This epic guide will walk you through choosing and defining the perfect and profitable niche for your online business.
We’re in the middle of the “Great Reset” and things are changing for all of us. Never in our lifetimes have employees been on such shaky ground and because the future looks so uncertain, one of the best ways we can ensure security is to create our own.
Trouble is – starting a business isn’t as easy as just waking up one day and deciding to do it – although that’s a fine start!
To make this whole thing work, you need to find a profitable niche.
One that you can do, one which people want to buy – and one which makes you money.
It’s often at the start of our journey that those horrible doubts start creeping in and we wonder wtf we’re qualified to do and what on earth gives us the idea we’ve got anything worth selling to anyone.
I’m here to tell you that you do not:
- need a business degree with a masters in digital marketing
- need to be a certified coach
- need a high school diploma
- need a ton of money behind you to start!
There are a million crazy ideas out there and 7 billion people who might just be crazy enough to buy your crazy idea!
And if you think I’m being crazy and just serving up platitudes then can I please have your attention for …
the amazing, the dazzling, the incredible, the one and only… CRAZY NICHE HALL OF FAME
In reverse order of absolutely nuts we have:
At number 3:
When Hallmark doesn’t truly convey the words you want to send… when only a potato will send the very message inscribed upon your heart:
At number 2:
Because sometimes a potato message isn’t quite hitting the spot – what could say it better than a Bag of Dicks? (I think I might send these to my ex-husband 😀 ) https://bagofdicks.com/
At number 1 – our winner is…
… the craziest f*cking niche I’ve seen this year!
Because you just don’t see enough chickens wearing diapers these days!
So if you’ve been sat there idly thinking of things you might be able to turn into a business and then talking yourself out of them… spare a moment to consider the person who never doubted that chickens needed diapers – and that they were going to make money do it!
I actually found chicken diaper lady because I read a report a few months ago about a woman making $50k/year selling costumes for chickens.
I didn’t even know chickens wore costumes until I read that… but apparently not only DO they wear costumes – but they wear $50k worth.
Take a moment and ask your kids if they’ve got any whacky ideas about what business they could run – because you never know, there might be a winner in there and surely potato parcels must’ve been a kid’s idea!?
As you can see – you can make a business out of literally anything in our crazy chicken diaper world! And if you’ve stumbled across crazier niches than these then I NEED to hear about them – email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org and give me a cracking laugh!
There’s a bit of an “untruth” out there in the online entrepreneurial world, and that is the trope “follow your passion”.
Now I don’t know about you, but my passions include hanging out at the stables and burying my face in a horse’s neck, eating really good Belgian chocolate (Neuhaus since you ask or even better: Mary’s from the Grand Place in Brussels!) and curling up under a heavy blanket.
You see where I’m going with this… nobody’s going to pay me to indulge myself there! Although it does bring into question those “crazy niches” up there – was that person really passionate about dicks? 😉
Why aren’t male entrepreneurs told to “follow their passion”?
This is where we need to start being realistic – and we could also take a little look at why men are not told to “follow their passion” – it’s language thrown at women to belittle our achievements and capabilities and to keep us small! And I know that’s not how you want to play!
You want a business that pays real money because you aren’t there for a hobby. You have children to feed, bills to pay and there’s no other person in your household coming along at the end of the money with a pay-check. It’s all on you!
If you’re on the go you can dictate ideas to Siri to create a note – or alternatively, I absolutely love Otter which is an app you can dictate to from your phone and it transcribes what you’re saying so you can come back to it later and read what you’ve said.
It’s an absolute life-saver for those of us with demanding kids! I also use it when I’m in the car otherwise I end up driving 20 miles repeating “remember to do X, remember to do X, remember to do X” – and that snippet of brilliance disappears somewhere between closing the car door and opening the house door – story of my life!
Brainstorm all the things you’re good at
This step is where women often falter – especially if they’ve been in the role of wife and mother and were never able to forge their own path until now.
