Finding your niche

November 27th, 2007

Before my foray into publishing, the first niche I tried to exploit had mixed results. When I was in high school I decided I wanted to become a professional magician. There are many different directions a magician can take. There’s the general performer who does shows locally for parties and special events. There are close-up magicians that work in restaurants and private parties. Then there are trade show magicians who specialize in working with large companies that can make as much as the CEO’s they’re hired to entertain. I decided on performing big stage illusions; so the obvious choice at the time was to work on cruise ships. Living in Fort Lauderdale made that an easy choice. I got off to an excellent start. At least I thought so.

Although I had chosen a specific niche that seemed to lead to where I wanted to go, I was less than passionate about it. It took me a while to learn that I could create my own niche based upon the things I was passionate about. You may have discovered that some of your ambitions aren’t all they can be. If the problem isn’t your work ethic, then it’s likely you need to consider changing your direction or approach.

Looking at your combination of interests and skills, you want to find one that looks interesting from every angle. For me, magic was fun; working on a cruise ship was not. I would have been better suited finding a way that I could have tied performing magic with one of my interests.

Generally, your niche is a market based upon your interest. Although video editing is an interest of mine, it’s really more of a skill. I have a generalized view of the industry and the technology, but I don’t keep up with it anywhere near the level I do my interests in science and entertainment. I’d be pretty bored focusing my energy on mainly reading video journals and software manuals.

If my interest was magic and my skill was creating magic tricks, I could have just kept on being a regular magician. I also could have done more work for other magicians as a creative advisor. However, my interest in magic was small compared to my interest in marketing. Marketing products based upon my skill was a better fit. Marketing my ideas worked out really well.

Your niche starts with your best fit. If you have an interest in scuba diving, somewhere between the factory where the tanks are made and the reef where the fish live there’s a great opportunity for you to apply one or more of your skills. If you’re looking to create a product or service that deals with your interest, look for a market where your skill has value.

I tried lots of different kinds of writing before I wrote my first magic book. When I was in a position where I had to find a niche where I could actually make money, I had to identify a market that I already had the skills for. This is a very important point: I didn’t choose a market that I wanted to have skills in. I chose one where my existing skills were already in demand.

A big mistake people make is they choose an interest and pursue it without any skills. I had few skills as a marketer, but my skills as an inventor were enough for me to base my interest in marketing upon. Rather than try to develop some skill you don’t possess, look closely at the skills you already have. Those are your best shots at being successful in that interest.

Another point to remember is that even two successful people in similar positions in similar fields might have very different interests and skills. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both the heads of high tech companies. Whereas Bill Gates interest in competition and business drives his skills in computing, Steve Jobs passion for thinking different and creating whole solutions is driven by his skills as a forward and detailed thinker. Gates went for market share. Jobs went for creating the best products in the world. Apple Computers may not be as big as Microsoft, but they’re loved a lot more, and every child knows the name Pixar (Steve Jobs other company).

Your niche is either a place where you have a highly specialized skill that can be put to use, or an interest that you are willing to devote yourself full time to pursue. If you like horses, are you prepared to read every equestrian book and magazine you can get your hands on? Are you willing to learn basic zoology to better understand how they work on the inside? You don’t have to be an expert on the whole field. You just need to zero into a level where your skills become very useful and your interest will be fully committed. This is where you find your value.

Sometimes you need to change the direction of how your interests affect your skills. Sometimes you need to change the direction in which you apply them. When I went from a magician to someone who wrote about magic, I changed my market from people who want to see magic shows, to people who want to perform them. This is a 180-degree turn around. Where before I was focused on keeping secrets, I now became focused on sharing them.

You might be an excellent car salesperson but hate sales. You might want to consider what I did and flip your direction. If you have a skill in some form of communication, you might make a great sales trainer. Your niche is now sales training and not cars. Or you might create buyer’s guides for car shoppers. There could be any number of opportunities that your skills can help you with.

Your niche is the place within an interest your skills have maximum potential. The stronger the interest, and the stronger the skill, the greater the chance of success. If you’re still having difficulty, you probably need to add a third element. Someone whose interest is entertainment and skill is acting is going to be in the same “niche” as about a million other people. Focus.

Here are the important points to remember:


1. Your niche is the place where your interests and your skills meet and create value

2. Your market is where your skills have the most need

3. Choose skills you already possess

4. Focus to find your niche

5. When in doubt, consider the other direction


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