To Niche Or Not To Niche

Caroline Leon
9 min readOct 12, 2020

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Whether you pronounce it nitch or you pronounce it neesh (and for the record as a Brit, I say “neesh”), it’s generally accepted that having a clear niche is considered a necessity if you want to get more clients and make money in your business.

But let’s get real here, niching is hard.

More than that it can actually feel quite counter-intuitive, especially for conscious, heart-centered types — business owners like you, who are committed to changing the world and having a positive impact on others. Because if the purpose of your business is to do good, why on earth would you want to limit that good to a specific problem and/or group of people??

I know I get it, we’ll get to why niching is important later.

For now, I’m getting ahead of myself, because we haven’t even defined what a niche is. Sure, you could probably give me a definition if I pressed you to, but on a deep down, know in your bones level, how comfortable are you really with the term niche and what the activity of niching actually involves? The truth is, a simple google search will bring up a gazillion different definitions and the dictionary definition I found online which speaks of market segments and specialized areas (yawn), is about as helpful, to the likes of you and I, as a chocolate teapot.

Here are a few helpful definitions I have found.

Tad Hargrave calls your niche the role we want to be known for in the marketplace.

George Kao describes your ideal niche as the place where you are offering a service/product that you love, and that others love to buy.

Rebecca Tracey calls your niche the problem you solve and the people you solve it for.

Danielle Gardner splits your niche statement into 3 elements — 1. Who you enjoy helping + 2. What you help them with + 3. Your take on how to approach those challenges and goals.

All of these descriptions are helpful and what they also point to is the fact that there is no hard definition when it comes to niching, which on one hand is sort of a relief (yay freedom) but on the other hand it can leave us feeling a little confused.

But defining what the term niche means is not the biggest hurdle business owners face when it comes to niching. The biggest hurdle is finding and clearly articulating our own niche. Even when we’re clear on what our niche statement should include, knowing those details for our own business is a whole other matter.

What adds to this difficulty is the barrage of messages we receive online that tell us, in order to succeed in business you absolutely MUST have a clearly defined niche! Talk about pressure.

This advice trips so many people up and places them firmly between a rock and a hard place. Because if we believe that we need to have a clear niche to be successful, then we are likely to stop ourselves engaging with the world with our business until we have found the perfect niche.

Goodbye action, hello chronic overthinking.

But guess what’s wrong with this thinking. First of all, there is no perfect niche. It is, in fact, an ever evolving thing and secondly, you won’t come to understand what your niche should be unless you are out there taking action on your business and engaging with potential clients.

But how can I enrol clients if I don’t have a clear niche? You might ask.

I had my first $10,000 month many years ago, when my niche was about as clear as mud. Back then, I helped people (all people) overcome their fears (all fears) to live the life of their dreams (all dreams). I worked with people on all sorts of issues from relationships, self-esteem, addictions, business, wanting to travel the world and so much in-between. I coached hundreds of people on a wide range of issues.

Most marketing experts would have told me that it was impossible to make good money with such a wide (read: absent) niche but I made it work for me. Something that helped all those years ago was reading these words from one of my favorite coaches, Steve Chandler:

“Most coaching “certification” programs urge novice coaches to find and choose a niche…a specialty!

I have never encountered such counter-productive nonsense. Most of the coaches I know who are extremely successful have no niche at all. A niche would limit them! It would shut them off from many categories of people who are yearning for their help.

I know coaches who emerge from “certification” programs crowing about the niche they have chosen. They have no clients, but they have a niche! “I am going to coach rodeo clowns!” I mean, good luck!

The only time I see a niche working in a coach’s favor is when it emerges on its own…..if you have a certain success in a certain category (and it can happen by accident) you can now go to other people in that category and they are more likely to listen to your success stories. But even then, you don’t have to let it restrict you.”

I eventually decided to become a business coach in much the way Steve describes. Because my coaching business was doing so well, more and more coaches started to ask me to coach them on building their coaching businesses. After several (6+) years of coaching, I realised that this was the work that lit me up most, as well as the area my work seemed to be having the greatest impact and so I made the bold leap of letting go of my successful life coaching business to start from scratch as a business coach for conscious business owners.

Looking back now I’m aware that I couldn’t have known any sooner than I did that this was the niche for me. I had to go through all of those years of coaching to find my sweet spot.

Why then is it important to have a niche?