There are doubts in minds about not having finished college, never having had a “proper” job, or recent experience or yada yada yada.
But every day you’ll be doing something you’re absolutely amazing at that you don’t even realise you are – because it’s so ingrained within you.
Should you be the organiser to the stars? I never thought Marie Kondo would be so big – but people are Kondo crazy (not me, I like my *stuff*! )
What about Mrs Hinch? She’s shows people how to clean their homes.
Do you have qualifications or skills from your paid employment that you could utilise?
You don’t need to apply the skills you’ve learned at the office for example. I’m a software engineer by trade and spent 15 years working in a corporate environment as a technical project manager. One of my colleagues quit and started a coffee import business because she was crazy for coffee! One quit and became a chef – and one quit and became a taxi-driver.
What I’m trying to say is – don’t let yourself be confined to that narrow focus you maybe chose when you were 18 and going to college or getting your first full-time job.
I hope that gives you some thinking and gets your brain firing.
Dive Deeper and Explore Ideas
I hope you had some fun playing around with the brainstorming exercise and thinking about some of the things you’re really good at.
It’s so easy to overlook the stuff we have a really strong knack for because we just do it A-Z with no detours and we forget it might be something which others don’t find natural and they struggle with.
Now I want you to dive deeper into 4 of those ideas you’ve come up with in your brainstorming session.
These should be the ones you ranked 1-4, but it’s totally possible after sleeping on it and having a good think – you look at that list and think “nuh-uh” and that is BRILLIANT!
Nobody wants to be tied to a business or niche idea which makes them feel doubtful or even… dread!
So if you’ve realised that 1 or more of the 4 you ranked aren’t really you – just swap out another instead.
It’s best to do the next step looking at 4, but if you don’t have 4 that really appeal then that’s fine too.
So let’s look a little closer at those ideas you came up with – I’m really, really praying that at least one of you is going to start sending Bags of Dog Dicks ! 😉 – but perhaps you’ll stick with something more traditional like wanting to do “VA” work.
I tend to do my ROCK SOLID SALES MACHINE on the title “VA” – but right now, you go right ahead and call yourself a VA. *VA = Virtual Assistant – basically you’re doing digital things to help someone’s online business.
Examples of refining your idea: What would be the “VA” skill you could offer the world at large? E.g.,
- You can pivot an Excel sheet like Ginger Rogers moving backwards in heels.
- You think given your experience with Mom Saturday Night Entertainment [tm] that you’re possibly the biggest Pinterest expert your town has ever seen!
The Pinterest one is a great example actually. I rarely use Pinterest except for looking at pictures of Bento boxes which then make me feel like a totally inadequate mother! – so if I wanted to set up my business account I would face a steep learning curve and it would be time and cost-effective for me to pay someone else to do it.
That’s where your expert knowledge comes in – (and it’s now something my VA is doing for me!)
*”Coaching” – a lot of people seem to think you need a coaching qualification to be able to coach people.
*People don’t give a damn about your certifications – they just want to know you walk the walk! So don’t let the lack of formal qualifications hold you back from doing what you do.
Basic Research – Is the Idea Sellable or Will it Crash and Burn?
Take a quick delve into the online world and see if anyone else is doing what your 4 ideas have come down to.
If nobody, but nobody is doing it – it could be indicative that it’s a crappy idea – others have tried and others have failed.
EDIT APRIL 2021: FUCK IT! Do that shit ANYWAY! BE the fucking LEADER!
But really, there’s not much originality left out there and you’d have to come up with something pretty special to be truly and original – seriously!
Even the chicken clothes lady has competition! If there are a whole bunch of people doing it then you can rest assured it’s viable and that people make $$$ – which is why we’re here. s them feel doubtful or even… dread!
Are you Getting the Feelz?
Would you be proud to tell people what you do? —That’s the telling one, if you can see yourself happily telling people what you do without feeling weird, shady or embarrassed then you’re on to a winner.
