- 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. You have heard that you should choose your “niche” whatever that is, and your “audience” whoever they are.
You keep hearing how important it is 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 writing about. Or the type of business you will be creating and marketing products for.
Your audience is the folks who you are going to serve within that niche.
Pick something NOW and refine it later
Don’t agonize too much and don’t take too much time choosing your niche and audience
You could spend months second-guessing yourself and worrying about getting this perfect.
Get going in a logical direction with something you are reasonably interested in.
Find something you already have a background in and feel 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 out that you don’t enjoy the niche you have chosen as much as you thought you would move on to something else.
You can always choose again or refine and adjust the original idea
My first niche was the whole huge field of health and fitness.
I started my writing portfolio because I love to write and have a background in wellness.
I was a massage therapist and a Pilates instructor. I also have a medical assisting certification.
I knew something about health and fitness. It was a logical place for me to start.
Once I started writing my own health blog 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.
Then I put my writing portfolio site on the back burner for a while because I wanted to try affiliate blogging.
I had created my writing site for people looking to hire writers. So I started a second health blog called Mind-Body Clarity for a general audience.
Then I narrowed my niche down even further. I decided to focus on the whole-foods plant-based movement. I still wanted to write about fitness, and meditation but I had a central focus.
This new site became my portfolio of writing samples I had wanted to create all along.
Then I “had” to start a third blog on marketing for creatives. I didn’t want to subject my holistic health readers to off-topic posts that they were not interested in. It was too big a stretch.
Having two different blog topics suits me because I don’t get bored. I get to write about a wide variety of things without alienating anyone.
I don’t want to confuse different audiences with topics that don’t pertain to their interests.
Where to start
You have to start with something you are 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 have loved, enjoyed, or been passionate about.
- 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?
You are going to be at this for several years so it should be something you love researching and working on. It should also be something people will pay you to write.
2: What are your natural Talents?
What hobbies could turn into a course or blog?
You have things that you are good at. You might not even think that the things you can do are all that special.
Things that are easy for you do not come naturally to other people. You can 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.
You can get a sense of your audience and niche by joining Facebook groups, and Reddit groups. Check out what people are saying about your niche on Twitter.
Competition is a good sign that you have a healthy niche
Take a look at blogs in the same niche as your idea. Don’t be discouraged if someone else has already created a similar site or product.
It’s 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 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 it.
They will not want to read about it or address the issue if it is too dark.
4: Pick something they want and then sneak in what they need
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.
Find a similar topic and then introduce the topic you know people need after you have gained trust.
If no one is looking for what you want to write about, pick something next to your topic that has a higher search volume.
Give them what they want, the “dessert”. Then add some “veggies” (what they need) 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.
Then narrowed it down too far with childhood trauma and depression as my narrow niche. It was way too sad and dark.
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.
It is too hard to market directly to people who are depressed. Depressed people do not want to read about depression.
If you have depression, you may not even have the energy to go looking for answers.
The only way it would have worked was as a side project for a Psychotherapist.
I had no interest in getting a degree as a therapist.
Jon Morrow suggested taking the same topic but changing the audience to family members who wanted to help depressed people would be willing to read about it.
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 big medical companies selling drugs. Or there were individual people 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 except drug companies.
I didn’t want to write great articles about triumphs over depression as a hobby. I wanted to build a viable business.
I finally listened to the advice of the experts. I pivoted to a broader niche because Jon Morrow knows his stuff while I am still a tadpole in blogging years.
I also found that I didn’t want to write about such a dreary dark topic day in and day out.
I added articles about all the people who improved their moods with a plant-based diet.
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.
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. 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 with a holistic health blog. Plant-based nutrition is the core. I branch out from there into other related wellness topics.
I came up with my giant tree trunk of plant-based nutrition, which I am passionate about. Then I added 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 has an interest in her topic to be her audience. She doesn’t try to guess the precise age, race, location, wardrobe, or earning level of her audience.
Donahue 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.”
It’s fun to picture a specific person as you write, so, by all means, write to your purple-haired avatar.
But allow your audience to self-select from a larger pool of people who know what they want to read about.
If you’re selling vintage lace-making patterns, your audience can be of any age, gender, sexual orientation, location, etc.
As long as they are passionate about your topic they are your audience.
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 buy and share your awesome lace-making kit then they are your audience.
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. They show you how to come up with open-ended questions to test out your idea.
Don’t guess what people want. Find out what they want by asking open-ended questions, so you don’t spend months building the wrong thing.
So what are you waiting for?
Get out there and start iterating. Don’t be afraid to pivot. The sooner you start the sooner you can succeed and fail and fall down and get back up!
Lather, rinse, and repeat.