- Where are your natural interests and tendencies pointing?
- What are your natural Talents?
- Make sure your topic isn’t too broad or too narrow.
- Look at what the market wants not only what you think they need
- Make sure your topic is not so narrow that you can’t write about it for several years
- Choosing your audience: don’t exclude too many folks
- Get feedback on your idea before you dig in too deep
- Resources for choosing your niche and audience
What’s the difference between a niche and an audience anyway?
So, you want to start a blog or a business with a blog /website, and you keep hearing that you are supposed to narrow it down and choose your “niche” whatever that is, and your “audience” whoever they are.
You keep hearing how important it not to be a generalist in your field. Trying to appeal to too many different industries and people is impossible.
Your niche is the general industry or topic you will be creating within, writing about and focusing on or creating and marketing products for.
Your audience is the folks who you are going to serve within that niche.
Just go ahead and pick something NOW and refine it later
Don’t agonize too much and don’t take too much time choosing your niche and audience. It is easy to spend months second-guessing yourself and worrying about getting this perfect.
Just get going in a reasonably logical direction with something you are reasonable interested in or have a background in and feel reasonably comfortable writing about. You can always course-correct as you go along.
If you never start there is no feedback to use for gaining information about what direction to go in next.
If I had waited to start my first blog until I had the perfect niche idea, I never would have gotten started at all!
It doesn’t mean you have failed if you end up pivoting or starting over
You might end up changing your topic or scratching your first project. And that’s ok. Iterations are part of the process of building a business.
If you find that you don’t enjoy one subject as much as you thought you would then move on to something completely different or refine and adjust the original project.
I started my first freelance alternative health writing portfolio: Mind-Body Copy, because I love to write and have a background as a massage therapist, Pilates instructor and I have a medical assisting certification.
This was something I knew something about and was comfortable researching and writing about. It was a logical place for me to start.
Once I got going and started writing, researching and interacting with people in the holistic health field, it became a lot clearer to me what I wanted to write about most. I also discovered a lot of affiliate products I wanted to share with regular readers. I
I ended up putting my writing portfolio site on the back burner for a while because this was geared toward companies that wanted writers but I found myself wanting to write for readers on my own blog rather than freelancing right away.
Since I had already geared the portfolio site to people looking to hire writers I started a second holistic health blog called Mind-Body Clarity for general readers.
I ended up niching down even further, to focus on the whole-foods plant-based movement with some fitness and meditation articles thrown into the mix.
This new site became the real portfolio of writing samples for freelance wellness writing I had wanted to create all along.
Then I “had” to start this third blog: Mindful Joyful, on creativity and marketing for creatives, because I didn’t want to subject my holistic health readers to off-topic posts that they were not in interested in. It was too big a stretch.
Having two different blog topics suites me because I don’t get bored and I get to write about a wider variety without alienating or confusing different audiences with topics that don’t pertain to their interests.
Where to start
You have to start with something you are interested in, good at, or able to learn about and that people want information about.
1: Where are your natural interests and tendencies pointing?
- Look back through your life at what you really have loved, enjoyed or been passionate about or at least interested in.
- Think about the jobs you have enjoyed in the past.
- What subjects did you excel at in school?
- What would you love to learn more about in depth?
Remember you are going to be at this for several years most likely so it should be something you love researching and working on as well as being something salable.
2: What are your natural Talents?
What hobbies do you do now that you could turn into a course or blog?
You most certainly have things that you are naturally good at. You might not even think that the things you can do are all that special.
But depend on it, it doesn’t come naturally to other people and you can probably teach, coach, or come up with a course or e-book or blog on the subject.
3: Make sure your topic isn’t too broad or too narrow
If you are trying to write about everything, then it isn’t a niche. If you are trying to reach everyone, you will end up reaching no one.
If you narrow it down too far, you will not be able to sustain interest. You can start small but make sure you can expand on the topic later.
How to spy on your competition
You can also research interest in a topic using Answer the Public, for free.
Similar Web also has a free version and is a great place to test ideas and see what your competitors are up to.
You can also get a sense of your audience and niche by joining Facebook groups, Reddit groups and checking out what people are saying on Twitter.
Take a look at blogs in the same niche. Don’t be discouraged if someone else has already created a similar site or product to your idea.
