Ep. 6 | Freelance Cake Podcast
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Episode 6|

Niching Down Is Really About Abundance Mindset & Strategic Simplicity

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In Episode 006, Austin shares 16 benefits of finding a profitable and sustainable nice niche and explains why so many freelancers still choose not to specialize despite the apparent benefits. He also tackles 4 myths about niching down to encourage more freelancers to take the leap.

To survive in the freelance business, we take on a variety of projects in a variety of industries. We make freelancing harder on ourselves. After adopting more of an abundance mindset, Austin specialized in content marketing for tech founders and SaaS companies. Specialization simplified his marketing.

The question remains: To niche or not to niche? Listen to the episode and decide for yourself!

Notable Quotes

“When you’re a generalist, you believe that anyone can be your client. When you’re targeting everyone, you target no one.”

"If there's one thing in your freelance business that you should put some work into, it's scarcity mindset."

Identifying Your Niche (or Is It Even Necessary?)

The advice freelancers get about specialization is almost always the same: Pick a niche for your freelance work. The riches are in the niches.

How do you even identify your niche?

Think about an uppercase letter T with a circle drawn around it. The flat line in the T is your horizontal specialization – the market or industry you serve: food and beverage, engineering firms, or hair salons.  

The vertical line in the T is your vertical specialization – what you do for your client: graphic design, copywriting, website development, or top-of-funnel copywriting.

The circle drawn around the letter T is your niche. Your niche encompasses what you do for the clients in the market or industry you serve.

The question remains, do you have to pick a niche?

No, you don’t.

I was a freelance writer for 6 years before I picked a niche. I wrote on dozens of topics for clients in a wide spectrum of industries. I have written about botox, concrete polishing, high-end audio-visual installation… everything you can imagine.

The Difference Between Being a Generalist and a Specialist in Marketing

My broad experience enabled me to connect dots that a lot of other writers simply couldn’t connect. And working on a really diverse array of projects also helped me figure out what kind of work I liked, what kind I disliked, and what kind I never, ever wanted to do again (concrete polishing, I’m looking at you!)

You learn your own preferences by a process of elimination.

For years, I prided myself on being able to get up to speed quickly in a new industry. A new client with slightly different needs, goals, and constraints brought a fresh set of creative challenges. I enjoyed the variety.

But now looking back, I realized that I built my freelance business the hard way. Learning about a new industry is like learning a new language - all the research and all the self-education ate up time.

The marketing was harder too.

Because when you’re a generalist, you believe that anyone can be your client. And because anyone can be your client, “marketing is easier”, right? Wrong!

When you’re targeting everyone, you target no one. 

Because I wasn’t specialized, I really had to hustle to meet new people and create a large enough referral network to grow my income. Niching down sooner would have simplified my marketing.

So, What Are the Benefits of Niching Down?

  1. You can do the work with more accuracy, authority, and speed as you gain more niche-specific expertise.
  2. You’ll be able to create more and more value for clients as you gain more expertise.
  3. When you create more value, you can charge more. For example, one of my professors in grad school was a technical writer who told us how he got paid $100,000 to write user manuals for manufacturers.
  4. You will learn faster and retain more knowledge. You won’t have to buckle down and force yourself to memorize information with a new niche every single time. You’ll be working with your natural curiosity and enthusiasm.
  5. You will derive more satisfaction from your work because you’ll know how good you are at it.
  6. You become a known authority or build a reputation in your niche. For example, you become the go-to copywriter for car dealerships in the Pacific Northwest.
  7. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of your target audience, their pains, needs, opportunities, and idiosyncrasies.
  8. You’ll be able to create juicy offers that address those pains, needs, and opportunities. You know what the problems are so you can create an offer that will make them go away.
  9. You will improve your methodology and streamline your processes and become more efficient, after delivering the same or very similar projects again and again. But that only works if you start to document your processes.
  10. You can simplify and streamline your marketing activities. I told you that being a generalist made marketing harder for me. You will shrink the number of prospective clients, but getting more clients tends to be easier if you start with a very narrow slice of business owners you want to contact. For example: personal injury attornies. You’ll know if you’re going to contact them, that you need to look in very specific places.
  11. Getting referrals can be easier too. Because you’re really good at what you do, your clients will be more satisfied. People in the same industry tend to talk and if your last attorney is satisfied with your work, she will be much more likely to make an introduction and give you a glowing recommendation. Because of that glowing recommendation, you will be a shoo-in for the next gig.
  12. You can also get referrals from people who might otherwise view you as a competitor. A colleague in a different niche or specialization can refer business to you. She doesn’t want to do writing for personal injury attorneys. You don’t want to do writing for healthcare companies. You can pass business back and forth.
  13. You will learn industry-specific strategies. For example, if you have experience with real estate agents, then you will know to recommend certain lead gen engines, like Realtor.com, Zillow,  and Trulia.
  14. You will learn industry-specific limitations. For example, did you know that financial advisors and wealth managers cannot solicit reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook? I didn’t know that until I had a client in that industry who shot down one of my recommendations, cause they’re like, “We’re literally not allowed to do that.” As you gain more and more expertise in a niche, you’re better able to give really targeted, helpful advice.
  15. You will learn industry-specific terminology. This helps you build credibility with people in that industry. It also ensures that if you’re writing for someone in that industry, you’re going to help them put their best foot forward because you already know how they need to be speaking to their audience.
  16. The messaging and positioning on your website and social profiles will be more relevant and memorable. You might be able to write blog posts for anyone, but if you position yourself as a ghostwriter for healthcare and medical device companies, instead of having generic, vanilla messaging on your website, you’ll say something like: “We help healthcare and medical device companies communicate their expertise, strengthen their positioning, and win new customers.”

