways of finding those clients.
My marketing is definitely still a work in progress, but it feels much more doable.
Don’t give into the fear!
I promise you it will slowly start to put your mind at ease and give you more confidence in your marketing and satisfaction in your work.
I don’t believe it will happen overnight, but it does pay off.
In fact, recently I got my first client in my target niche who was not via word of mouth or someone I know. That’s very encouraging!
(In your opinion, is being a ‘web designer’ or ‘Squarespace web designer’ niche enough?)
Web designers are a dime a dozen these days. While designing in Squarespace specifically is a bit more niche, it still needs to be even more honed in than that, especially as the platform of Squarespace continues to grow and more designers enter the field.
The good news is there are a lot of niche industries or types of clients who need Squarespace websites though, and there’s definitely a lot of opportunity out there!
Yes absolutely. Here are a few that I follow:
This is a business I’ve become a recent fan of. Although the bakery itself is located in London, they have recently tapped into a niche of home bakers.
They have been offering free “bake alongs” with their head baker and founder on Instagram live, making baking in your own home with what you have on hand more accessible. He shares professional tips and techniques, but makes them doable for the everyday person.
…and know they’ve been selling loads of e-book cookbooks. As an aspiring baker, anything they put out online I will now buy!
This is a local business located in the city I used to live in, Cape Town, South Africa.
I am a huge fan of them, because they aren’t just a generic local nursery.
They specifically sell plants that are indigenous to that area and provide resources on this topic.
It taps into gardeners who specifically want to focus on growing, caring for and conserving the indigenous plants of that region, which as a gardener, I love!
As a photographer, this is a company I’ve followed for awhile, and purchased from.
While it could be tricky to identify their niche, I feel they appeal to a specific kind of creative, photographer or just individual looking to print photos.
Their brand is very minimalist, clean and high quality, to the point where I will pay extra to print with them, rather than with a generic online company appealing to a general audience.
For me, the concept of “niching” in small business is actually two-fold.
First, niching down for us creatives specifically, is figuring out exactly what specific services or packages you want to offer your target market.
Secondly, you combine this with truly narrowing down your well-defined target market, and meet their exact needs with your specific offering.