You’ve finally made the brave decision to create the life of your dreams.
The life of a freelancer.
No more commuting, stiff work attire, or idle office gossip.
Now you get to create your own schedule, work only with the clients you like, and carve out a life you’re proud of.
You’re still staying awake at night.
You’re not getting the Sunday night dread of the nine to five, but there’s another kind of pressure slowly eating away at you.
It’s the pressure of not knowing what niche to pick to finally get your freelance career moving in the right direction.
Sure, you’ve had a few ideas, but nothing you’ve committed to.
Maybe you’ve even had a few clients, but something didn’t seem right.
And you’re worried that if you don’t have some kind of direction, a path to follow to make your freelancing career a success, then you’ll succumb to a freelancer’s worst nightmare.
Tune out excessive expert advice
This likely isn’t the first article you’ve read about choosing a freelancer niche.
This is probably one of a long list of posts, videos, downloadables, and webinars that supposedly help you to choose your calling. Or your passion. Or the best niche to make the most profit.
But that’s the issue.
Often, struggling freelancers feel they have to choose between either finding their passion and having no idea how to translate that into real earning potential, or choosing a ‘highly profitable’ niche that they couldn’t care less about.
Listening to what some expert or guru tells you to do because it worked for them, is really only going to work with a handful of freelancers.
We’re all unique, with our own mix of experience, personality, and skills.
Choosing a niche is not a one-size-fits-all activity.
The thing is, only you really know what you enjoy doing and where your strengths lie.
Pitfalls of the wrong niche (or no niche at all)
For a new or struggling freelancer, there’s a risk of choosing the wrong niche.
Not having hands-on experience in the niche you’ve picked is a common reason, but also relying on someone else to tell you what they should pick because it worked for them is another.
If you choose the wrong niche, you feel restricted.
You feel unmotivated to look for clients or complete projects.
You’re frustrated that your work isn’t giving you the satisfaction you wanted.
Navigating the wrong niche makes you wonder whether freelancing is for you. Did you make the right decision to quit your day job?
The stress of being in the wrong niche mounts up, so you decide that you don’t need a niche. You can choose any project in any industry from any client, and maybe it’ll all work itself out.
A path to success will carve itself, right?
Whilst a niche shouldn’t make you feel confined to a tiny number of opportunities, having no niche can give you too many.
Being a generalist is okay, but shaping the right niche for you will click everything into place.
You’ll get out of bed energised for your working day ahead.
You’ll be excited to work with your clients and proud of the work you deliver.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way to stop struggling and finally find the niche that works for you.
You’ll need a pen and paper, or your favourite note-taking app for this next bit!
Discover what you’re good at
You can’t choose a niche unless you know what you’re good at.
Skills that you’re even remotely good at can be learned and improved upon.
Get yourself a pen and paper, and start writing down the skills you know you’re good at. Here are some examples:
- juggling lots of daily tasks
- talking on the phone
- writing convincing copy
- designing amazing social media graphics
- Knowing spreadsheets inside and out
- Making people feel good about themselves
Revisit old clients or workplaces
Make a list of all the places you may have worked in the past, as an employee, intern, volunteer, or freelancer.
As an example:
- Intern at a publisher
- Insurance account manager at a business insurance firm
- Goodwill store volunteer
- Freelance voice artist for a gift card company
Past workplaces and clients give you valuable experience working in different sized teams and hierarchies.
It helps to jot down the industry the company was in, too, as these can hint at niches you may not have considered.
Explore your passions
While you shouldn’t always focus on following your passion as your sole motivation as a freelancer, it’s also vital you enjoy what you do!
What hobbies do you lose yourself in? Are you passionate about the environment, music, love, or politics?
Take note of all the things in life that you don’t necessarily associate with work, but that you absolutely love to be involved in.
Figure out your personality type
Are you an extravert who loves to energise other people? Or are you an introvert, who prefers focusing quietly on their own? Maybe you’re even somewhere in between.
The Myers Briggs test fairly accurately helps you discover personality traits about yourself that determine how your relationships, work, friendships, lifestyle, and other areas affect you (and I’m kind of obsessed with how eerily accurate they are).
It’s a useful tool in helping you figure out what kind of work suits you, and may uncover something new that you hadn’t considered before.
I love 16personalities because it’s easy to complete and gives you a ton of useful information.