And Why Doesn’t Every Freelancer Specialize?

I’ve coached hundreds of freelancers at this point and I want to give you 5 reasons that I hear (shall I call them excuses or is that insulting?)

Here are the “excuses” that I hear:

  1. You like creative challenges. “I like creative challenges and I think I would get bored doing only 1 or 2 things for the same group of people.”
  2. You have a fear of missing out.You have a fear of missing out. I don’t want to miss out on really great projects. What if I niche down and that really cool project with that startup, they don’t want to hire me because they’re like ‘You’re a medical and healthcare writer’?”
  3. You’re worried about alienating your current clients. "I don’t want to alienate my current clients. What if they see my LinkedIn post speaking directly to clean energy companies and they come to the conclusion that they can’t count on me anymore?” 
  4. You have a scarcity mindset. "What if a better client doesn't come along if you say no to this client?"
  5. You’re desperate for money and feel like you have to say yes to everything. You don’t have the power to walk away."What if I niche down and I can’t get enough clients in that niche and my business falls?"

I can totally relate to being so desperate for money that you feel like you have to say yes to everything. But I'm telling you, if there's one thing in your freelance business that you should put some work into, it's scarcity mindset.

Developing an abundance mindset is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your freelance business.

Debunking Niching Down Myths: I Want To Tell You What’s Really True

As you do all that work, it’s really helpful to reconnect with what’s actually true.

Your business doesn’t need to entertain you

If you’re making great money serving a specific niche, then you have achieved what very few freelancers achieve. Instead of self-sabotaging by leaving the niche and looking for more spice, variety, and creative stimulation, point your creativity and problem-solving ability at the business side:

  • How can you improve the systems?
  • How can you design and deliver a better client experience?
  • Which pieces of the projects can you delegate or outsource to free up more of your time? I want you to have that time back.

You can say yes to any project you want that comes your way

As long as you stick with your morning marketing habit, you can say yes to any project you want that comes your way. You can do whatever creative projects you want. It doesn’t have to be for a client. It could be a children’s book, finishing your album, knitting, woodworking, or custom furniture design. Spend your time however you want. The world is your oyster.

You’ll still get referrals and some of them will be outside of your niche, that’s fine. Say yes. Enjoy the work. Laugh all the way to the bank. But don't dilute your brand, messaging, marketing, or what you're known for by remaining a generalist. Aim your marketing at one group of people.

You will not alienate your current clients if you niche down

Most of your clients aren’t paying attention to your marketing. Even if they were, they’d still miss the vast majority of your posts. And even if they’re superfans and don’t ever miss a single thing you do, why would they leave? You can just tell them you’re trying out a new offer and marketing it to a specific group of people.

Building a business emergency fund or “walk-away power” is key

Work hard to build up a cash reserve so that you’re more comfortable with saying no to projects that won’t build the long-term business you really want. Whether you ultimately choose to niche down or not, that’s just good practice. Have that walk-away power in the form of cash reserves. 

