In our continuing series in the Freelancing 101 topic, I will cover myriad themes, ideas, and ways in which you can kick off your pet-centric business to become a freelancing success aka solopreneur who makes a living pursuing your dream and your passion in the pet industry.
Why should you narrow down a niche?
You can’t be all things to all people. It’s that simple. I heard that “if you try to sell to everyone, you won’t sell to anyone.” Powerful thought, right?
- What is your niche?
- Who is your ideal client?
- What product or service do you offer and who needs it?
These are three simple questions that will get you on the path toward discovering your niche.
If you truly feel that “my product or service can be used by anyone and everyone!” I urge you to take a step back. Take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions:
- Who benefits the most from what I have to offer?
- Who do I want to serve?
- What is the demographic of those I am serving today?
In this Freelancing 101 series we will get to the nuts and bolts of putting together a business plan, and that is where you will truly fine tune your niche. For now, though, grab a sheet of paper (I recommend either devoting a notebook to your Freelancing 101 tasks or opening a doc on your computer and recording your thoughts there. Keep everything in one spot).
You may feel nervous or indignant at the audacity of my telling you to narrow your niche. Stick with me, though, and I think you will thank me in the end. Believe me, I understand that narrowing down your niche feels like you are tossing potential clients off to the side or that you will have to say “no” to an opportunity because that person doesn’t fit into your niche. Narrowing your niche may actually bring in more clients. What!? It’s true. Why? Because a client–most clients–would prefer to work with a specialist. If you’re going to a doctor for a very specific ailment, wouldn’t you prefer a specialist to a generalist? I know I would.
When you’re narrowing your niche, keep in mind the reason you decided to become a freelancer or a solopreneur. They might include:
- You love to create
- You have myriad interests that you know can be profitable
- You’re passionate
- You love the thrill of starting a new project
- You’re driven to succeed
- As Barbara Winter says, you may be a great self-bosser
- You are either unemployed or under employed and you figure it’s now or never!
Make note of the reasons why you want to be a solopreneur.
When you’re starting out, even if you have multiple amazing business ideas, I do urge you to take them one at a time. Choose the idea about which you’re most passionate or in which you have the most experience and focus your efforts to make that business idea soar.
Excelling at multitasking is a myth. Don’t multitask your ideal business idea into oblivion. Want other reasons why you should choose one business idea and follow it through? Here are a few:
- Being in start-up mode is exhausting. Starting-up more than one idea may quickly lead to burnout.
- You won’t likely have a narrow niche and potential clients might not feel you can assist them effectively.
- You might have multiple tiny revenue streams but you may find you’re not making huge leaps toward success because you’re diluting your efforts.
If you have multiple great ideas, choose the one that speaks to you the loudest. Write your other ideas down and also make a note of why you are drawn to them so you don’t forget them.
How to narrow your niche.
Ask yourself these probing questions:
- What are you good at? Assess your current skills. Write all of them down even if they won’t be part of the business you offer. What do I mean? Let’s say I have good penmanship. Wonderful. Write it down. How will that help me in my pet blogging business? It likely won’t, but it is a skill you possess.
- What do you absolutely love to do? What are your passions?
- What do absolutely despise doing? Bookkeeping anyone. Blah! Make note of these items because you may find it’s less expensive for you to hire someone to take on those tasks at which you don’t excel so you can focus your efforts on your core competency.
- Which of your business ideas do you think will bring in the highest, and perhaps quickest, revenue stream?
- In which areas do you consider yourself an expert?
- What have people asked you for help with, or advice about, in the past?
- What do you see a need for in your market that you have the skills to fulfill?
- When making your list of things about which you are passionate and items for which you think people will pay – see where these two lists overlap. You may uncover a hidden business niche.
- How much will your business idea require in start-up costs? If you’re going to manufacture dog boots, for example, you will need someone to manufacture them and the materials. If you’re going to be a dog blogger for pay, you will need a computer and writing skills. See where I am going with this?
- Can you do your business part time while you’re still employed? Is this a concern? If so, make note of how many hours you can devote to your start-up until it can fully support you.
- What do people come to you for assistance with? If you’re constantly being asked how to write something, then writing might be the niche on which you focus. If people come to you for help with training their puppy, that might be your niche. Do people compliment you on the graphics you have on your website and in your blog posts? Perhaps a career in graphic design for the pet community is your niche. HINT: Many of us hide our light under a barrel. By that I mean, we downplay our strengths. For example, I have been a journalist for more than 30 years. Many times I assume that anyone can write. The realization is, not everyone can write and that’s why I have been able to make a living with my expertise for as long as I have. Your strengths are likely right in front of you, you just have to peel back the layers of thinking that “anyone can do that” to focus on your niche.
Be prepared to fail.
What?! It’s true, your first efforts at solopreneurship might lead to failure. Stop. Take a step back and consider this… it was an experiment, right? Sure you wanted your idea to make money and allow you to live the life of your dreams. Failure at one business niche doesn’t mean you have to take a job flipping burgers, it simply means you need to look at what happened, how you could course correct for your next run at the prize and what went wrong that you hadn’t anticipated.
It’s not fun to fail. It’s not great to have to start over. But, hey, if you didn’t take that first leap you’d always be wondering, right? Believe me, I know of what I speak. I jumped in, many years, ago and bought a magazine. It was not an inexpensive undertaking by any stretch of the imagination. I researched and did as much homework as I could before I wrote that massive check and took ownership. Guess what happened? The price of printing skyrocketed. Postage to mail the magazines jumped and the Internet with its access to free publications lead many subscribers and potential subscribers to jump ship or never sign up in the first place. When you’re charging a subscription, it’s not easy to compete with free.
Did I fail when I closed the doors and attempted to pay off mountains of debt? It sure felt like it for the longest time. Does it now? Sure I still get a twinge of regret, but if I hadn’t tried I would have always wondered “what if.” If I hadn’t tried I wouldn’t have gained the entrepreneurial skills I gained. I wouldn’t have learned how to use design programs or work with a printer or become a salesperson for the subscriptions. I learned many valuable lessons on what to do, what not to do and how to let go of things that are simply beyond my control (print, paper and postage costs, for example).
Owning that magazine jump-started my entrepreneurial career and even though it was a costly lesson, I have been fully self-employed ever since. Guess it was a learning experience, not a failure, right?
As I mentioned, focus on one niche at a time, one business idea at a time. Don’t give up too quickly. Remember it takes time for an idea to gain traction. Do, however, set a time frame in which you want to make X amount of dollars before you throw in the towel. If you have a passion and a true belief in what you’re doing and the client base you’re serving, make certain you give it time to bloom.
When you’re in the process of just starting down the path of business ownership or if you’re looking for a change in your business path, don’t censor your thoughts when you answer the questions I’ve presented above. Write down whatever comes into your mind because even if a thought seems off-the-wall it could take you down an entrepreneurial path you may never have considered.
Say, for example, you had written down “killer penmanship” as one of your skillsets – when you consider that not many of us write on a regular basis there might be a need for handwritten notes or cards and that could be a pet business niche. Hhhmmmm see how even a random skill or area of expertise or thought could take you down an unexpected path?
Don’t close your mind to any possibility. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
How did you narrow your niche?
Have you narrowed your niche?
Did you find it beneficial?
I’d love to know!
Robbi Hess will be speaking on Time Management For The Blogger at the BlogPaws 2016 Conference. She is an award-winning author who works with clients on time management issues as well as content creation and content strategy at All Words Matter.
Images: leungchopan/Shutterstock.com and Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com