But, I get it a lot in various forms, so I’d like to unpack it a bit here, and show you the pros and cons of having more than one niche in your business.
First, if you’re not totally clear, for both the ecological and business definitions of niche, please see my post, Plant Sex, A Niching Love Story.
Now, I’ll start with two instances where having multiple niches is useful.
1) Early on in your business, if you are not already clear on who you are meant to serve and how you plan to help them, you will need to experiment and learn. 100% absolutely.
You cannot just pick your niche out of the blue because some marketing guy told you it’s lucrative and expect that you’re going to actually enjoy running that business.
Instead, you have to think of niching as an evolutionary process. Just like organisms evolve, your niche (and your entire business) will evolve over time as you experiment and adapt.
So if you are at an early stage in business, PLEASE experiment. Try out a few different things. Not all the things, but the small handful that feel most resonant to you, and experiment. And… in that experimentation, always be listening for…
- What feels great for you to do
- What is working really well for your clients
- What feels easeful and natural
From this listening, you will eventually be able to focus in on a niche.
2) If you live in a very small town, for example if you are the only acupuncturist in the entire place, then it may not make sense to only work with women on fertility. The bigger the sea (read: the internets!), the more you need to niche to stand out. The smaller the sea, the more generalist you will want to be.
Ok, so that’s basically it for when you DO want multiple niches.
And honestly, other than that, not niching usually has a lot to do with fear and scarcity.
Either people believe they won’t be satisfied only working with one type of person (see below about multi-passionate folks, this could be true!).
Or, you think, if I just choose this one group, I won’t have enough clients! I won’t make enough money! My current clients will see I changed my website and run away!
Problem is, this is not actually true.
So now, TWO HUGE REASONS TO NICHE (and they really melt into one big reason)
1) The more specific you are, the easier it will be to find clients.
This may involve a leap of faith, but I have seen it happen so many times, so I hope you can trust me.
When you have a specialty, you’ll ultimately get more clients.
When you narrow down your offering, you become a beacon, a lighthouse, to those people with that problem.
When you offer 20 things (or even 3), it’s harder to become known for that one amazing thing.
But when you’ve got one thing, people come to know you as the person that does X and they can easily send you people.
So referrals come in MUCH more quickly.
Let’s say you’re a therapist who helps teenagers who are getting bullied in school…
Well the next time my friend is upset because her teenage daughter is getting bullied, don’t you think I’ll know who to send her to?
On the other hand, I may know you’re a therapist, but if you work with couples and individuals and groups and teams on everything from anxiety to OCD to grief, then you’re not as likely to pop into my brain when someone tells me they’re suffering around a particular thing.
2) The other, related, reason to niche has to do with EASE. And you know I’m all about streamlining, ease and efficiency.
When you have one niche, you have one target audience, and ONE MARKETING STRATEGY.
Think about it: if you have offerings directed at different audiences, you need to find ways to get in front of both audiences. That’s twice the marketing strategy and delivery. That is time consuming.
Having two target audiences is almost like having two businesses work-wise, PLUS it can be super confusing when it comes to figuring out who you should be talking to in your blogs and newsletters.
Or worse, your audience gets confused because one week you’re talking to half of them and the other week you’re talking to the other half of them.
One niche = Streamlined. Simple. Sustainable.
Ok, so… What if I’m multi-passionate?
First of all, some people are always going to have more than one interest and have the capacity to have more than one niche, or even more than one business. I am not one of those people, that would make me crazy.
But maybe you are. By all means, if you can handle it, and you want to do it, please go for it.
I will say a couple things. One, consider that your business doesn’t have to encompass all your passions. Some things can happen outside of work. In fact, if you focus your business, you could have more time outside of work for your other interests.
The other thing is that there are successful business owners doing more than one thing…
And… I don’t have stats on this, but I believe generally one of two things is happening:
- They are making decent money and sustaining themselves, but they haven’t gone big (like 6 + figures). If you are cool with earning 50-75K, AWESOME!!! I am not knocking that one bit. But if you need or want to earn more, focusing/niching more will help a LOT.
- They built their multi-niche business over time. They started with one thing, focused on it for a while, got it running as smooth as butter, THEN expanded into another audience.
A niche is a boundary.
And I get it…
Sometimes it’s hard to say “No, I’m not gonna do that work for you.”
But this is part of our growth as entrepreneurs.
We need to understand who we are meant to serve and have the courage to be in service to those people and not be afraid to tell others, “I’m sorry, I don’t do that” (might I recommend my colleague…).
We need to be in our gifts, offering what we’re here to offer, and not wasting our time on other things. THIS is how we can make the most impact.
Imagine the alternative – someone asks you to do something and it’s not quite your sweet spot. Maybe you’re even quite good at it, but you don’t love doing it. So you say yes, because you feel like you should, or you need the money. But it feels crappy, and you get resentful and don’t do your best work.
There’s kind of an icky energy around the whole thing.
Think that person is going to send you more clients? Probably not.
But what about that person you are doing the RIGHT work with. Magic. Right? Flow, ease and grace. And someone who is so excited about your work they talk about you to others.
Look, it’s ok to take work because you need the money when it’s early in the game.
But be mindful of not letting it take over all your time… keep it limited and know that you are moving in a more aligned direction, and that you will let go of those clients as soon as you’ve unearthed your natural niche, honed your marketing strategy to reach your ideal clients, and signed up a whole bunch of folks for an amazing, niched offering that lights both you and them up.