Real Niche Product Examples That Found Success in Specializing

1. ConvertKit consulting

ConvertKit is the email service provider that I use. My friend, Jason Resnick, spun up a brand called NurtureKit. He helps ConvertKit users convert more leads into customers. He productized his done-for-you email funnel buildout service by charging a per-day rate. If you hire Jason, he will dedicate an entire day to setting up and/or optimizing your ConvertKit account and automation.

2. Video testimonials for lawyers

Crisp Video out of Atlanta doesn’t just offer “film production services” or even video testimonials, they have niched down and kept on niching down so that their agency now specializes in premium legal video marketing and law firm coaching. One of their products is video testimonials and judging by all of their success stories, the narrow focus is paying off both in terms of profit for Crisp and results for their clients. 

3. Sales videos for mastermind groups

My friend, Joey Gilkey at Sales Driven Agency created a high-end mastermind group for digital agency owners doing at least a million dollars in annual revenue. For his first retreat, Joey wanted to go all out. So he booked a mansion, booked all these ATV adventures, and then thought, “If I’m sparing no expense, I need to capture this whole crazy experience on video. If I had a video, the video could help me sell future retreats for the mastermind group.”

Joey had talked to a couple of different film production companies but then remembered this guy, PJ Accetturo. When I asked Joey why he chose PJ, his answer was simple. When he clicked on PJ’s webpage, here’s what he saw: 

“With a background of 10+ years shooting commercials for brands like National Geographic, Red Bull, and Toyota, I don’t approach mastermind videos like standard event recap videos. These videos are high energy, high impact, and drive people to your call to action. I’ve created mastermind videos for some of the best programs in the country and I’d love to speak with you about taking your video to the next level.”

There is no ambiguity around what PJ does for whom, and what the value is for them.

In that one short statement, PJ manages to squeeze in 5 of his key differentiators:

  1. 10+ years of experience
  2. Collaboration with big brands (National Geographic, Red Bull, and Toyota)
  3. His unique approach and distinctive style: “I don’t approach mastermind videos like standard event recap videos.”
  4. He focuses on conversion: “I’m gonna drive people to your call to action.”
  5. Social proof: “I’ve created mastermind videos for some of the best programs in the country.”

PJ positions himself as the go-to filmmaker for anybody who wants a high-end sales-driven mastermind video.

What did Joey want? A high-end sales-driven mastermind video.

PJ is focused on videos that drive conversions.

Joey wanted his video to drive more people to join the mastermind program.

Joey had intended to spend around $6,000. Later on, when I checked in with him, guess what he bought from PJ?

An $18,000 package.

He ended up spending 3X what he intended to spend. Joey paid 3X as much to work with a specialist who had clear differentiation from all of the generalist filmmakers out there.

How Do You Know a Nice Niche When You See One?

Pay attention to these 8 signs:

  1. You like the work.
  2. You like the people.
  3. The projects pay well.
  4. The projects come often.
  5. The market itself is growing.
  6. Clients know they need help. They really feel the pain.
  7. They can afford to pay well.
  8. You can reach them easily.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s really swell, Austin. I’ve worked across industries and I honestly haven’t paid attention to them. What should someone like me do?”

If you don’t already have a profitable, enjoyable niche, then grab your journal and go through these steps.

  • Make a list of every client you have ever worked with. Go back and review your invoices if you need to. 
  • What fields, niches, or industries were your best clients in?
  • What about the ones that you enjoyed working with the least?
  • Which projects did you enjoy the most?
  • Did you make good money on those projects?
  • Did you have any kind of profit margin or did you feel like it wasn’t a great project from the money perspective?
  • Are you enough of an “authority” to parlay any of those clients and projects into a niche where you can sell premium services?
  • Were you able to generate good results? What other hobbies or interests do you have? What unfair advantages do you have?
  • As you answer those questions, you’ll start to zero in on some specific niches, I want you to circle those, and then continue brainstorming by looking at those potential niches through different lenses.