It’s actually a good sign if there are a fair number of blogs with large audiences and lots of engagement and comments. Competition means your topic has some interest and it will be possible to build an audience.
Even if there is a need, there may not be a want
Look at what the market really wants not only what you think they need: Do people want this thing that you can do or teach well? Sometimes you have an idea or interest, but there isn’t enough of a market for it.
People may need what you have, but it is too painful for them to even think about, so they are not going to want to read about it or address the issue.
Or it might be something that people need, but they don’t know they need it. They are not looking for it or typing in any searches for what you are offering.
In this case, you may need to find a similar topic and then introduce the thing you know people could want once you have snagged them as readers.
4: Pick something they want and then sneak in what they need
If no one is looking for what you want to sell you could pick something adjacent to your topic that has a higher search volume and draw them indirectly to becoming interested by giving them what they want, the desert and then putting some veggies (what they really need) hidden away once they know, like, and trust you.
For instance, I started with too broad a niche. I was trying to blog about all holistic health topics. And then narrowed it down too far with childhood trauma and depression as my narrow niche.
Then I read a blog article by Jon Morrow listing the worst blogging niches to try to make into a business.
My narrow topic was right there in black and white.
Jon Morrow pointed out that trying to create a blog with depression as a niche was a losing idea because it is too hard to market directly to people who are depressed.
The only way it would have worked was as a side project for a mental health professional, or geared toward family members who wanted to help, and I had no interest in getting a degree as a therapist.
No one who is depressed wants to read about depression. If you are depressed, you may not even have the energy to go looking for answers. You are not feeling well enough to do much.
I hated Jon Morrow for pointing this out. But I knew he was right.
I resisted for a while. But when I looked at the top blogs in that niche I saw that they were either big medical companies selling drugs, or individual people just writing about personal experience.
These were great blogs, with great stories of triumph and struggle, but very few people were monetizing the topic of depression directly except drug companies.
I didn’t want to simply write great articles about triumphs over depression, or ways to cope. I wanted to build a viable business.
I finally listened to the advice of the experts and pivoted to a broader niche because Jon Morrow knows his stuff while I am still a tadpole in blogging years.
Jon pointed out that only way to market to that niche is to market to friends and family who might read about helping someone with depression. I also found that I didn’t want to write about such a dreary dark topic day in and day out.
You have to ask yourself if you are going to be able to sustain interest in your subject or product long enough to keep going for the long haul.
I ended up pivoting to plant-based diet and weight loss and related holistic health and wellness topics.
I was still able to add little nuggets about all the people who have improved depression symptoms with a plant-based diet as one of my side topics.
I was a lot happier writing about my new topic thanks to Jon Morrow!
5: Make sure your topic is not so narrow that you can’t write about it for several years
At the same time don’t make it so broad that no one coming to your site will know what it is about.
When I decided I wanted to do a holistic health blog, it was too vast a topic, and I didn’t know quite where to focus.
Then I narrowed it down to healing childhood trauma and depression, and that was too narrow and dreary for me to want to write about every day for the next five years.
I found the sweet spot in between with a holistic health blog based on plant-based nutrition and branching out from there into other wellness topics.
I came up with my giant tree trunk of plant-based nutrition, which I am passionate about, with other related health topics as smaller branches. Now I am happy to write and research to my heart’s content.
6: Choosing your audience: don’t exclude too many folks
I like what Courtney Foster Donahue says about choosing an audience or “avatar.” She allows whoever is interested in her topic to be her audience rather than trying to guess the precise age, race, location, wardrobe, and earning-level of her audience.
Foster says not to get too wrapped up in some artificial avatar who only exists in your mind: 22 years old, female, heterosexual, who makes 60 thousand a year as a teacher, lives in Eugene Oregon, has purple hair, rides a fat-tire bike, and collects vintage lace.
I mean, it is fun to picture a specific person as you write, so, by all means, write to your purple-haired favorite avatar.
But allow your audience to self-select from a larger pool of people according to what they want to read about.
If you are selling vintage lace-making patterns, allow people who are interested in lace-making be any age, gender, sexual orientation, location, etc. that they want to be, while being excited and passionate about your topic.
Go find out where your lace-making audience hangs out. It doesn’t matter if they’re 60-year-old truck drivers or 14-year-old-kids, as long as they like to make lace, and have enough money to purchase and share your awesome lace-making kit.
