If you’ve done any research into building a business at all, you’ll know all about the importance of – *shudder* – niching down.
In this progressively tighter-packed sardine tin we like to call the internet, everyone screams about the importance of ‘niching down’ and ‘standing out’ and ‘being different’.
And this is true to an extent. Those things are important. But they are not ALL you need.
You could have a super-specialist niche, like an editor who specialises in copy-editing memoirs, personal essay collections and other narrative non-fiction. Or an SEO consultant who specialises in helping high-street fashion brands rank on Google. A freelance writer who specialises in writing white papers for fintech companies.
Those are all about as niched-down as you can get without specifying that you work exclusively with 37-year-old men called Nigel who are based in Skegness and work in the Tesco on Richmond Drive.
But just because you happen to offer the very thing somebody needs does not mean they will automatically hire you. Having a tight niche can be helpful – but that alone won’t guarantee you get job.
Firstly, you need to offer the thing people want. Of course.
Secondly, they need to be able to find you. Mmhmm.
Thirdly? They need to fall in love with you when they do. Then, not only will you be the obvious choice – you will be the only choice.
And it’s this third thing most people fall down on, I reckon.
But how do you make people fall in love with you? Well, it begins with the first impression. The turn of the head, the sly smile, the glint in the eye. Hang on – they could be the one, couldn’t they?
It starts superficially enough. You’ve got a professional email address – none of this hotmail bollocks. The design of your site is pretty slick. Your grammar is on-form, with nary a misplaced apostrophe. And damn, look at that headshot. So trustworthy.
But the seduction doesn’t truly begin until they get to know you. WHO ARE YOU? What do you stand for? Are you confident and self-assured? Do I like you? Will we get along? Do you definitely know what you’re talking about? Do our values align?
You need to let people in. To show them the real you. This is the only way to build trust. And how do you do that in business?
Personally, I think the best way is to start a blog. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably feel like you know me pretty well. Just the other day I met up with someone who bought my freelance writing course (sup Louise!) and she told me she had to hold herself back from asking me personal questions about my life. ‘It’s weird, because I feel like I know you, but I know you don’t know anything about me.’
You don’t have to start a blog, and I don’t think you should unless you actually want to and are committed to updating it on a regular basis. But yeah, I definitely think it’s one of the best ways to let people into your world and help them get to know you – and to build that all-important trust.
But yes, there are other ways. Get on social media and start chatting to people and sharing glimpses into your days. Start an email newsletter where you share private stories about your life and business. Join a co-working space and get to know the people in it. Attend events, conferences, networking sessions. Reconnect with old friends and colleagues and make sure they know what you do. Get to know them again. Because that’s all this really comes down to: getting to know people – or, more to the point, allowing them to get to know you.
You can’t just be the hottie perched at the end of the bar, G&T in hand. You’ve got to be able to hold a conversation too. Be the only person your potential client wants to talk to.