You’re probably wondering then if what Steve Chandler says is true and if I can make $10,000 in one month without a clear niche why would you even bother? Well having a well articulated niche can help you in a lot of ways:

  • It makes it easier for people to find you because people are usually searching for support with specific issues rather than general themes.
  • It makes it easier for people to refer you, when you become known for doing that one thing (e.g, ethical marketing) when that topic comes up in conversation, so does your name.
  • It helps you to be in your zone of genius, because you are doing the work you most love to do with the people you most love to do it with, which makes working in your business more enjoyable and what you offer more impactful.
  • It allows you to achieve a level of excellence and master your skills in one area rather than just being good at many things.

Is it possible to make money without a solid niche? In my experience, yes.
Is it preferable to have a niche? In my opinion, yes!

What to avoid

The biggest mistake in all of this is trying to niche too soon. We tend to tie ourselves in knots when we attempt to pick a niche before we’ve even began the real work of serving our clients or audience. How on earth are you supposed to know a) who you most enjoy working with, b) what topics you most enjoy working on and c) where your greatest strengths lie i.e. where you can be most impactful, when you’ve only worked with a handful of people (or less)?

Here’s the truth — you can’t. So if choosing or clarifying your niche is something that has been holding you back in business here’s what to do instead.

Experiment widely!

The best advice I can give here is to EXPERIMENT — try out, play with and try on for size lots of different niches and see what works and what doesn’t.

List out all the problems you think you can help people with and all the types of people you think you’d enjoy working with and start reaching out and offering complimentary sessions (or doing market research calls) with each of those groups of people in turn.

When I went through this phase in my business, for a while I offered out complimentary coaching sessions to women who struggled to have healthy relationships (and had a few paying clients in this area!), then I spent some time offering sessions to people who would like to give up alcohol (and realised I hated coaching on this topic despite knowing a lot about it, I celebrate 10 years of living alcohol free next year!). Later on in my life coaching business — I offered more and more sessions and resources on business building (which I soon discovered was my absolute fave thing to do — hello business #2!).

Through all of this, I coached a lot of people (and got a lot of coaching practice), I also got a fair amount of paying clients and crucially I came to understand my role in the world — what I most love helping people with (business growth), who I most loved helping (conscious changemakers) AND what qualities and traits my ideal clients have (spiritually inclined, with a tendency for action, combined with a deep desire to change the world).

It’s only taken close to a decade to get to this, but my niche statement, for what it’s worth, is this.

I coach conscious business owners, such as coaches, healers and teachers, to build and grow successful online businesses, using strategies rooted in integrity,

This is, by no means, a perfect niche statement but allow me to break it down for you.

I use the term conscious to denote a type of person, with a specific way of seeing the world. To understand further, check out my article Conscious Business — What it Is and Why It Matters some people have told me that this word may not be understood by everyone and I therefore shouldn’t use it but here’s one of the keys to niching — my people, not only understand the term but relate to it because it speaks to their spirituality.

Next, I specify the type of conscious business owner and in doing so demonstrate that I largely work with service providers rather than (hold in your hand) product based businesses. People offering coaching programs, healing sessions, health and wellness services and teachers offering courses, classes and/or other digital offerings.

I specify that I work with online businesses, also ruling out bricks and mortar businesses because that’s not in my wheelhouse.

I talk about building and growing which indicates that I not only help people build their businesses from the foundations up but I also help them to grow existing ones.

And finally, the most important distinguisher for me is that my business coaching focuses on using growth strategies that are rooted in integrity as opposed to the icky and manipulative marketing tactics we all know and hate.

I share this with you to demonstrate that one simple statement covering the nuance of what you do is possible, but not in a vacuum.

If you feel unclear on your niche and feel like this is holding you back, you absolutely must be out in the world trying out different niches and working with different types of problems and people to find where you fit.

Your homework

If you’re up for it, I have a challenge for you.

This is something I have my 1:1 coaching clients do and it’s a great way to start working on your niche. Have a think about who and what you most feel called to work with right now.

If you’ve been thinking about 3 or 4 different niches you might do, which of those calls to you the most in this moment? Next I want you to sit down and write a long form post titled: I’m looking for someone…

Then go ahead and describe that person in as much detail as you can muster. What kind of person are they? What are they struggling with? What might they have tried already? How do they show up in the world? What are their values, traits, characteristics?

Once you’re happy with the description. add a sentence or two in which you offer a set number of complimentary sessions or calls with people who identify with what you’ve written and then go ahead and share it everywhere you can, with your subscribers, Facebook fans, Instagram followers and anywhere else your ideal client might be hanging out.

For one of the best examples of this I’ve see check out this post from one of my clients.

So there you have my thoughts on niching, if you have any questions or thoughts on what I’ve shared in this article, please drop them in the comments below.

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Caroline Leon

Business Coach helping conscious change makers to build and grow sustainable businesses, using strategies rooted in integrity.