With more and more WordPress freelancers out there, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. One way to do it is to find your freelance niche.
Narrowing your focus to a specific niche or specialty can boost your business.
“The number one way to bring in business is to focus on something. … Figure out what you want to focus on and become the absolute best at it.” –Justin Sainton
Why Do I Need a Freelance Niche?
Why you should narrow your focus to a specific freelance niche is a good question. Why would you want to turn clients away?
Simple: Not every paying project is a good step forward for your business.
“Early on we would take any project that walked in the door,” Brad Williams of WebDevStudios said in our recent interview. “This quickly became a problem because we were mediocre at a lot of platforms, but an expert at none. In 2010 we made the decision to go 100% WordPress development and design. From that day forward we focused at being the best at a single platform, which has ultimately helped us refine our message and provide high quality products for our clients.”
It’s easy to be the jack of all trades and master of none. Without a specialty you end up generalizing, and then it’s hard to be good at anything. You can do it, but you’re no expert.
By focusing on a freelance niche you can narrow your efforts and excel in a specific area.
“We are strong proponents of working to your strengths,” said Lisa Sabin-Wilson, also of WebDevStudios, in a recent ‘Ask Me Anything’ on ManageWP. “The more we’ve worked with WordPress over the years, the more our company has emerged as one of the top agencies for WordPress in the world—you don’t get that kind of cred by spreading yourself too thin.”
The main benefit of getting good at something is you become known for it. People want to hire an expert. They want to know the job is done right, not just good enough. By specializing and finding your freelance niche, you do wonders for your brand and reputation. You stand on your strengths.
It’s a lot easier to recommend someone with a specific focus. You might be able to recommend a dozen graphic designers. But how many business card experts can you recommend? When people have specific needs, it helps to have specific skills.
The marketplace is crowded, and finding your freelance niche is a good way to differentiate your business.
What Does a Freelance Niche Look Like?
Finding your specialty can look different for different freelancers.
“Specialize: Don’t try to do it all,” said Chris Lema in another ManageWP ‘Ask Me Anything.’ “Just design websites, don’t also development and host them. Or just develop them. But pick. … Another form of specialization is to focus on a market segment. So just do real estate sites, or just do band sites, or something of that nature. It makes it easy for folks to recommend you.”
There are a lot of ways to specialize, but here are two general approaches:
1. Skill Niche:
Find your niche based on a skill. Yes, you’re a web developer. Now get more specific. Do you focus on WordPress? Ecommerce? Plugins? A specific coding skill? Or more of a client service, such as training or support?
2. Audience Niche:
Another approach is to find your freelance niche based on the audience. Instead of building websites for everyone, focus on a narrow audience. Create sites only for schools or authors or restaurants. Maybe you focus on nonprofits or local associations. You could go another direction and focus on an attitude or style—humor, cutting edge art or extremely simple. Instead of focusing on a business niche like restaurants, you focus on businesses that want extremely simple sites or organizations that want to ride the bleeding edge of website design. You become known as the developer who can build crazy stuff that draws all kinds of attention.
You can take either approach, or go with both. The more narrow your niche, the smaller your potential audience and the easier it will be to become the recognized expert.
Just be careful about getting too narrow. There might not be a market for simplistic nonprofit ecommerce plugins.
It Can Be Scary
Wait, did you say ‘smaller audience’? Why would I want to turn clients away and limit my income potential?
Yeah, finding your freelance niche can be scary. You’ll be turning away clients. That’s hard.
But as you build your reputation and establish yourself in your new niche, you’ll bring in even more clients. It will be easier for people to recommend you, your referrals will increase and you’ll see the benefits of a freelance niche.
You just have to stick to your specialty.
“Be willing to say ‘no’ and ‘I don’t know’ more often,” Bill Erickson said in our recent interview. “Your clients will understand that you don’t know and don’t do everything when it comes to the web. If they ask for something you can’t do, tell them ‘That’s outside my area of expertise, but I can help find a developer who can provide that service.’”