Things (Lenses) To Look Out for in Finding Your Niche

  1. Passion quotient. Does any particular niche just pique your curiosity? Does it happen to overlap with your hobbies or interests? Maybe you will notice a sweet spot based on your past experience and your interests. I love fly fishing, so the opportunity to work with a flyfishing gear company or brand is like “Yeah, sign me up. This doesn’t even feel like work.”
  2. Profit margin. Historically, where have you made the most money? Which money just felt easier? You want to pick a niche where there’s actually some money to be made. I generally like the people who work at non-profits and churches, yet those clients often require more handholding and more patience. I have to spend more time carrying the projects across the finish line but I end up making the same amount of money or even less if I’m honest. As much as I can get on board with the mission, those clients just aren’t the best niche for me.
  3. Client motivation. Are clients in your niche proactively trying to get new customers? Do they want to grow? Certain industries and niches will pay a lot more for a new customer, leads (or websites that can generate them), or social posts. Some clients are focused on growth and are more interested in leads, therefore, it’s easier to charge them based on value, rather than the comparative cost if they were to hire one of your competitors.
  4. Client knowledge. Do clients in your target niche already believe in the value of what you do? Or are they skeptical and they need a ton of convincing, a ton of education, a ton of reassurance that will eat up your time?
  5. Project frequency. Do clients in your niche pay for your skillset often or just once or twice a year?
  6. Client budget. Do clients in your niche value your skillset enough to pay a premium for it? Or do they view what you do as a commodity? Can they even afford your top rates? Will they pay those rates consistently?
  7. Your expertise. Do you have deep experience and expertise in the industry, market, niche, or field? Remember that as you develop niche-specific expertise, you can ratchet up your rates. As you ratch up your rates, you can weed out lower-paying clients.

As time passes, you’ll figure out what kind of people and what kind of projects you most enjoy; which ones have good profit margins and a high potential for repeat business and referrals. Then it’s a matter of finding more clients in that niche.

Resolving Two Long-Standing Disputes in Freelancing

You don’t have to worry about picking a niche that you end up hating

The beauty of freelancing is that you always, always have the freedom to change your niche. Replacing your clients may take a little time, but you can quit a niche you don’t like anytime you like. No one can force you to keep doing work you don’t enjoy.

Picking a niche doesn't cause you to miss out on opportunities

We specialize because specialization makes it easier to stand out and become a recognized authority. Specialization simplifies marketing. Your public-facing marketing materials (e.g. LinkedIn profile and website) will speak directly to your target audience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to other interesting clients and projects that find their way to you.

My specialization with brand consulting is e-commerce companies and digital agencies, but when a friend at a mortgage company reached out and asked for help, I said yes. The project was easy. The money was great. And I really liked the people. I’m not gonna be changing my niche, but I still said yes to a great project.

You’re the Boss, You Make the Rules

I hope you’ll find a nice niche and become a recognized authority in it.

Remember: You can say yes to any project that interests you. You can change your niche at any time.

Links and Resources from this Episode

  1. Differentiators & Positioning Template
  2. Value Proposition Template

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Welcome to the Freelance Cake Podcast. I'm your host, Austin L. Church. The goal of this show is to help full-time, committed freelancers get better leverage.

[00:00:12] As the sworn enemy of busyness and burnout, I have no desire to see you work harder. Instead, I reveal the specific beliefs, principles, and practices you can use right away to make the freelance game more profitable and enjoyable. So chill out and listen in, because the best is yet to come.

[00:36] The advice freelancers get about specialization is almost always the same. Pick a niche for your freelance work. The riches are in the niches. But is that good advice for everyone?

[00:00:49] I’ll answer that question in this episode, but first, I want you to think about the letter T – an uppercase T with a circle drawn around it. The flat line in the T is your horizontal specialization – what market or industry you serve: food and beverage, engineering firms, or hair salons.  

[00:01:14] The vertical line in the T is your vertical specialization – what you do for your client: graphic design, copywriting, website development, or top-of-funnel copywriting. You can get really, really specific here.

[00:01:31] So, the circle drawn around the uppercase T is your niche. Your niche encompasses what you do for the clients in the market or industry you serve. The question remains, though, do you have to pick a niche?

[00:01:48] No, you don’t. I was a freelance writer for 6 years before I picked a niche. I wrote on dozens of topics for clients in a wide spectrum of industries. I have written about botox, concrete polishing, high-end audio-visual installation, and sushi, use hotel air conditioners and luxury vacations in Turks and Caicos. Everything you can imagine.

[00:02:17] My broad experience enabled me to connect dots that a lot of other writers simply couldn’t connect. And working on a really diverse array of projects also helped me figure out what kind of work I liked, what kind I disliked, and what kind I never, ever wanted to do again (concrete polishing, I’m looking at you!)

