When I left full-time work to go freelancing, I only had one project in the bag. My total fee for this work was £700. That paltry sum barely covered my rent and yet, there I was, throwing in my job.
Talk about a leap of faith.
I was selling website design services and, thankfully, there have always been plenty of clients to go around. I didn’t struggle financially, but I found the stress of freelancing unbearable. I eventually went back into employment.
Everyone knows that running a business is hard work. But there is hard work and there is silly work. I was engaged in the latter.
You see, because web design is in such high demand, there is little motivation to be discerning with whom you work. You just… take whatever comes your way. That is, unless you decide to choose your audience.
By sheer coincidence, I worked with a couple of small charities to help give them a digital tune-up. These experiences put me on a path to defining my audience. I realised that I not only enjoyed working with the people in the non-profit sector, I also very much liked to see the positive impact that I could have (albeit by proxy). It felt nice. I decided that I wanted to work with more small charities, and thus, my chosen niche was born.
Everyone knows that running a business is hard work. But there is hard work and there is silly work.
I built my first website in 2001 and started selling web design only a few years later. I’ve worked in-house at design agencies and with remote, distributed teams. Do you know what recurring problem creative businesses always seem to face? How to pitch themselves.
Most creatives never choose a niche, and so their market is generally “everybody”. They work with anyone from headteachers to window cleaners, from GP surgeries to SaaS startups.
Imagine a room of 100 people, each from a completely distinct discipline. What would you say to them? How would you describe what you do? You would probably do what most creative service providers do: you’d tell them all about your services. Sure, you might add some flourish by using words like “innovative” and “creative”, but broadly speaking, you’d sound much the same as your peers.
And therein lies the fundamental benefit of choosing a nice audience as a freelancer: you get to stand out.
As a WordPress developer, why would a client choose me over any of the 1 million others who say and do the exact same thing?
They choose me because I don’t talk about WordPress.
In fact, my charity clients don’t really care about the technology upon which I build their websites. They’re far more interested in delivering a strong donor experience, in building their supporter base and improving their brand perception. Were I to wax lyrical about how awesome my WordPress websites are, I likely would not earn their trust. Instead I talk about their aspirations and goals.
I am very interested in helping small charities because I believe in what they do. As a service provider, your job would be a lot more pleasant if you found projects you can emotionally buy into. This goes for clients, too; they should be on the lookout for providers who share their values and know their sector. When people come together with a genuine shared goal, that’s where the magic can be found.
Download my ebook Building a Niche Creative Business to find out how you can become a sector specialist.