Did your test bring back results that made sense? Some that didn’t?
What about job suggestions? Circle the ones that really speak to you (or write them down).
Turn to friends and family
You know yourself better than anyone, but it’s always good to get a second opinion!
Lean on your friends and family — the people you spend the most time with — for advice on what they know you to be amazing at.
Chances are, they can see some things in you that you can’t, and help reveal your strengths and quirks!
You guessed it…. Write them down!
Go with your gut
It’s all very well writing lists of potential skills and experience, but how do you actually feel with certain types of work?
It’s time to go through the list you’ve made of skills you ace, work experience, your passions, your personality-type job suggestions, and the family and friends quirks.
Pay attention to that inner gut feeling as you think of what the skills or experience involves.
We often rely too much on external cues telling us what we should and shouldn’t enjoy, so for now, I want you to listen to your reactions.
On my list of things I’m good at, I have ‘diffusing angry customers’. I did it for years in customer support roles and I’m pretty good at it.
But when I think about the prospect of doing this, I actually feel my stomach tighten and an ‘inner cringe’ happening.
Before my logical brain kicks in and tells me that, if I’m good at it, I should pursue it, I’ve already had an involuntary shudder at the thought!
The fact is, I hate customer-facing roles now. I avoid confrontation like the plague, and therefore it’s not something I would actively seek out as a job now.
See what I mean? Here’s another example:
When I design layouts for small graphics like Facebook posts, I lose track of time and find myself going into a ‘flow state’.
I love combining just the right colours, shapes, and text, and writing the content, and it never feels like a chore to me.
Inside, I feel excited about it! Sure, not ‘buying my own private library’ kind of excitement, but it’s a little jolt of joy that’s noticeable!
Circle or highlight the ones that make you feel great.
However — don’t cross out the negative ones just yet.
Connect the dots
By now, you should have a long, messy list of things you love, things you hate, and a load of in-betweeny bits.
Now here’s the most difficult part.
This bit is really important, but it’s the part that’ll take the most time and probably a few goes to get something that makes sense.
The things that are worth having are never easy though, are they?
The big job now is to connect all of these things together, to form a kind of custom niche that works for you, based on your experience, skills, loves, and personality traits.
It’s not always obvious, either, but bear with me.
An interesting place to start is with your passions. You know, those things that you dream about doing as a career!
As these can often seem like a ‘pipe dream’, they might seem, at first glance, as unobtainable goals.
But hold on — there’s a way for you to realistically turn your passions into a freelancing career, without heartache and without going hungry.
Let’s take music as a common example. Say you live and breath music — your day isn’t the same without blasting the cobwebs off the walls with some of your favourite power metal. You never miss a local concert if you can help it, and your wardrobe is basically 90% band tees.
Does it mean you have to be the next hotshot lead guitarist?
Of course not!
Loving music doesn’t mean that you have to become a musician.
Let’s look at your list again — this time, focusing on what you’re good at.
Are you good at social media marketing? You could help grow and maintain a band’s Facebook page.
A whizz at designing? Have you thought about creating designs for band merchandise?
Did you once work at the local theatre? Use the know-how of working with acts to help them find new events to perform at.
Connecting your passions with your other realistic skills and experience can be a fantastic and very real way to create a career around something you love, without struggling to make it work by going the direct route that everybody else takes.
It makes it feel like less of a leap of faith too — you aren’t making any unknown decisions, because you’re creating a new path from trusted and tried skills you already have.
It’s all about using what you know and transforming it into something actionable and achievable.
Allow things to evolve
Remember, freelancing — like any career choice — evolves.
I’m not doing what I was when I first started freelancing nearly ten years ago!
But choosing a solid starting point will help you figure out more of what you love to do and less of what you hate.
Because when all is said and done, it’s the doing that makes the real difference to your success.
This method of helping you finally realise where to start is just that — where to start.
Only you can determine how your freelancer career unfolds.
But now you’re equipped with the knowledge and the power to actually do something about your fear of staying stuck.
Those sleepless nights can instead become restful ones, with something exciting and rewarding to wake up to in the morning.
Sure, it won’t happen overnight.
Take your time with it. Don’t force things.
But when you finally figure out what path you want to take, you’ll feel it in your gut and in your heart.
You’ll have finally made the brave decision to create the life of your dreams.