[00:02:41] That is one benefit of starting as a generalist and saying yes to nearly everything. You learn your own preferences by a process of elimination. For years, I prided myself on being able to get up to speed quickly in a new industry. A new client with slightly different needs, goals, and constraints brought a fresh set of creative challenges.

[00:03:08] I enjoyed the variety, but now looking back, I realized that I built my freelance business the hard way. The hard way. Learning about a new industry is like learning a new language. All the research and all the self-education ate up time. The marketing was harder too.

[00:03:31] When you’re a generalist, you believe that anyone can be your client. Because anyone can be your client, “marketing is easier”, right? Wrong! When you’re targeting everyone, you target no one. 

[00:03:47] Because I wasn’t specialized, I really had to hustle to meet new people and create a large enough referral network to grow my income. Niching down sooner would have simplified my marketing. That leads me to what we’re really here to talk about today. What are the benefits of niching down? I’m just gonna run through a list. 

[00:04:12] Number 1, as you gain more niche-specific expertise, you can do the work in that niche with more accuracy, more authority, and more speed. Number 2, as you gain more expertise, you’ll be able to create more and more value for your clients. 

[00:04:33] Number 3, if you can learn how to deliver significant value in a specific niche, you can often command very high rates. For example, one of my professors in grad school was a technical writer who told us how he got paid $100,000 to write user manuals for manufacturers. 

[00:04:56]  Number 4, you will learn faster and retain more knowledge. You won’t have to buckle down and force yourself to memorize information. You’ll actually be working with your natural curiosity and enthusiasm.

[00:05:11] Number 5, you will derive more satisfaction from your work because you’ll know how good you are at it. Number 6, you’ll become a known or recognized authority – or to put it a different way, you’ll build a reputation in that niche. For example, maybe you become the go-to copywriter for car dealerships in the Pacific Northwest.

[00:05:39] Number 7, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of your target audience: their pains, needs, opportunities, and idiosyncrasies. Number 8, you’ll be able to create juicy offers that address those pains, needs, and opportunities. You’ll know how to navigate all of their idiosyncrasies

[00:06:04] Number 9 – I already kind of touched on this in number 1 – after delivering the same or similar projects again and again, you will improve your methodology, streamline your processes, and become more efficient. 

[00:06:21] Number 10, you can simplify and streamline your marketing activities. I told you that being a generalist made marketing harder for me. As a specialist, instead of targeting multiple audiences in multiple niches, you can focus on one. You will shrink the number of prospective clients, but getting more clients tends to be easier if you start with a very narrow slice of business owners whom you want to contact.

[00:06:53] For example, personal injury attornies. You’ll know if you’re going to contact them, that you need to look in very specific places. Number 11, getting referrals can be easier too. Because you’re really good at what you do, your clients will be more satisfied. Because your last attorney is satisfied with your work, she will be much more likely to make an introduction and give you a glowing recommendation. 

[00:07:24] Because of that glowing recommendation, you will be a shoo-in for the next gig. Number 12, you can also get referrals from people who might otherwise view you as a competitor. A colleague in a different niche or specialization can refer business to you. She doesn’t want to do writing for personal injury attorneys. You don’t want to do writing for healthcare companies. Great! You can pass business back and forth.

[00:07:52] Number 13, you will learn industry-specific strategies. For example, if you have experience with real estate agents, then you will know to recommend certain lead gen engines, like Realtor.com, Zillow,  and Trulia.

[00:08:11]  Number 14, you will learn industry-specific limitations. For example, did you know that financial advisors and wealth managers cannot solicit reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook? I didn’t know that until I had a client in that industry who shot down one of my recommendations, cause they’re like, “We’re literally not allowed to do that.”

[00:08:35] And also, when you think about building websites for healthcare practitioners, doctors, nurses, that sort of thing, well, because of HIPAA in the United States, there are just certain things that you can’t do on a website, so as you gain more and more expertise in a niche, you’re better able to give really targeted, helpful advice.

[00:09:00] Number 15, you will learn industry-specific terminology. This helps you build credibility with people in that industry. It also ensures that if you’re writing for someone in that industry, you’re going to help them put their best foot forward because you already know how they need to be speaking to their audience.

[00:09:21] And finally, number 16, the messaging and positioning on your website and social profiles will be more relevant and more memorable. You might be able to write blog posts for anyone, but if you position yourself as a ghostwriter for healthcare and medical device companies, then you won’t end up with generic, vanilla messaging on your website, like this: “We help small and medium-sized companies with their copywriting and blogging needs.”