If the idea isn’t quite right then you’ll not want to share it with the world – and sharing your business idea and being sure that you are capable of delivering is what’s going to give you the mindset to push forward with all of this – and mindset really is paramount for success.
“if niches were quiches, I’d have eaten the whole buffet“
– and what I mean is that until I discovered and embraced what I do now I skipped through a few niches which didn’t fit me at all… but I thought it was what I should rather than could.
As a result I was never really comfortable telling people what I was doing or why.
My mindset was totally in the wrong place and I’d have rather crawled under my duvet and cried than actually y’know… talk to people and potentially find a new customer!
Take some time and sleep on it and see how you feel in the morning – there should be one clear winning idea from the 4 you’ve narrowed down.
SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
Congratulations on narrowing down the field and choosing your shiny new business idea – now we can really get to work and start fine-tuning that niche so that your business stands out from the crowd and truly represents you.
So let’s take a deeper look at what SWOT means for your business concept.
Some examples you can use to get your brain firing for your particular idea might be:
You are a Subject Matter Expert – you know this because you’ve worked through the previous 2 steps and have chosen the idea which best fits your area of expertise and you know you are bloody awesome at it!
You are wonderful you – and nobody is going to do “you” quite like you – and certainly nowhere near as good as you.
You genuinely care about the people you serve and are working to improve their lives and outcomes.
Established network of contacts already in place – this is particularly useful if you have a strong LinkedIn profile or even for example you’re in the health area and are well-known for your sporting achievements. We all know someone!
Low start-up costs due to being able to work from home online so do not require a lease of office-space or specialist equipment.
There are probably already others established in this niche and some of them might be more knowledgeable than you.
But look around you – in fact, look around your kitchen. Did Samsung swerve away from building fridges because Philips had already done that? You start. You build. You grow.
Right now you don’t have the experience of serving your customers and this is going to take a bit of getting used to until you can iron out your processes and establish your methods of working.
It’s also going to be a steep learning curve in terms of customer service and expectations – but none of this is insurmountable.
You may struggle with time management and focus with the unpredictability of having children around – I hear you, my son is off school today and as I type this he’s interrupted me asking for medicine and I can hear him coughing… I can still focus – but productivity will not be great today. Thankfully my schedule allows for some flexibility.
Lack of knowledge with the tech aspects of running an online business – it’s all “learnable”… is learnable a word? 😉
Dodgy WiFi or risk of laptop dying.
Other people are working in this niche so you know it’s a niche which people want – and are prepared to pay for.
You will be working online, this means your reach is virtually limitless and you can appeal to anyone, anywhere.
Good ideas breed good ideas.
This means that as you begin to establish yourself you will find it increasingly easy to spot gaps in the market which you can serve.
That means that you will either be able to make a small pivot with your business – or expand into new areas and grow multi-directional.
You will probably have a wobble looking at others more established in your niche and wonder how you can possibly compete.
My advice for this is to keep your eyes on what YOU are doing and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.
I’ve known more than one person get side-tracked because they’re focused too much on what their competitors are doing.
Eyes on your lane only please and no stalking your competitors on social media!
The person 1 week behind you who’s entering this niche too!
Changes in consumer behaviour towards your niche – but this can also be seen as an opportunity within a small business because it means you’re agile enough to pivot to the market’s needs.
Understanding why your niche is a niche
Now it’s time to take a firm, sensible and strategic look at your niche and I’m going to rip apart those words “VA” and “Coach” and set you up with something better so that you become irresistible to your customers.
It’s all about really zoning in on what you do and why you need to be super-specific here so that you stand out from all the people in the online world.
Looking at my real dictionary – yes! I have a proper paper dictionary – good for Scrabble arguments. Niche is defined as:
- a position exactly suitable for the person occupying it
- of or aimed at a specialist group or market
Because we’re bold leaders, we can’t faff about with a generic business idea which a gazillion other people are going to be doing. We need to mean business from the outset so that our business makes it.
OK, I promised you I was going to destroy the words COACH and VA!
