Picking a niche isn't advice from me — it's straight from the mouth of a startup CEO.
A few weeks ago, I had a chat with the CEO of Greg, a plant care startup, to learn about what he looks for in consultants. His advice to every freelancer out there: Be relevant to specific startups, not every startup.
Last year, Greg was on the hunt for a consultant, and they chatted with 50 people. 50! They narrowed the 50 down to 3 — a Waze alum, a D2C person, and someone else I can't remember.
Greg went with the Waze alum because her experience gave her the knowledge and specific expertise to uniquely help Greg grow. See, there are a lot of similarities between Greg and Waze. Both are habit-building apps on a mission to make people's lives easier.
In his words: “All the applicants were great, but we went with her because she intimately knew what we are up against and was just more relevant for where we want to go.”
You might be thinking, well poop — my experience is what it is, and I'm not going to be relevant for everyone. Bingo! That's the point.
If you're for everyone, you're for no one.
The magic comes when you lean into your relevant experience, own it, and make yourself easily discoverable as an expert in that field. This is the concept of niching, and in my opinion, choosing a niche is like adding a Mento to the Coke bottle of your freelance UX writing business.
- You'll more deeply and accurately target clients
- Your hit rate will be higher because of your obvious expertise
- Your marketing and positioning becomes a piece of cake, which makes your unique messaging crystal clear
Let me explain…
1. More deeply and accurately target clients
I've never sent a cold email — clients discover me. This isn’t a humblebrag, but an effort to convince you niching works.
Here's a common example of emails I get from startup CEOs who want to work with me:
Instead of walking into the sales call from the position of needing to sell them on how I can help, they were already pretty much sold. And that's because every touchpoint this CEO had with me leading up to sending this email was deeply and accurately targeted toward him.
When I was a UX writer for fintech apps, I knew the exact pain points fintech startup CEOs went through, and I repeated them back to new ones who'd land on my website. It was clear they should click on my LinkedIn profile, “Freelance UX writer for fintech apps,” vs someone else, “Freelance UX writer.”
When you pick a niche, you aren't for every client, and this allows you to get deep into their mindset and speak to them as if you actually know them.
If your customer is five possible people, your likelihood of hitting the mark is going to be a lot less.
2. High hit rate with obvious expertise
When you have a niche, clients easily believe you're the expert.
That's because something like “Freelance UX writer for fintech apps” seemingly has a boat load more expertise in fintech than a “Freelance UX writer.” And would you rather have an expert on the job or a generalist?
The best part — you can charge more for being an expert. People pay for knowledge — show off what you got.
3. Crystal-clear unique selling proposition
Oh, the dreaded “what do I post about?” conundrum… With a niche, consider that solved. You either talk about:
- UX writing
- Your niche
Every word you utter online's goal is to add value and show off your knowledge. All in the name of building trust and credibility.
The headline on your website? Easy — just say how you solve your target customer's main problem. Personal branding will also help with that.
Ok, but how do I pick a niche?
We're going to dive deep into this in the next lesson. But for now, a niche can be an industry you have previous experience in or an industry you're generally passionate about and know about from a hobby level.
For example, if you're a fitness nut, health and fitness apps, like Tempo or Glo, could be a great niche for you. If you're a crypto punk, web3 needs a lot of help (IMO.)
I chose fintech because I had serendipitously started working with a bunch of fintechs and enjoyed the work. I just decided to “formalize” my expertise.
Since declaring my fintech expertise 3 years ago, I've worked with fintech large and small, from Verizon financial services and Netflix payment's teams to Retirable and Earnin.
Sound wonderful, but not convinced there are enough insurtech startups to warrant a niche? That was exactly where I was.
I was really nervous about picking a niche — I didn't think there were going to be enough fintech startups out there on the hunt for a freelance UX writer. But boy, was I wrong.
The world is bigger than it seems, and with freelance, the world is your client, not just the 50-mile radius around where you live.
If it still makes you nervous, try niching down for a month. Worst case scenario, you can always go back to what you were doing before, and you'll learn a lot.
Also, a niche isn't forever. I still work with fintechs, but I don't position myself to be only for that niche anymore. I got hungry for some diversity after a few years, and my reputation allowed me to branch off.
That said, I primarily work with startups that have trouble with safety and security concerns and need help explaining complicated concepts, which are all roots from my fintech niche.
A niche doesn't have to be forever, but I definitely attribute it to launching my 6-figure UX writing freelance business.
Otherwise, head to the next free lesson, FRL#10: Why you need to know your target client.
Happy UX writing 🖖
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