[00:09:52] I mean, you’re already falling asleep. Instead, you will say something like: “We help healthcare and medical device companies communicate their expertise, strengthen their positioning, and win new customers.”

[00:10:08] I just rattled off a long list of benefits for picking a niche and specializing. So, why doesn’t every freelancer and consultant do it? Why do some people stay a generalist? I’ve coached hundreds of freelancers at this point and I want to give you 4-5 of the reasons that I hear (shall I call them excuses or is that insulting?)

[00:10:35] Here are the “excuses” that I hear. 1) “I like creative challenges and I think I would get bored doing only 1 or 2 things for the same group of people.” 2) “I don’t want to miss out on really great projects. What if I niche down and that really cool project with that startup, they don’t want to hire me because they’re like ‘You’re a medical and healthcare writer’?”

[00:10:57]  Here’s another one 3) “I don’t want to alienate my current clients. What if they see my LinkedIn post speaking directly to clean energy companies and they come to the conclusion that they can’t count on me anymore?” 

[00:11:12] And this is maybe the root cause of the other ones: scarcity mindset. You’re worried that if you say no to this client, what if a better one doesn’t come along? What if I niche down and I can’t get enough clients in that niche and my business falls? I can totally relate to being so desperate for money that you feel like you have to say yes to everything. 

[00:11:40] You can’t niche down because you’re worried that you’re gonna come up short. You don’t have the power to walk away because, like I said, you really need the money. But I’m telling you, if there’s one thing in your freelance business that if you were to go straight into it and put it some work there, scarcity mindset is that thing.

[00:12:02] Really learning how to think in terms of an abundance mindset is some of the best work that you can do on yourself and on your freelance business. And so as you do that work, it’s really helpful to reconnect with what’s actually true – not only about freelancing but just how it works with opportunities in any business.

[00:12:28] Let me share some of the stuff with you. Your business doesn’t need to entertain you. If you’re making great money serving a specific niche, then you have achieved what very few freelancers achieve. Instead of self-sabotaging by leaving the niche and looking for more spice, variety, and creative stimulation, point your creativity and problem-solving ability at the business side. Turn your business into a creative project.

[00:12:59] How can you improve the systems? How can you design and deliver a better client experience? Which pieces of the projects can you delegate or outsource to free up more of your time? I want you to have that time back.

[00:13:15] You can do whatever creative projects you want. It doesn’t have to be for a client. It could be a children’s book. It could be finishing your album. It could be knitting. It could be woodworking. It could be custom furniture design. You name it. Once you free up that time because you’ve built a much better, more sustainable business, great! The world is your oyster. Spend your time however you want.  

[00:13:39] Next, as long as you stick with your morning marketing habit, you can say yes to any project you want that comes your way. Anyone you want. You’ll still get referrals and some of them will be outside of your niche, that’s fine. Say yes. Enjoy the work. Laugh all the way to the bank. 

[00:13:59] But in terms of your brand, your messaging, your marketing, and what you’re known for, don’t dilute or diffuse any of that by staying a generalist. Aim your marketing at one group of people. 

[00:14:17] As for your current clients, you’re worried about alienating them if they find out that you’re niching down, most of them aren’t paying attention to your marketing. Even if they were, they’d still miss the vast majority of your posts. And even if they’re superfans and don’t ever miss a single thing you do, why would they leave?

[00:14:41] You can just tell them you’re trying out a new offer and marketing it to a specific group of people. As for saying yes to everything because you’re desperate for money, the key is a business emergency fund. Work hard to build up a cash reserve so that you’re more comfortable with saying no to projects that won’t build the long-term business you really want. 

[00:15:07] That’s a best practice whether you ultimately choose to niche down or not. Have that walk-away power in the form of cash reserves. Let me give you several examples of niching down. 

[00:15:21] Number 1, ConvertKit consulting. ConvertKit is the email service provider that I use. My friend, Jason Resnick, spun up a brand called NurtureKit. He helps ConvertKit users convert more leads into customers. He productized his done-for-you email funnel buildout service by charging a per diem or per day rate. That’s right! Hire Jason and he dedicates an entire day to setting up and/or optimizing your ConvertKit account and automations.

