Note: This blog post contains audio version at the very bottom of this post. Narrated by: yours truly. Enjoy the ride.
When I started discovering this world of creative businesses, online marketing and creating a brand, every attempt of searching for advice and information I needed would end up with “find a niche”. Every marketer out there was offering content explaining what is a niche and how to discover your specific market space, but I couldn’t fit into any category that they offered. Hm. I was a brand photographer, but was that it?
Am I special? Not, really. Only multi-passionate creative, which made it a bit harder for me to understand and put myself into a specific box. In this article I will dive deep into this topic of finding a niche and hopefully help you understand the importance of having one and figuring out where and how you fit in the market space with your creative heart-led business. Let’s find your niche!
What is a niche in the first place?
First things first. How the heck do you pronounce ‘niche’? As if finding a niche isn’t confusing enough, a lot of people have trouble pronouncing the word to start with. So, let’s bust this thing first. The truth is, you can pronounce ‘niche’ two ways: ‘nitch’ and ‘neesh, and both ways are correct.
“Nitch” is mostly common in the USA and Canada, and “neesh” is more common in Europe (and probably the rest of the world), but it largely depends on how you were introduced to the word. Personally, I love and pronounce it ‘neesh’ because it sounds lighter and fits my tongue better, and it is so French, oui? Besides, we use this word in my own language, which is Croatian, to name exactly the same – a niche. I think I said this word at least 20 times so far in this article, and you will be hearing it many more times until the end, so let’s get to it.
So, what is a niche exactly? To make it easier for you to understand later, let me give you a bit of a context. If you are a visual person like I am, this might be helpful. The word niche comes from architecture and describes a recess in the wall inside of the house where common objects are being placed. Usually it was and still is meant to put decorative objects in it, like vases, flowers, ceramics, art or books. A niche collects more of the same. In fact, you may even have it inside of your home without even knowing it.
It has become very popular lately in contemporary architecture and interior design. You may have seen built in wall shelves where you have one big recess or a hole in the wall and only wooden horizontal planks or boards. Usually they are in living areas, but very commonly in kitchens and bathrooms to store things.
Here’s the thing about it. Niche holds objects that are alike, that have a common link. In the shower, they hold shampoos and soaps, in the kitchen they hold bowls and plates. In the living room they might hold a vase, books, or decorations.
Now, why am I telling you all this? Here’s the most important part about the niche. When you see one, you know what is it for. Remember this one good. And the exactly same thing goes for marketing and creative business, or any business whatsoever. When you see a product or service or a person – you need to know who is it for. This is what makes one product or branding better than the other in the eyes of the consumer – before they buy. When you know your niche, you know your market, you know your people, and they can easier find you.
Creative business niche defined
In marketing, a niche is a specific segment of a larger market that serves a smaller amount of people. It is defined as the “smallest viable market”. What this means is that you can only serve a very specific group of people that all have the same red thread connecting them to your product or service.
Let’s see this on an example. I am a photographer. Photography business is a large market, since there are many different types of photography: digital, film, wedding, elopement, food, art, abstract, contemporary, baby, birth, cars, nature photography – you name it. ‘A photographer’ title by itself doesn’t tell you much, does it? If I told you that I was a photographer when you met me, you would probably ask me ‘what kind of a photographer?’, am I right? In a way, your business is already in a niche itself. Illustrating, painting, healing, photographing, make up, fashion, wellness, yoga, food.
Today, when there is so much of everything out there, marketers naturally started niching down.
Just to mention, don’t be afraid of the word ‘marketer’, since it only means a creative business owner who sells something and puts it on the market, and that is basically all of us. To niche down is to pick a more specific audience within that larger market. Comprendo?
How would you make a choice?
If you were getting married 50 years ago, you maybe only had a handful photographers to choose from in your city to make pictures of your wedding. Today when there are dozens or even hundreds of wedding photographers in bigger cities, how do you choose the best one for your event?
Here’s where niching down becomes important and crucial for your business. If you do wedding photography, or healing sessions, or if you do children’s books illustrations, you don’t want any clients out there. You could get them, and attract them, and make them pay you for your product or service, but your goal should be finding those clients who resonate with you, and not only those who are willing to pay. That is because you can only make progress as a creative entrepreneur if your customers are happy, you are happy with them, and they spread a good word about you. This is what will make your creative business thrive.
