Megan Dougherty AKA @MeganTwoCents on Twitter, runs the Newbie Academy, where new online entrepreneurs learn how to tech their own tech. There are free tutorials, interesting articles and on-demand tech help if you need it! Don’t be shy – we’re all new at this first.
I like to tell people that you should niche down to help narrow down your potential competition and to narrow down your perfect avatar. However, Megan sings to a different tune.
This post is a good juxtaposition to what I normally tell you dudes and dudettes to do… What do you think?
Before I had this post over to Megan, I just want to let you know that on September 7th I’ll be holding a Facebook Live Weekly Recap session in the Facebook Group, The Dude’s Brood. If you’re in the group yet, get your butt in there and check out the events section to find out when the Live session will be. This will be my first ever FB Live session, so expect a few tech hiccups… Maybe Megan should help me tech this tech!
So join the group and don’t miss the Live session!
Anyway, back to Megan! Take it away…
I know you’ve heard that the first and most important thing you’re going to do for your business is to identify the perfect niche.
The single thing you’re AMAZING at, and the perfect person who CRAVES it.
Do this, and all of your business woes and worries will be behind you, for customers shall heed your finely honed message and joyfully empty their wallets for you. Something that, as a traveller far from home, you’ll want to have to happen with some regularity.
And if you don’t? If you DON’T have the perfect niche? Well, that is the door upon which ALL of your difficulties and failures can be laid. You just didn’t niche correctly! Do it better! Then all will be well and you’ll live in clover.
If you’re brand new, just starting out or planning to, I’m going to tell you something a little bit radical.
Spending a lot of time identifying a perfect niche is the second worst first step you can take.
(The first is spending tons of money on a bespoke website you won’t be able to modify yourself later on.)
Okay. I haven’t been burned to a crisp by lightning from on high yet, so let’s get into this a little more.
Why DO we think it’s so critical to niche first and foremost?
And on the Eighth Day, God Perfected His Niche
(Alternate in case religious jokes are off the table) :
Online Business 101: Niche First or Perish in the Sea of Obscurity
On the surface, this niching first idea seems pretty legit.
You need to know your unique offering, your perfect person, your unbelievable value before you can expect to build an audience and make sales. This is important because there is so much competition out there and it’s the most sure-fire way to stand out.
Yes and no.
At some point, having a really firm and clear niche is going to be essential for your growth – your copy will be better, your customers will like you more, people will evangelise for you, all the good thigs about good niches are true.
But there’s actually a lot you need to do before a rock-solid niche becomes really necessary. Things that, initially, are more important and make more sense.
But still, the first thing new online entrepreneurs get taught is “First, Identify a Niche.”
Even if they’ve never run a business before.
Even if they have never sold a thing, or have any evidence they can do what they think they can.
Even if they don’t know so much as the difference between a Squeeze Page and a saucepan.
I posit that niching isn’t the best first thing to do; it’s a clear, identifiable milestone that requires no purchase of technology, no market analysis, and importantly, no sales. The niche is a great instruction to give someone who’s getting their feet wet. And they’ll need one eventually anyway, so it’s a logical place to begin. In short – it’s the easiest thing to teach.
And that means that as a discerning student of business and the world – you get to decide if that works for you.
This is something you should consider carefully, so before you decide to read on or dismiss me as a heretic, consider this:
A ridiculously high proportion of new would-be business owners never gets PAST identifying a niche. Second to floundering with incomprehensible and often unnecessary technology, it’s one of the biggest psychological gatekeepers out there. A convenient tool of procrastination to make sure you don’t have to do the really, really hard stuff of talking to people and asking for their money.
And I get that. All of this is scary. And struggling to find the perfect niche FEELS like useful work that will hello you move forward.
It really won’t.
And I’ll tell you why.
No One Cares What Your Niche Is
Not your friends. Not your mom. Not this cat. Not even your future customers. With the possible exception of your business coach, no one gives two hoots what your niche is.
They. Don’t. Care.
People – people in your life, and the people who are going to become part of your business, as customers, partners or colleagues care about what you can do and how well you can do it.
The best niches, like clean houses and amazing grammar, go totally unnoticed by the vast majority of people.
And that’s the dream. You WANT your niche to be so good that it’s a natural part of your business – everything you build and sell and do. And that is not something you get when you first open the doors. No way. That kind of integration and clarity takes TIME.
And you need to start building your business now.