[00:16:00] Example number 2, Video testimonials for lawyers. It’s hard to get much more specific than that. Crisp Video out of Atlanta doesn’t just offer “film production services” or even video testimonials, they have niched down and kept on niching down so that their agency now specializes in premium legal video marketing and law firm coaching. One of their products is video testimonials and judging by all of their success stories, the narrow focus is paying off both in terms of profit for Crisp and in terms of results for their clients. 

[00:16:44] Example number 3, sales videos for mastermind groups. I love this one. My friend, Joey Gilkey at Sales Driven Agency created a high-end mastermind groups for digital agency owners doing at least a million dollars in annual revenue. For his first retreat, Joey wanted to go all out. After all, the best damn agency mastermind had to live up to its name. So he booked a mansion and booked all these ATV adventures and then thought, “If I’m sparing no expense, I need to capture this whole crazy experience on video. If I had a video, the video could help me sell future retreats for the mastermind group.”

[00:17:34] Joey had talked to a couple of different film production companies but then he remembered this guy, PJ Accetturo (I probably mispronounced that. Sorry, PJ). When I asked Joey why he chose PJ, his answer was simple. When Joey went to PJ’s website, he saw a link in the main navigation, the word “masterminds.”

[00:18:03] When Joey clicked on the mastermind page, here’s what he saw: “With a background of 10+ years shooting commercials for brands like National Geographic, Red Bull, and Toyota, I don’t approach mastermind videos like standard event recap videos. These videos are high energy, high impact, and drive people to your call to action. I’ve created mastermind videos for some of the best programs in the country and I’d love to speak with you about taking your video to the next level.”

[00:18:39] I love this. I love this because there is no ambiguity around what PJ does for whom, and what the value is for them. In that one short statement, PJ manages to squeeze in 5 differentiators. 10+ years of experience, collaboration with big brands, his unique approach and distinctive style: 1) “I don’t approach mastermind videos like standard event recap videos and 2) “high energy, high impact.”

[00:19:17]  So if you were in Joey’s shoes and you’re already spending a ton of money, yes, you want your video to be high energy and high impact. Next, PJ focuses on conversion: “I’m gonna drive people to your call to action.” So for someone like Joey, he has this video because he wants more people to buy. He wants his video to drive more people to join the mastermind program. The fact that PJ is focused on videos that drive conversions is really gonna jump out to someone like Joey. 

[00:19:51] Last, the social proof: “I’ve created mastermind videos for some of the best programs in the country.” You look at PJ’s portfolio and you’re like, “He’s right. These videos are awesome.” PJ positions himself as the go-to filmmaker for high-end mastermind videos. And it’s working for him. Joey told me that he had planned on spending around $6,000 but get this, when he ended up going with PJ’s package, he spent $18,000. 

[00:20:27] Joey gave me permission to share this so I’m not divulging any sensitive business information. Joey was happy to pay 3X more because when he found PJ, PJ rang his bell. Everything that PJ was saying was like, “Yes, this is exactly what I was going for.” But it cost $18K instead of $6K. Joey did end up getting a 6-minute video, 8 testimonial videos, 2 shorter promo videos, and a hundred still images. 

[00:20:59] So I just want to reiterate. Joey paid 3X as much to work with a specialist who had clear differentiation from all of the generalist filmmakers out there. So how do you know a nice niche when you see one? Pay attention to these 8 signs.

[00:21:23] 1) You like the work. 2) You like the people. 3) The projects pay well. 4) The projects come often. 5) The market itself is growing. 6) Clients know they need help. They really feel the pain. 7) They can afford to pay well. 8) You can reach them easily.

[00:21:50] At this point in the episode, I just want to stop and say, some of you are probably thinking, “That’s really swell, Austin. Thank you so much for all those 8 signs. I’ve worked across industries and I honestly haven’t paid attention to them. What should someone like me do?”

[00:22:12] If you don’t already have a profitable, enjoyable niche, then grab your journal and go through these steps. Make a list of every client you have ever worked with. Go back and review your invoices if you need to. Sometimes, it’s just easy to forget a project. Next, what fields, niches, or industries were your best clients in? What about the ones that you enjoyed working with the least? Which projects did you enjoy the most? And did you make good money on those projects? Did you have any kind of profit margin or did you feel like it wasn’t a great project from the money perspective?