So, how do you choose the best wedding photographer for your once in a lifetime thing? You look at the quality of their photos, their style, the mood they create, those special moments they manage to catch, editing style, and the people they worked with before. Are they anything like you? If you are more traditional, a photographer who does luxury weddings or destinations weddings won’t be the right fit for you.
Today you don’t only look for someone to get the job done for most of the services you buy. Even if you were hiring a house cleaner, you wouldn’t take the first offer. They need to be clean or trustworthy, fast or slow, detailed or kind, for big houses, or offices, or apartments. You’d find a house cleaner from a specific niche.
No matter how many checkmarks that describe your business you pick, this how you niche down.
Why is finding and having a niche important
In his book ‘This is marketing’ Seth Godin says:
“The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the centre of the curve, it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone. It will lead to compromises and generalisations. Begin instead with the smallest viable market. What’s the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?
If you could only change thirty people, of three thousand people, you’d want to be choosy about which people.” Seth is amazing, by the way.
If you want your work to be great, it cannot be for everyone. It must be niched down. Who are the people you want to serve, who is your audience? Who will benefit from your offer? Because, if they benefit, they will come back and they will tell their friends about you. This is how your brand will grow in a meaningful way (and not because of Instagram).
Understanding and knowing your niche will make it easier for your clients, and I don’t mean just any clients out there, but your clients, to find their way to you. This is because with this you will know exactly who you serve, what can you do for them, and how will that make them feel.
Do things you love for people you like (spoiler alert: this is how you find your niche)
Just look at Coca Cola. They said ‘Enjoy’ and they took over the world, not only the beverage market. Everybody wants to do that, to enjoy, right? How clever.
When I was starting my new photography business, I deliberately formed my own title as a brand photographer and, guess this, no one else in my whole country wasn’t doing this, at least not this way. I just came in one day nonchalantly and I said – I now do brand photography. And people were in need for this kind of thing, a lot. My intuition is good, what can I say. And so is my brand photography. I’ll put a smile here now. 🙂
Anyways, imagine if you were an illustrator and you really like flower illustrations, and you get hired by your uncle to make martial arts illustrations. A piece of your soul would just wither. Why would you be doing things your don’t like for people you don’t like working with?
Let’s see now, how down can you niche?
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How to find your niche
If I was a wedding photographer and I loved working with romantic couples who plan their countryside weddings, this is how I would put myself out there to the market. As a wedding photographer for romantic countryside weddings. And that, my friend, would be my niche.
And this is exactly how I have put together my brand photography business. My first client, now my dear friend Indira Juratek, CEO of Budi dobro, a holistic online magazine, came into my life spontaneously. But immediately I saw an opportunity in it. Soon enough I have realised that through brand photography I can do all the things I enjoy doing with photography. That is portraits, nature, styling, food… And most importantly, knowing the person, understanding what they want and need from and for their business, knowing what clients they want to attract, setting the mood and – telling their story. Besides, all images in this blog posts were made in my (and hers) first brand photoshoot session.
At first, I wanted anyone to book a session with me in my studio. Still, I knew right from the beginning that I didn’t want to work with corporations even though they need brand photos as well. I knew I wanted to work with soulful people, those who have a vision, a mission, who want to follow their passion and make money by doing so. I wanted to work with creatives who were passionate about what they do and I wanted to open myself to this kind of a market space.
How I did it
And this is how ‘Painting your reality into soulful brand photography’ came to life. I was very specific about the people I wanted to work with and what I had to offer to them, and I made my best to make it obvious. Now remember the niche explanation from the very beginning that I noted as very important? “When you see one, you know what is it for.” When you see my branding, my copy, my own brand images, you know who they are for. It all speaks about the level and quality of my work and the people I choose to work with. No corporate, fashion, sport or tech people will jump in my inbox, unless they are soulful, artistic, deep, heart-led, vision carried, big hearted, motivated and inspired. All of it
If this all hasn’t brought you closer to figuring out your own niche, I have a very detailed but yet very simple step by step process on how to find your niche. Here it is. Feel free to write it down and quote me later. Or thank me later.
A niche is what you do, who you do it for, what problem you solve for them (how you make them feel, what you bring into their life), and who you want to work with.
This is the best possible explanation of a niche I have come up with and I hope it serves you well and helps you find your own.
With that being said, this is it for now. If you liked this article, send them to a friend, send me a note via email, see how we can work together, join my weekly newsletter Inspired conversations every Monday, or leave a comment. Whichever you prefer. All do them all.
Sending good vibes your way!