People aren’t looking for coaches or VA’s, they’re looking for solutions to their problems.
When you want to eat Thai food – do you go to Google and type “food”? Or do you go to Google and type “Vegan Thai restaurant near me”?
The more specific you can be, the more you’re going to stand out in that niche and be found by the people who really want to find you.
Want to buy blue suede shoes with tassles? Gonna go to Google and type “shoes” and hope that Google throws up those cute blue ones for you? No way! You know what you want – I’m reluctant to use the word “need” when it comes to pretty shoes… 😉
If your niche is too generic people just aren’t going to find you, understand what you do – and not be interested in having to research you to try and figure out whether you can help or not.
If you are lucky enough to find any customers – it’s more than likely you won’t be a good fit.
Because they didn’t really know what they were looking for and you didn’t really know what you were selling then nobody’s expectations are met and this isn’t a nice feeling for either of you.
When you’ve really nailed your niche and you’re selling the one thing your customers really want then the chances are you know you’re going to be a great fit.
You both know what service is being sold and you both know the expected outcome and results and this makes for h.a.p.p.y. people.
If you’re calling yourself a Life Coach then I believe you totally when you say you’ve been through a whole heap of shit and have come out the other side still standing, still surviving and still thriving.
But honestly? You’re not an expert in all facets of life – and it’s disingenuous to suggest that you actually do know all the answers to everything.
Well, your kids might believe that – but back in the real world we know it can’t be true. If it were true there would be statues, museums and airports named in your honour!
So you need to decide on your pure focus and zone of genius here – and name it – E.g., Ugly divorce coach, Parenting pre-teens with Autism, Confidence after weight gain.
You get my drift.
These are all specifics which would fall under the umbrella of “life coach”, but you’re narrowing your focus – which actually is inversely proportional to the interest you’ll get!
When you’ve got this generic business name and focus then you don’t appeal to anyone – people want to know your expertise and how you can help them.
Really? Big claim there if you’re just starting out.
How about you’re an absolute expert in closing sales? An expert in HR? An expert in communications, Pinterest Guru, etc.
If your aim is genuinely to be a business coach and help other people create their businesses then that is a fantastic goal and I wish you all the very best luck with it – and I believe you can do it!
But right now you need to build your credibility and expertise. I’ve seen far too many women attempt to crack the “Business Coach” industry when honestly?
They simply don’t have the experience of creating or running a successful business and in many cases came from a background which didn’t map either directly – or indirectly to this niche.
You can build your credibility by selling the expertise you have in one specific area of business.
If this means for example that you’re a real Queen at sales – then you go out there and you sell yourself as the woman who can help you sell!
As you do this you’ll learn about other parts of running a business and not only will this allow you to see whether you actually are on the path you thought you wanted to be on – but it’s going to increase your expertise in more areas which you may be able to sell in the future.
Nooooo!I don’t want a VA!
I want to employ someone who’s an absolute whiz with Dubsado or can set up some email sequences for me in ConvertKit.
I am not going to sift through your website and try and figure out what you’re good at – then potentially call or email you and ask if you’ve got any experience with Dubsado.
I’m going straight to the woman who’s very clear she knows Dubsado inside-out.
I don’t have either the time or inclination to teach someone how to use Dubsado for me. If I had that kind of time I’d be doing it myself and saving the $$$.
Again, you’re not going to be an expert in all systems relating to running a business – and that’s OK too.
Just own the thing you’re bloody amazing at and make no apologies for not knowing #alltheotherthings.
Name your fine niche – that one thing you’re going to known for.
Don’t get ahead of yourself and start imagining all the things you’d want to be doing 6 months from now – you’re going to have time to expand on your niche of now.
Right now you need to focus on that one zone of genius.
Once you’ve got regular money coming in and you’ve built that credibility, then is when you can increase your reach with new offerings.
Next stop is looking at your Strategy Statement (elevator pitch) to reflect that zone of genius – and I promise you, I’m not going to be fluffy and nice about it!
