Having a niche when you go self-employed is generally considered very wise. It makes marketing far easier and gives your business focus.
However, many people resist niching. One of the main objections is, “But I don’t want to leave people out”. (Sound familiar?)
I used to say I worked primarily with women. Earlier this year I decided to drop the gender focus, and I received some interesting comments when I announced this on Facebook:
- Absolutely, why segregate? Men and women are equally valuable in their difference
- Yey to everyone
- No limits…
- Thats a step forward for equality!
- Great decision, women have been excluded for so long, we shouldn’t do the same with men
I realized from these comments that “niching” can sometimes be perceived as synonymous with “discriminating” and I want to make a distinction around what niche is and is not.
The red herring
I’m bisexual. I’m married to a woman; my main long-term relationship previously was with a man. Gender is irrelevant to me in terms of my sexuality.
Over time, I realized that gender was also irrelevant in terms of my business. I’d never been able to articulate why women were my market. I now see that I’d focused on gender because my passion is for practitioners working in the helping-healing realm and that the majority of coaches and holistic practitioners just so happen to be women.
So gender was one aspect that characterised my niche, but it wasn’t the significant one. It turns out gender was a red herring.
This clicked when I read a great piece about identifying your niche by Catherine Caine. It became clear: being a woman is not the characteristic that my ideal clients would most identify with. Sure, they know they’re a woman and they like it, but it’s not their woman-ness that is the shared need.
The shared need is that they want to do good stuff in the world: something they’re trained in, that they love, that they’re ready to share, and they really don’t know where to start with actually getting clients and making money doing this thing.
Men share this need too. When I chose “women going into business” as my niche, it wasn’t because I had some political point to make about self-employed women. Some coaches do; I’ve seen plenty speak about “how to talk with your husband about what you do” and “how to keep your man happy when you run a business”. There’s an assumption of heterosexuality and an interest in how being a self-employed woman fits with that.
I don’t come from a heterosexist perspective. I reckon similar issues face self-employed men and women, whether we’re single or married and whether we’re in same-sex or different-sex relationships. I love sisterhood and I also love brotherhood and I love it when men and women support each other in shared peoplehood.
When I dropped the female focus, I dropped the red herring aspect of my niche. I did not drop the concept of niche. I did not decide to “work with everyone”. I remain a strong advocate of niche. It’s just about getting your niche right.
So, if you’re playing with the concept of niche, make a list of the characteristics that you reckon your ideal clients (or your Tribe as I’d call them) might share. Then, put them in order of importance – from your perspective and from your Tribe’s perspective. What do these people strongly identify with? What do you passionately care about?
Build your niche business around the most significant characteristics; the one which have your ideal clients say, “Hell yes, that’s who I am!” and which feel like you pursuing your greatest calling.
And leave a comment below, let us know about your adventures in niching – when it’s felt like an awkward fit, when you’ve pursued red herring characteristics, and when it’s felt just right.
NEW – inspirational business networking events
Launching in October 2012, I’ll be hosting a series of lunch time get-togethers in London for coaches, holistic practitioners and other passion-led service providers (female AND male!) The intention is to connect like-minded community, share practical business tips and support each other’s businesses.
More details to come; for now, please leave a comment below with whether you would prefer these to take place on a WEEKDAY or a SATURDAY. The results of the poll will make my final decision!
© Corrina Gordon-Barnes 2012