Creating a niche as a freelancer is a valuable way of standing out from the crowd, building your confidence, and getting seen in all the right places.
As a PR expert and trainer, I’ve worked with hundreds of small businesses, each from varied backgrounds, diverse industries, and all with a different message. But their common thread? Hungry, ambitious, freelancers with a story to tell, and a need to be seen.
Positioning yourself as an expert in your field is a first step in grounding the credibility of your business, and attracting the attention of the clients and visibility you want.
So, where do you start?
Find your niche
Identifying your niche can be a difficult task. Asking yourself ‘What do I do that’s unique’, isn’t a very useful starting point, so let’s reframe this. As most of us aren’t doing anything that’s totally unique, it can be an impossible question to ask. Show me something you consider to be truly unique, and I’ll show you someone who has positioned themselves well.
Let’s combine three things to get to the root of your expertise:
- Your key experience – think career highlights, favourite clients or gigs, your biggest learning curves.
- Your knowledge – you might be proficient in many areas, and offer your clients a range of services, but what are you best known for? Can you pin this down to one or two items? What problem do you solve for your clients and customers?
- Your passion – what you do, who you do it for, and why. What element of your business are you most interested in or passionate about? Condense it down, make it special.
Once you’ve identified what makes you special, try and condense this into a sentence or two that you can repeat as needed.
Another good way of rooting out your niche is by asking customers for testimonials and reviews,and seeing what they have in common. How are you helping them, and what do they love most about your service? Is there a common thread you hadn’t previously noticed?
Use Key Messages
Key Messages are super useful for articulating who you are and what you do. You can use them for writing press releases, introducing yourself in networking spaces, writing copy or web content. Essentially they help to keep you on-brand and pin point toothers your expertise and exactly what to expect from you.
Use the niche exercise above to pinpoint what your key messages are, e.g. women-led business, sustainable, eccentric, built-from-scratch, design-led, and so on.
Make them: concise (choose 3-6), memorable (easy to remember), strategic (relevant to potential new clients and partners), and simple (use easy-to-understand language).
Now that you’ve nailed your message, how can you stand out from the crowd? Being an expert in your field isn’t about dominating the conversation and saying I’m the authority on this subject. It’s about adding to the conversation.
No one expects you to know everything about your field or industry, but we can all be known for adding something to a conversation that’s important or relevant to us, what we do and how we work.
Sticking to a specific message or topic helps others to recognise what you’re passionate about, and this, in turn, attracts clients that align with you and your values.
Make a list of topics or messages that you’re confident speaking or writing about, and then find relevant spaces to join in the conversation. It could be networking onLinkedIn, chatting on Clubhouse, or commenting on Instagram. When you feel confident enough you can take the next step and begin pitching yourself for visibility opportunities in a wider space.
By creating your niche, it becomes easier to outline the opportunities that really work for you. PR can be overwhelming, so carving out what you’re best known for can makea big difference.
● Your strengths and what brings you joy – What are you good at and enjoy doing?
● Your availability – what do you have time to commit to?
By sticking to this formula you’ll become known for being a specialist in your area, for example, a photographer focused on portrait photography, or a yoga teacher rooted in community work.
Relying onyour expertise will help you build relationships with the media and business/brand partners, and this will position you as the go-to person for supplying knowledge based on a specific subject or for solving a particular problem.
Remember, this is about marketing your expertise, rather than your services – what can your clients expect to learn from you? Based on your experience, knowledge, problem-solving, and passion.
If you’ve assessed your strengths and what gives you joy, and public speaking isn’t one of them, think about how else you can communicate your expertise. For example, can you create case studies and pitch them to publications within your industry, or write a guest article for a brand or media partner?
When to say no
We all need publicity for our businesses, but when is it the right time to say no?
If the opportunity doesn’t align with your values and allow your expertise to shine, don’t do it. By taking the time to carve out your niche you can in turn be much more targeted with potential publications and brand partners, whose dedicated communities offer a straighter, shorter line to your ideal audience or client.
Get familiar with the quality over quantity approach
What is it you do that offers your audience the most value, and what are you most known for? Try to embrace a quality over quantity approach, that allows you to nail your message, again and again.
Out with wordy press releases and biographies. Instead, use Key Messages to articulate what you’re about and stick to them.
Goodbye to pressuring yourself to be featured in hundreds of different publications. Follow your niche, and build long-lasting partnerships with the media and brand partners that can shine a light on your expertise, and get you in front of your ideal audience.