I’m really excited for you as you make these changes and tune into what you’re best at and how this is going to work for you, and I’d love to know how you’re getting on – so you can always drop me a line at email@example.com to run your idea past me.
Phew – well done! I know that because you’ve reached this far, you’re an action-taker who’s really committed to building a sustainable and successful business and you’re serious about getting it right – so I’m utterly thrilled to have you here – THANK YOU!
I really appreciate it and your feedback will help me help other women who are making changes to their lives too. Now is when we bring all your hard work and ideas to their glorious finale!
You’re going to create an Elevator Pitch which conveys instant clarity, expertise and demonstrates the solution you provide. *
Your Elevator Pitch is your 30 seconds of glory when you’re riding the elevator and someone strikes up conversation and says “So… what do you do?”. But realistically it’s the way you talk about your business when networking.
It should roll off your tongue without sounding feeble or half-hearted – and it shouldn’t make your audience cock their heads and give you the WTF look! 😉
We want to keep it under 30 seconds so we’re not talking AT any potential clients and you don’t have a chance to bore the crap out of people and make them immediately want to run away.
A common mistake I see at this stage are when people either over-complicate things in an attempt to sell outside the niche they worked so hard to define – and/or wow with industry specific buzzwords.
Let me give you a few examples of these generic elevator speeches which talk to nobody – and run the risk of being nothing more than word salad.
“I’m a life coach who helps women achieve their soulful purpose.”
“I help women live the life they deserve and feel content.”
“I’m a business coach for female entrepreneurs who want to grow their business.”
“I empower women…”
The response you’re going to get from any of those is “oh right” and probably an accompanying puzzled look!
None of them provoke questions or discussion – and personally, I have no frickin’ idea what “soulful purpose” is supposed to me for me right now in my life!
Ditch the vague and ditch the buzzwords.
I worked with someone very recently who’s a psychic. She works with women who feel somehow stunted within their life but can’t quite put their finger on what the problem is and so they can’t solve what they don’t know.
I’ve worked with her and she’s great. She said I needed to forgive myself for my divorce because I was still harbouring so much anger towards my ex-husband and that I needed to forgive myself for “getting it wrong” and marrying him.
She picked up on that even though I wouldn’t have in a million years admitted that to anyone because I was so ashamed I married him and that I’d “failed” at marriage.
But within her pitch she was using the phrases: “Intuitive Healer “freedom in your soul” “aligned with your own authentic power” “your own intuitive gifts” “step into your divine mission”.
OK, 1: it was far too long and 2. I have absolutely no bloody idea what any of that means.
It might be going off like a klaxon to others of the “woo-woo crowd”, but unless she was planning to sell her services to those ALREADY in that crowd then it’s just word nonsense to those of us who haven’t had any contact with this niche.
But herein lies the rub. She actually wants to sell to women just like me – i.e., practical, average types who have never even considered working with someone who uses their intuition to help them solve their problems.
So I helped her halve it in length with harsh editing – and also remove those “industry” phrases and replace them with words which convey the message to the “woman in the street” rather than the expert.
She wanted to keep a little of the woo but we steered it more towards: ” I’m xxx and I use my intuitive and psychic gifts to anchor you. I work with ambitious women who are held back by secrets they don’t want to admit because they don’t know how to move past them.”
This is now short and punchy and can be understood.
The 3 main elements to your pitch:
1. The specific person or niche we serve –
E.g., “I work with dauntless women“.
I do not work with people who are living in fear and I’m not interested in working with men.
2. The problem our customer is having – or what they want to do.
E.g., “arm them with the no-BS skills and strategies“.
3. The solution or end goal of what you provide.
E.g., “to run an online business without the drama“.
I use “arm” rather than “I help” because it sounds less passive.
Although many templates and examples will suggest you use “I help”, ask yourself whether there is a better verb you can use to fit your own business.
A jumping off point for creating your pitch will be:
I [verb] with [your niched client] who [their problem] to [your solution].