What blogs, forums, and Facebook groups are they on? Find out and start lurking to see what issues people have about the topic.
Are they having trouble finding supplies? Do they need a centralized place to get antique lace patterns? Do they need a membership forum with a page of their own to upload their latest designs?
7: Get feedback on your idea before you dig in too deep
Fizzle has a course on customer conversations, about coming up with open-ended questions to ask real people to test out your idea.
You don’t want to guess what people want but find out what they do want by asking open-ended questions in the general area that you are thinking of offering a product or course, so you don’t spend months building the wrong thing.
Resources for choosing your niche and audience
They say you are the sum of the people you spend most of your time with so it’s nice that we have the internet to find helpful, successful mentors.
It’s a little hard to grow in isolation but that is what finding quality mentors online is all about.
I spend a lot of time with myself these days because I don’t want to hang out with people who are stuck in a rut and I don’t have constant in-person access to go-getters.
I try to flood my brain with positive ideas from people who are doing well and are encouraging.
I listen to podcasts daily, read blogs, watch videos, and get courses from people who are doing great things and whom I would like to be like when I grow up=)
Abby Lawson is the Queen of organizing and printables. She has a course for beginners on how to start a blog, one on creating and marketing your first eBook. Her blog has an understated sweetness and purity that is surprisingly genuine!
Ash Aimbridge is the queen of freelancing and services. She is the complete opposite of Abby Lawson!
Ash is purposely outrageous but just as effective. I signed up her 2019 writing workshop. I would love to get the two of them together for a blogging panel to see what would happen!
Alex and Lauren of Create and Go are the Duke and Duchess of Affiliate marketing: They are inspiring and smart.
Their courses are reasonably priced and give you an excellent overview of how to make a blogging business work but in really easy to understand format with video and lots of PDF downloads.
They are always updating their courses. There is so much information that I still have not implemented everything they suggest.
They are making tons of money, but they are jaw-droppingly humble and even take time to reply to my YouTube and Facebook questions and comments.
Ed Gandia is the king of freelancing. He started in sales but found out that he was good at writing and has been at it for years, specializing in white papers and technical writing. He has a blog rich in details about getting your freelance writing business started. His niche is freelance writing.
If you want to write and are not sure of how to pin down your niche and audience read his blog. He has just about the most useful newsletter I have read and a monthly membership that walks you through the various stages of starting to freelance.
Jon Morrow is the God Father of blogging has several great programs for helping people get started and learn to narrow down their focus and figure out what their audience wants. I am getting put through my paces with his Guest Blogging course at the moment. Read my review of his course, Serious Bloggers Only.
Jorden Roper is the Queen of Cold Email Marketing her course was the first one I found when I decided to get serious about blogging and writing. I found her personal story, blog to be just what I needed to give me the push to get started.
She was an excellent example of someone who just got started in one niche and then pivoted later. She began writing on tech for tech blogs because she had been writing for a tech company when she was laid off. It was a logical place for her to start. She already knew this market.
All she had to do was figure out how to get their attention and start pitching. Her cold email course walks you through a lot of the basics if you want to be a freelance writer.
After a year of success in one niche, she decided she wanted to change her niche, so she closed down her old site and started a website for helping freelance writers learn how to pitch and promote themselves and sidestep the low pay content-mills. Now she is pivoting again to enlarge her scope to all creatives who want to freelance. It has been fun to watch her develop over the last couple of years.
Courtney Foster Donahue is the Queen of Facebook. Sign up for her newsletter to get news about her free workshops and paid courses. She is a good example of a creative person who also has business smarts.
Michelle Ward is the Fairy Godmother of helping Multipassionate women of business prioritize without closing themselves off into narrow niches. Check out her site If your multi-disciplinary or multi-talented and thinking of starting a coaching or service-oriented business.
I have her creative live course and her book. I love her inspiring emails that remind me that I don’t have to be like everyone else.
Find Your uniquity with The Abundant artist blog by Corey Huff, the Prince of online marketing for artists. I have his book. and would love to get coaching some day.
Fizzle has a monthly business building course membership Extensive library of courses for all levels of business. Read my in-depth review here.
So what are you waiting for?
Get out there and start iterating, pivoting, succeeding and falling down and getting back up!
Lather, rinse, and repeat.