[00:23:01] Are you enough of an “authority” to parlay any of those clients and projects into a niche where you can sell premium services? Were you able to generate good results? What other hobbies or interests do you have? What unfair advantages do you have? As you answer those questions, you’ll start to zero in on some specific niches, I want you to circle those, and then I want you to continue brainstorming by looking at those potential niches through different lenses.

[00:23:39] Passion quotient. Does any particular niche just pique your curiosity? Does it happen to overlap with your hobbies or interests? I love fly fishing, so the opportunity to work with a flyfishing gear company or brand is like “Yeah, sign me up. This doesn’t even feel like work.” Maybe you will notice a sweet spot based on your past experience and your interests.

[00:24:09] Another lens is profit margin. Historically, where have you made the most money? Which money just felt easier? You want to pick a niche where there’s actually some money to be made. I generally like the people who work at non-profits and churches, yet those clients often require more handholding and more patience. I have to spend more time carrying the projects across the finish line but I end up making the same amount of money or even less if I’m honest. So, those clients as much as I can get on board with the mission, those clients just aren’t the best niche for me. 

[00:24:48] Client motivation. Are clients in your niche proactively trying to get new customers? Do they want to grow? Certain industries and niches will pay a lot more for a new customer, or for leads, or for websites that can generate them, or for social posts. Some clients are focused on growth and they’re more interested in leads, therefore, it’s easier to charge them based on value, rather than the comparative cost if they were to hire one of your competitors.

[00:25:26] Client knowledge. Do clients in your target niche already believe in the value of what you do? Or are they sceptical and they need a ton of convincing, a ton of education, a ton of reassurance that will eat up your time?

[00:25:41] Project frequency. Do clients in your niche pay for your skillset often or just once or twice a year? Client budget. Do clients in your niche value your skillset enough to pay a premium for it? Or do they view what you do as a commodity? Can they even afford your top rates? Will they pay those rates consistently?

[00:26:07] Finally, your expertise. Do you have deep experience and expertise in the industry, market, niche, or field? Remember that as you develop niche-specific expertise, you can ratchet up your rates. As you ratch up your rates, you can weed out lower-paying clients. As time passes, you’ll figure out what kind of people and what kind of projects you most enjoy; which ones have good profit margins and high potential for repeat business and referrals…. Then it’s a matter of finding more clients in that niche. It’s a matter of marketing.

[00:26:47] If marketing is the thorn in your side, reach out to me at hello(at)freelancecake.com. One of the main things I do with coaching clients is help them develop a daily marketing habit that actually sticks. Okay, we’re almost finished here.

[00:27:05] I want to end by settling 2 long standing disputes in the freelance world. I touched on them earlier but I still think this is a good place to end. You don’t have to have to worry about picking a niche that you end up hating. The beauty of freelancing is that you always, always have the freedom to change your niche. Replacing your clients may take a little time, but you can quit a niche you don’t like anytime you like. No one can force you to keep doing work you don’t enjoy.

[00:27:40] Secondly, picking a niche doesn't cause you to miss out on opportunities. We specialize because specialization makes it easier to stand out and become a recognized authority. Specialization simplifies marketing. Your public-facing marketing materials, like your LinkedIn profile and website, will speak directly to your target audience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to other interesting clients and projects that find their way to you.

[00:28:10] My specialization with brand consulting is e-commerce companies and digital agencies, but when my friend at a mortgage company reached out and asked for help, I said yes. The project was easy. The money was great. And I really liked the people. I’m not gonna be changing my niche, but I still said yes to a great project. 

[00:28:31] You can say yes to any project that interests you. You can change your niche at any time. You’re the boss so you make the rules. Alright, folks! That’s it for this episode. I do hope you’ll find a nice niche and become a recognized authority in it. If you want the worksheet that goes along with this nice niche episode, shoot us an email at hello(at)freelancecake.com. The best is yet to come.

[00:29:08] Before you go, a quick reminder. Be sure to check out the Freelance Cake coaching program. The program is for committed, full-time freelancers and it’s designed to help you get better leverage in your business.

[00:29:22] We have group sessions, a private community, and on-demand trainings. And each week, you focus on implementing a specific lever such as your positioning cheat code, juicy offers, or morning marketing habit.

[00:29:37] The same or better income with more free time, fun, and creative challenges - that’s the point, right?

[00:29:45] So go to FreelanceCake.com/coaching. My friends, the best is yet to come. See you in the next episode!

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