The other day I was talking to a fellow creative rebel about nicheing...
But first things first: What IS a niche?
To niche, or niche down, is to make your brand very specific, as in covering a specific topic or bringing a specific result to a specific audience.
Anywho, so my friend was saying that she had just broadened the topics she covered and was afraid that made her brand too vague and unfocused. And since all the experts advise to do the opposite, she was worried.
A lot of us worry about this because we love a lot of things and we don't want to "super niche" like the experts advise. As a result, most of us worry that our brands are too general and unfocused, that we don't have a niche, that we're confusing our people, etc. It's a perfectly natural feeling to have.
However, worrying about it doesn't mean that we should blindly do whatever the experts tell us. Especially if you're multipassionate and nicheing down equates to getting into a super tight catwoman suit. Or a shrinking box.
So if you feel like your brand is not focused enough and you don't know how to niche it, I'd like to propose an alternative way to "niche."
How do you define focus?
Like anything else, you can't get clear on something before you know your definition of it. One woman's version of success is not another one's version of success, which is why we all have to define our own versions.
And the same thing can be said about focus...
The tricky part comes when you're a creative rebel and it seems like everyone else defines focus differently from the way you do.
Your friend may define focus as specializing in specific field, but if you can't or won't do that, it feels like there's something wrong with you and that you need to change and fit your idea of focus to everybody else's.
Please don't. Stick to your guns, wo/man!
Even if it feels like you're back in kindergarten again, trying to eat rice from the teacher's plate, and everyone's laughing and pointing at you.
This feeling of standing out and being laughed at is terrifying to any human being, even creative rebels, which is why we spend so much of our lives conforming and compromising. However, you can't spend your life living on somebody else's terms. That's never gonna make you happy.
Now fill in the blank: To me, focus means______________________________.
And be careful of comparison. It's the quickest way back to worry.
What does focus look like for you?
It's time that you decided what focus looks like for you. It's not enough to just say what it means, it's important to also be able to picture it.
Which is exactly what I told my friend:
You have a thread that goes though everything you do, and whatever else is going on, you have the core that holds everything together.
If you're multipassionate, focus could be anything that holds everything you love together, like an idea, a message, a cause, a group of people.
If you're not multipassionate, focus could be anything that holds all of your crazy, creative ideas together and puts them under one umbrella.
ANYTHING THAT HOLDS EVERYTHING TOGETHER IS FOCUS.
It's the common thread of everything you do, the underlying current, the common theme, the CORE MESSAGE, which I always suggest to use as a focus when you can't decide who, what, etc. at the start of your brand. You'll have a lot of time to "niche down" - if you ever decide to - you don't have to do it right away. It's better to let it happen naturally rather than trying to force it.
Some things that could focus your brand:
- your purpose, your overall mission in life
- your people, the ones whom you're doing all this for
- your core message, the underlying theme that repeats everywhere
- your cause, or WHY you're doing what you do
- your personality, duh
Let's look at some examples.
First let's look at some typically well-niched brands...
Meghan's brand is about helping you make your website more badass so that it sells on autopilot. Her "niche" is website-building for creative female-preneurs who are tired of hustling.
Regina's brand is about teaching, selling, and publishing online, the human way. Her "niche" is info-preneurship for humans.
Now let's look at other rebel brands and see what holds them together.
1. Purpose-driven brand.
If you look at Caroline Zook's brand Made Vibrant, you'll find a lot of things - branding, acrylic art courses, business advice, but you won't be confused because she clearly says what it's all about:
Helping soulful creatives live and work as their brightest selves.
That is Caroline's purpose and she uses it as a guidepost to everything she does. And yes, it might be considered "vague" by some random expert on the Internet, but it works for Caroline, and it works for us.
2. Message-driven brand.
Amber Rae's core message is Choose wonder over worry.
It's the message that colors everything she does and says, she has done speeches about it, and she even wrote a book about it. While it's vague enough to cover a lot of topics, it's specific enough to make her a thought leader on the subject and focus her brand so people know exactly what it's all about.
3. Audience-driven brand.
Jen Carrington brings her brand together under one phrase that repeats everywhere: "big-hearted creatives." It's in every blog post, every podcast episode, and she attracts ONLY people who identify as such.
That's all she needs to know about you before she works with you, and if you look at her Client Stories, you'll see all kinds of people from different industries who do different things, and yet we all identify with that single phrase that she put up like a lighthouse on her site.
Can your people be the string that holds everything together?
4. Cause-driven brand.
Branden Harvey identifies as a "world-traveling storyteller," and his cause is to bring more good news to the world. He does it with his Sounds Good podcast and his Good Newsletter, and recently, he even crowdfunded a Good Newspaper where all the stories are good. Who even knew that was possible!
Needless to say, Branden has centered everything he does online and off around his cause to bring more good news to the world. :)
Do you have a cause that could be the center of your brand?
5. Curiosity-driven brand.
Sarah von Bargen has a wildly-poplar blog that covers a lot of topics and stories, and instead of being confused, her audience love her for it.
In her words,
When people ask me about my blog I tell them “It’s a lifestyle blog for smart, funny people.”
Yes and Yes grew out of my desire to read A Very Specific type of blog that – at the time – didn’t exist. I liked lifestyle blogs (who doesn’t?) but I wanted something with a tiny bit more depth.
So if you'd like to create something that doesn't exist yet, do it! And if you'd like to let your curiosity drive your brand, you can do that, too.
6. Personal/umbrella brand.
Jason Zook says on his homepage, "I’m Jason Zook, and I like doing lots of stuff. You’re a person visiting my website, and I want to help you do more stuff too!"
It's clear, straightforward, and funny. It's all Jason needs us to know because it rings true and brings all of what he does together. What I really like is that he decided to go with a personal brand, which acts as an umbrella over his many projects and businesses, and shows off his fun personality.
It should be a no-brainer, especially when you do a lot of different things, but a lot of people still try to niche and start multiple businesses (and burn out) instead of linking it all together and making it easier on themselves.
Have you considered an umbrella for your many projects?
7. My brand.
At first my brand was not what you see right now. I used to experiment with things like "authentic marketing for creative rebels" and focusing on the results, but in time I learned that the people who were attracted to my message were the "creative rebels" who don't do things the usual way and more specifically, the multipassionates who didn't fit in anywhere. So that's what I put front center.
Whether you're super-specific or super vague, the most important thing is to put whatever is MOST true for your brand where everyone will see it.
And that will be your focus. That's going to attract your peeps.
Now it's your turn...
Now let's see what holds your brand together. :)
- What is the common thread that holds your brand together?
- Is there a common theme, a message that keeps repeating everywhere?
- Is there a particular group of people that you're crazy about?
- Does it feel like you're on a mission? What mission would that be?
- Is there something that you believe in with all of your heart? Something that you convey and fight for with every blog post, every social share, etc.?
- If you asked what your brand is about, what would people say?
Now really sit down and answer those questions.
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