“What makes you different or weird—that’s your strength.” – Meryl Streep
You can’t be everything to everybody. This rule applies to us individually as well as collectively.
It’s simply impossible to please everyone because not everyone will get you (and that’s OK!). Trying to do so is an uphill battle that only wears you down, wasting time and effort.
Even megastars with global influence accept that there are people who won’t see their value or dislike them. Singer Justin Bieber once said, “People might not like my music, because I’m just not their style of music that they like to listen to.”
What we need to do instead of trying to please others is to focus on positioning ourselves and services to cater to a distinct group of people who appreciate what we bring to the table. This process is called niching down.
Finding your niche is finding your sweet spot; a place where your interests and market needs overlap. A niche is a space that you can dominate and perform in a way you feel you’re best suited. It is where you shine and where you have an audience who appreciate your personality and talents.
Niching down is the lifeblood of businesses, and it’s critical to their profitability. Women’s magazines provide a perfect example of that—not all of them appeal to the entire demographic. Instead, publishers maximize subscriptions by focusing on specific groups.
Vogue and Grazia cater to fashion-conscious women, Self and Fitness tailor their content for active women, while Her and ForbesWomen feature information geared toward career-oriented women.
Public figures niche down as well. Thought leaders align their self-help brands and teaching styles with their personality and specialty. For instance, Deepak Chopra combines his experience as a medical doctor with his gift of interpreting esoteric spiritual concepts, and Dr. Phil combines his background in clinical psychology with his talent in observing human behavior.
Niching can feel counterintuitive for most people, however. The idea of scaling down and shrinking our audience isn’t comforting. After all, isn’t appealing to the masses the key to success?
When we see major influencers on social media garnering the attention of legions of adoring fans, liking and commenting on almost everything they post, it’s easy to be misled into believing that we have to fish in bigger ponds to amplify exposure and attract opportunities.
In an increasingly crowded online marketplace, where more and more people are being drawn to becoming digital nomads and web entrepreneurs (starting businesses they’re passionate about), it’s especially important to find and occupy a niche to get noticed and make money.
Even if you’re a working professional, you need to highlight specific skills and achievements to stand out from competing candidates who have similar professional experience and education.
In his book “Mastery,” Robert Greene compares the career world to an ecological system where people occupy fields where they must compete for resources. He writes, “the more people there are crowded in a space, the harder it becomes to thrive there.”
Working in competitive fields is a struggle. We end up spending so much time trying to play and win the game that we have little time and energy to hone our strengths and master our crafts.
Greene writes, “You are seduced into such fields because you see others there making a living, treading a familiar path. You are not aware of how difficult such a life can be.”
Avoid this trap by questioning your intentions. Are you attracted to a certain path only because of external recognition like money, attention, and fame? Have you fallen into a traditional career path just to please your parents? By weeding out these misdirecting influences, you’ll find it easier to be true to yourself, and gain clarity on what suits you best.
Finding your niche, however, is not a simple process. It’s seldom obvious, and we’re not always going to get the guidance we need. It’s up to us to do the digging and testing. We must think outside the proverbial box.
There are countless stories of people who made a fortune in niche careers.
For instance, Japanese chef and restaurateur Jiro Ono, regarded as one of the greatest sushi chefs alive, is worth millions because he mastered the subtle art of making sushi.
With planning and patience, you can discover those interests that appeal to you and carve out a vocation that aligns with your uniqueness and talents, and has value in the marketplace.
Here are four steps to find a niche you can thrive in:
1. Be guided by your strengths and interests: The first move to finding a niche is going inwards. Get connected to who you are and what sparks your interest. Ask yourself what topics and activities fit your natural inclinations? Out of those, which one’s do you excel at? What can you do better than others? What do you love to do in your free time even when you know you won’t get paid? Passion is fundamental to succeeding in any niche because it gives you the tenacity to make things work and sustain the interest needed to deeply immerse yourself. Studies show that doing what we’re good at and seeing results from it is good for your mental health and boosts your self-esteem, even if you have to work hard and spend lots of time on it.
2. Go broad and then narrow down: Even if you’re clear on what you think you could be good at, it’s always better to start broad and test the waters. Initially, choose an area that you have a general interest in, such as engineering, crafts, or writing. As you gain more experience and knowledge follow paths that attract you. You continue this process until you find something that really speaks to you and that’s an untapped opportunity (or create an original one).
3. Differentiate yourself from competitors: Being distinct is essential, even if the niche you’ve chosen has fewer players dominating the space. Understand your competitors and what aspects of their brand and services appeal to their client base. How can you serve the same client needs in a way that’s unique to your personality and capabilities? The term that refers to the unique benefits, qualities, and features you provide is called a unique selling point (USP). You communicate your USP through branding and highlighting the unique benefits you provide. An example of this is a wellness influencer who chooses a niche of breathwork and supporting animal rights, who tailors her services and social media content to reflect on her specialty.
4. Know your audience and focus on service: If you want to profit from your niche, you must be clear on who your audience is and what their concerns are. What are the keywords they use on Google when trying to find a solution to a problem or a need they have? What are the values and perspectives that drive their buying behavior? Humanize your niche by getting to know the people you want to serve and how you can help them. When you’re guided by empathy and a willingness to be of service, you’re more likely to connect with people. Your sincerity comes from your willingness to listen and express genuine concern.
Niching is a byproduct of embracing our individuality. As we gain deeper awareness about ourselves, we’ll intuitively know the right path for us and where we can make the best use of our life force. The key is to listen and stay open to where the road takes you. As writer Erol Ozan said, “Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.”
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What’s one area of interest that you would like to explore? Are there any niches in that field you think you could be good at? What first steps are you committed to taking?
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