Starting up a freelancing business when fresh out of college is an exciting adventure. You’re freed from the long hours and intense focus of studies and exams. Now it’s time to shine, to earn a lot of money, to shape your destiny, and to create a thriving freelance business.
Except, there’s a problem. Without a niche focus, it’s very difficult to get established. According to statistics, in 2018 there were nearly 60 million freelancers in the US alone. This figure is forecast to rise to 90 million by 2028. That’s a lot of freelancers. It’s safe to say that in any particular industry sector there could potentially be tens of thousands of freelancers fighting for your market’s attention.
For newbie freelance professionals, with little experience or no portfolio samples, freelancing is a tough gig to get into. It can take a while to attract quality clients. And this can quickly sap your initial enthusiasm, especially when you’re desperately seeking to earn money and feel secure professionally.
Thankfully, as already mentioned, there’s a fantastic strategy to stand out from the crowd and attract your ideal clients, quickly. This involves niching yourself, right from the beginning of your career. Regardless of what you do, there is always scope to narrow down your focus and brand.
But it can be difficult to know how exactly, especially when you have little direct experience.
So what are some of the ways to choose a niche specialism when fresh out of college?
- Use your degree subject knowledge
Clients highly value educational experience in a freelance professional. If you know the ins and outs of a subject, a client will feel more secure when it comes to the work you produce. This is especially the case if you’re a freelance writer or marketer. You’ll automatically have a huge advantage over other freelancers who don’t have a formal education in that field.
As long as you’re not sick to the back teeth of your degree subject, then consider using it as your niche focus. It’s important to check whether there’s demand and clients willing to pay in that particular field. If you have a finance or business related degree, for example, then you’ll have no problems selling yourself at all.
- Fall back on work experience
What work experience have you enjoyed prior to, during, or after college? Maybe you spent a week or two during your school days gaining on-site experience in a particular industry. Perhaps you worked part-time in a job you began to find rather interesting.
All these experiences in employment can help point you towards a niche focus. Clients like to hire freelancers who have some experience in their industry and are at least somewhat familiar with the mechanisms and day-to-day realities of their businesses. You’ll have the upper-hand on a freelancer who has no idea what it’s like to interact with customers in that particular field.
This route will also help when it comes to confidence in talking with industry clients.
- Tap into family career insights
An unusual angle to consider when choosing a subject niche are the careers of your family. What does your mother do? What has your father done? Maybe you have a favorite aunt or cousin who work in an industry they are passionate about. It might be worth considering specializing in their subject-matter or customer focus.
You have exclusive access to their experiences, industry knowledge, and even contacts. Your family member can tell you all you need to know about an industry or sector, and the things you need to consider when marketing to that market. They can give you insights you would never get unless you’d been working in that industry yourself.
Even as a beginner freelancer, you’ll automatically beat your peers trying to make inroads into that sector.
- Embrace your passion
“You’ve got to find what you love. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs.
Passion is important when it comes to choosing a freelancing niche. Struggling over a subject you don’t naturally find interesting is a surefire way to burnout and failure. Clients notice when a freelancer’s heart isn’t in the work they do. It’s obvious.
Consider the things you are passionate about, even if you have no direct experience or formal education regarding the topic. Perhaps you love to read about a certain subject and for which you have tons of books. Maybe you have a hobby you are addicted to and can’t stop talking about.
These are all potential niche focuses, depending on the services you’ll be providing. A young ski-loving copywriter might focus on writing for ski manufacturers or vacation chalets. A newbie virtual assistant who loves sharing the latest fashions on social media might focus their marketing efforts towards companies in the fashion industry.
- Focus on the most lucrative
Passion is great but the niche focus also needs to provide you with an income. Not all sectors and markets are lucrative when it comes to spending money on your services and skills. A freelance social media professional might find it difficult to get clients if they focus on a sector which just doesn’t really use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
You need to weigh your knowledge, experience, and passion against how viable a niche is when it comes to the money being spent in that sector. ‘Follow the money’ is a cliché but it’s a sensible consideration, as long as it doesn’t force you into a niche you’ll hate.
It’s not that difficult to know where the money is. These niches are thriving and usually have competition. A good tactic is to find a way to niche down within a thriving lucrative niche. Then differentiate yourself from competitors in some way with your brand and choice of services.
Choosing a niche
Choosing a freelancing niche when fresh out of college might seem overwhelming. It can leave a lot of newbie freelancers paralyzed with indecision and anxiety. But it needn’t be a strain.
As we’ve shown, your perfect niche focus might be staring you right in the face, based on your experiences, education, family ties, and interests.
And if you really can’t decide on a niche, then don’t. Just get started. It’s better to begin as a generalist and earn some money rather than remaining stationary. With some direct working experience as a freelancer, a niche will find you instead.