I can assure you that no one’s future customer is standing around, flailing their arms screeching “Why oh why can’t I find someone who wants to help heart-centered female entrepreneurs between the ages of 40 and 60 who want to finally bring their passion to the world.”
It isn’t happening.
Because although a niche *describes* a person, people are NOT niches.
They’re your customers, though – and that’s where you should be starting the relationship, as well as your business.
Do a Thing. Just Go Do a Thing. Seriously, Please Go Do a Thing
There’s this big hump that you need to get over to move forward with your business. I mentioned it earlier as being that kind of terrifying element that people will go to the ends of the earth to avoid.
Selling something to people.
Because that’s when it all becomes real, and you put yourself on the line, and they might brutally reject you and that would suck a lot.
But it’s going to be okay. And if you’re going to actually run a business, you’re going to HAVE to do it at some point. Getting over that fear early is probably the best thing you can do for yourself.
So if you’re not sure what that might look like, I’ve got a task for you:
Step 1. List 10 things you’re really good at.
Step 2. For each thing, list 5 people (or types of people) who suck at what you’re good at.
Once you’re done you’ll have 50 potential niches right there. Snazzy, eh?
Now for the harder part. You’ve got to go out and try to sell one of them.
Yep. Before anything else. You just identified 50 possible ways to help someone, so go do it.
Okay, maybe it’s a little harder than that.
Here are some suggestions that don’t involve spending 4 months blogging before you earn a penny:
- Local community centres, libraries and community colleges – often they have classes, clubs and interest groups. See if you can offer one, or participate in someone else’s to try making your offer, or demonstrating your expertise enough that people approach you.
- Your personal network. Get on the phone or FB messenger and start making offers! This can make people really nervous, but if you have something valuable to offer, there’s no good reason to keep it from your friends and family. (My Uncle Mike was one of my first 1×1 clients!)
- Meetup Groups focused on your area of interest. There are Meetup-Groups for almost everything. Join some groups, meet some people, and with the permission of the owners, make offers to the people who care.
- Flyers and Ads in neighbourhoods near you. This seems a little kids-lemonade-stand, I know – but if you want to just get out there and test an idea, physically putting the offer in front of people is a decent move!
- State, Municipal or other business associations and networking groups. Find out what resources the community you are in has, and try all of them. There could be networking mixers, parties, breakfasts and events you can attend to increase your range. Even if other business owners aren’t interested, they might know people who are!
Do you realize how lucky you are as a digital nomad? Every place you go, as long as you speak a bit of the language is going to have a whole new crop of opportunities like this! So just do the thing. Then do it again. Then one more time for good measure.
There’s going to be plenty of time for everything else that goes into building a business later. This is the hardest part, but not only will you be getting it out of the way – you’ll be getting some really, really valuable information that will basically serve up your niche on a silver platter.
Do you Like This? Do *I* Like This?
This is a question that surprisingly few people ask themselves once they’ve made the first couple of sales.
Is this enjoyable to me?
Because often, especially with our first ideas… it’s not.
I started out writing financial advice for millennials. Then I realized I didn’t really *like* it. If I’d actually ASKED myself if I liked it after my first few guest posts, I’d have realized it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go.
That niche I spent so much time identifying and tracking down was…
The wrong one.
All that hard work. All that niching resulted in my investing a huge amount of my time in something that, ultimately, wasn’t going to work.
Not so fun. Ask any entrepreneur – they’ll have a similar tale.
(Which makes me wonder why niche first is still the default instruction for newbies… it can’t just be so we all have interesting origin stories, right?)
The other party whose opinion matters is the person you sold the thing to
Are they happy? Did they get what they wanted? Are they better off now than before they paid you money?
Sometimes they will be – and if you go nowhere else with the idea, you’ve done well.
Sometimes they won’t be, and that’s going to hurt. But it’s okay. Unless you were selling back-alley surgery or tainted supplements, no one died, and you’ll both move on a little wiser.
So, after you’ve sold your thing, take a few moments to reflect.
Did you like it? Did they like it?
If the answer is YES to both questions, congratulations, you have yourself a shiny new niche. NOW you can go build an audience and a brand, play with the filters on that awesome beach sunset shot you just took, and all that marvellous stuff.
If the answer was no. you didn’t like it, or no one wanted it that is FANTASTIC. You have now identified a perfect thing that is NOT your niche and didn’t waste weeks or months hemming and hawing.
A niche will help you grow. It will help you scale. It will take you from beginner to pro.
But it won’t help you start your business.