At its most basic level, a niche is a group of people who share characteristics and a problem.
So, for example: women (a characteristic) who’ve tried every diet and can’t lose weight (problem).
It’s useful to specify further. For example, women in their twenties living in Brighton who’ve tried every diet and can’t lose weight. (This is the niche of a hypnotherapist I worked with.)
But we can go deeper with niche and check in with three elements which make for a dream business. If you feel stuck in the “I want to work with everyone” phase, ask yourself these three questions:
Within a professional context, Do you love everyone? Does everyone love you? Does everyone want to give you money?
I’m guessing you’ve exclaimed “No!” to all three – especially the third. We find that “I want to work with everyone” isn’t that true after all, so let’s look at each of these “Love, Love, Money” elements in turn:
#1 – You love them
You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your clients. Depending on the nature of your work, you may be getting rather intimate with them, touching their bodies, being energetically connected, hearing their deepest, darkest secrets.
What type of person do you genuinely enjoy spending time with – and in close quarters? Do you love inspired writers? Busy mums? Expats starting their own businesses? Academics or office workers aiming for promotion? Gay men going through the adoption process? Burnt out environmental activists?
If you’ve already been working with clients, consider: Which names appear in your inbox and you feel happy? If you meet your clients in person, whose faces do you love seeing?
Who lights up your day?
Start noticing the key characteristics of these particular people. These are people you’d help even if they weren’t paying. You can’t help yourself: your heart goes out to them. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the part about them paying!)
This requirement of love for your clients applies even if you never meet them in person, or if it feels like your work isn’t particularly intimate. If you’re tutoring, catering or designing websites, you might be thinking, “It’s not like I ask them about their hopes and dreams, is it really that intimate?”
Yes. When there’s an energetic exchange, as there is when you’re in business, it’s intimate. Money makes relationships intimate. You’re looking to those clients for your livelihood. You enter into agreements with them every time they buy from you.
Even if you’re selling a pair of earrings, you are in relationship. There’s a bond. You’re interdependent: they get a particular need met by you, and you get a particular need met by them. Because of this implicit intimacy and connection, love matters.
#2 – They love you
Even if you got stuck on the first element, even if you feel like you love everyone equally, you need to check that these people love you. And I mean – really love you; they cannot wait to speak with you, to do business with you. They think you’re their guardian angel, dropped from the heavens.
This might sound like an ego stroke – and of course it does nurture your self-esteem – but it’s much more than that. This element is important because it affirms that your uniqueness is precisely what a group of people needs.
It’s about being acknowledged and appreciated exactly as you are – and that makes a refreshing difference from previous experiences you may have had, of working for a company that is constantly appraising you and giving you targets for improvement.
When you know you’re loved by your client group, you can relax, assured that you are perfect just as you are. You can speak with your most genuine voice and your idiosyncrasies will delight them. Your natural style is what your true niche are hungry for. If you feel you have to adapt and amend yourself, your path of passion quickly becomes drudgery and you’ll find yourself longing for your previous job.
This element does wonders for your referrals too because people who love you will rave about you to their friends and colleagues, which of course brings more clients your way.
#3 – They want to give you money
You may be able to spot your ideal client a mile off if you look only at those first two elements. These people love working with you, you love working with them, but when it comes to the payment, you encounter a block.
Perhaps they say they love what you offer and they want to exchange with their skills, paying in kind. Maybe you design a book cover for them and they repay you with Shiatsu sessions.
There’s certainly a beautiful sense of community interdependence with this kind of model, but for this to be a business that lasts, there must be a healthy incoming stream of actual money.
You might be inundated with the reciprocity of massage and yoga classes and home-baked cookies, but if you can’t pay your mortgage, your rent or your bills, then your sense of relaxation will fade fast. You’ll feel nourished in many ways but you’ll have no roof over your head, no insurance and no electricity.
In our current societal set-up, we have to pay for certain elements of our life with hard cash. Your landlord or mortgage provider is unlikely to buy into a skills swap, much as you might like them to. When you want to turn your passion into a genuine business, people you love and who love you aren’t destined to be your clients if they aren’t willing and able to pay a fair price for the service or product that meets their need.
But wait, there’s more. Not only can your ideal clients afford you but they love to give you money. I don’t want you to beg people to pay you. That just feels icky.
I want you to move away from believing that people will begrudgingly say, “Oh okay I’ll part with my money if I really have to.” That’s not going to bolster your sense of self-worth and affirm you’re on the right path.
Instead I want you to have the experience where your new clients say, “I desperately want to pay you because you’re amazing and I know that you can help me so much.” Imagine that. Literally, right now, run that little movie in your mind and notice how it feels.
This experience, and this feeling, is something you’ll experience over and over once you nail this definition of your niche.
It’ll be an ongoing journey to discover which group of people are ripe for you. You can gain clarity about your niche from so many different angles. For example, in the book, “Turn Your Passion To Profit: a step-by-step guide to getting your business off the ground” you’ll receive abundant exercises and real-life examples and case studies, plus two bonus visualizations for helping you get clarity about your niche . . .
About the Author: Corrina Gordon-Barnes wants to live in a world where marketing is fun, clients turn up easily, and money flows to those who do work that helps and heals. As a certified coach, marketing teacher and self-employment champion, she’s been featured on MindBodyGreen and LifeByMe and and published in The Ecologist, OM Yoga, Diva, and The London Paper. She’s author of Turn Your Passion to Profit: a step-by-step guide to getting your business off the ground.