This is a blog post I wrote recently for the Affiliate Mummy blog all about niche selection. If you’re just getting started with your own freelance business then this post is a must read. In here I talk you through the basic steps you need to take to identify and validate your freelance niche.
Starting your own business is hard work, and one of the hardest parts of getting started is often the thing we need to do first: deciding what type of business to start. This is often referred to as defining your niche.
There is a lot of information out there these days about how important it is to select the right niche when you start your business. The advice is almost always to choose an area, and then to narrow that area down until you are targeting your ideal customer. While this is absolutely great advice, I know from personal experience that choosing a niche is not easy. In fact, it can be downright hard. But does it always need to be this way?
My Story: Lawyer to Freelance Mama
When I first decided to start my own business, I found niche selection to be the biggest challenge. I knew I wanted to work from home, and that I wanted to be my own boss. I knew that I didn’t want to go into MLM, or another business model that was linked to an established brand. I wanted to create something of my own. But there were just so many options out there it was incredibly hard to know where to start.
I researched and researched trying to find something that felt like a good fit for me. I did every training, coaching and webinar that came my way, looking for something that would help me to earn an income from home. I tried selling products on Amazon; I started a baby boutique; I launched my own blog, and yet none of these things felt like quite the right fit, and none of those things earned me enough money in the timeframe I needed.
But just when I was reaching the point where I was thinking I would need to give in and get a regular job, I was offered an opportunity that had been staring me in the face the whole time. I was offered some freelance work that was based entirely around the skills I already had. Using those skills, I was able to step very quickly into a freelance role that enabled me to earn twice as much an hour than what I had been earning when I was working full time, enabled me to work mostly from home, mostly in hours that I choose and which cost me next to nothing to get started in.
For months (actually years), I had been looking externally at all the different ways that I could earn an income from home that I would be able to get established relatively quickly, and yet I had never thought I look within at the skills I already had. I think there are many other mamas out there in this very position.
Back before I had kids I had worked as a lawyer. I always knew this was a pretty demanding career option, but what I didn’t know is how hard I would find it going back to that career after I had children. After I had children, I found it so much harder working the long hours. I didn’t want to leave them in childcare all the time, but I felt like there was no other option if I was going to continue to work in that industry. Managing the work/life mum juggle was what ultimately drove me to leave that industry and to start my search for other career options. I had thought that once I decided not to work as a lawyer, the skills that I had were more or less redundant and that I would be unable to use those skills to earn an income, and in particular, to earn an income from home. But I was wrong.
The freelance work that I was offered, while still in the legal sphere, did not require me to work as a lawyer. It did, however, enable me to make the most of the skills I had. Skills that have proven to be rather useful to the kinds of people who needed my help. And who do you think it was who needed my kinds of skills? Lawyers who didn’t want to (or need to) employ someone to work for them full time, but still needed some support from someone who knew something about law.
Once I got established in this work I realised what I great opportunity freelancing is and knew I had to share this experience with other mamas going through the same journey as I was. This is how The Freelance Mama was born and why I’m here talking to you today.
Choosing your work from home option
If you too are a mama looking for different ways to work from home, chances are you are going through the same process as I was. Looking at all of the options available and trying to make a call as to what one is right for you.
It can be so overwhelming when you are desperate to find a way to work from home that will work for you, but don’t know which option is going to be a good fit for you and ultimately going to earn you enough money. I evaluated seven different business models before I settled on freelancing as the right one for me. It took a load of time and cost me a lot of money to find the right option for me (if you want to hear a bit more about that process you can read about that process in my free eBook, which you can download here).
What I understand now is that all of the time and energy that I spent trying to find something new to do could have been saved if I had just focused on the things that I knew well. Knowing the things that you do well and selling those skills to people who need them is the fastest track to earning an income from home.
So, how do you decide what you do? Start with a brainstorm. Get yourself a good old-fashioned sheet of paper (the larger the better) and some coloured pens and go wild! Start by writing down the following:
- Jobs you have done
- Any skills you have from those jobs that could be freelanced (think creatively here)
- Any skills you have from other activities you do (e.g. maybe something you have learned doing charity work or from a hobby that you’re really good at)
- Things that you have done in your job(s) that you know you are really good at (bonus points if other people have told you how great you are – they’ll make great references)
- Any trainings you have done that you can draw upon
If you get stuck here, then you need to ask people that you know about the things they think you are good at that would be relevant to the kind of business you’re thinking of starting. Ask your friends and family, ask colleagues or former colleagues…if you’re really brave you might even ask your boss! Also remember to have a look at your CV: chances are that you will have jotted down some of your best skills in there.
Once you’ve done that then you’ll want to think about how those skills could be pulled together to create a freelance business. For some of you it might be immediately obvious (for example, if you’re an accountant you might just be offering freelance accounting services). For others, you might need to do some creative thinking (for example, if you are a writer at your local newspaper then you might be thinking about whether you could take your writing skills and start your own business writing blog posts for busy entrepreneurs, or maybe you might help businesses to get on top of their monthly news bulletin).
Hopefully you’re starting to get the idea of where I’m going with this, but if you still need a little extra help, I’ve put together a more detailed explanation of this process in my free mini course which you can access on the freebies page of my website (just scroll down a little to find it).
Now validate your idea
Before you go running off to launch your freelance business (I know you’re eager, but hear me out), I want you to take some time to validate your idea. Many of us have business ideas that sound great in our own heads, but don’t work out so well when we launch them. A lot of the time this is because we haven’t properly validated our idea first.
Validating your idea doesn’t have to be a lengthy process, but it’s a really good idea if you can put your idea out there and get feedback from people who are your ideal customers. This will help make sure that the services you plan to offer are in demand and that people will pay for them. Sometimes validation is as simple as asking around people you already know (e.g. colleagues, former colleagues, former employers) to see if they would pay you for the services you are offering.
Other ways to help you validate your offering include:
- Sharing your ideas in business groups where your ideal customers hang out (if your ideal customers are mums, then you might like to ask in some mummy Facebook groups)
- Talking to people in your industry
- Researching what other people are offering in your industry
- Spending some time reading posts in online business groups where your ideal client would hang out to see what sorts of services they are asking for and what kinds of problems they have that need to be solved
Do also remember to check that there aren’t too many people offering exactly the same services as you. Some niches can get pretty crowded, so you want to make sure that there isn’t too much competition.
Hopefully by this point you’re getting a much clearer idea of the kind of freelance business that you might like to start, but if you’re still feeling a little stuck then feel free to pop over to my Facebook page and flick me a question.
In a few weeks’ time I’ll be launching a free online challenge where I’m going to run you through the above exercises live with Q & A support available via Facebook, so if you’re interested in that make sure you keep your eyes peeled for that!
Kellie Dawson is a Mama Mentor, helping mums like you to find ways to freelance from home using the skills they already have. Kellie has two little boys aged 4 and 6, who are her motivation for building a work from home business. You can connect with Kellie on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thefreelancemama or check out her blog and other resources at www.thefreelancemama.com