Feb 4, 2020
Self Knowledge

Find your niche by combining introspection and market research

Build a profitable business around your expertise
More about Personal Branding

At the beginning of a professional journey, you are one in a sea of many. Opposed to the offline world, the connected world has global competition, which makes life more difficult for freelancers and solopreneurs. But there’s a solution for this. And you probably have heard of.

Before presenting you with how’s and why’s of finding a niche, let me tell you a story.

Japan, 1983.

In a conservative school system, all the girls were predestined to follow a certain path. Except for one in particular. 

Her name was Yoky Matsuoka. 

At 11, she decided to learn how to play tennis and little by little this became her passion. She also loved science and math, but couldn't see how to make all these different areas work together in her future. 

Sports and science were a way of expressing her personality - the love for competitions, coordinated movements and problem-solving. In her mind, there was this ambitious dream of building a robot that could play tennis with her. But it was just a dream. 

In Japan, she would have to choose one of the areas, but eventually she moved to the US to study Electrical Engineering and one day she told a professor about her dream. Surprisingly, she was invited to work in a robotics lab.

 Yoky Matsuoka
Yoky Matsuoka

Her work was promising and Rodney Brooks, her mentor, was surprised by such advanced talents. She started an MIT post-graduation course and later on started working on an AI robotics project where volunteered to design the arms and hands of the robot. Her goal was to build robotic limbs as sensitive as human limbs. 

Studying neuroscience was her next step. With a better understanding of the hands-brain connection, she could design a more sensitive and versatile robotic limb. The result was a new field called Neurorobotics, which gave her prestigious recognition from the scientific community and the power to combine her diverse interests. 

This is a true story I borrowed from Robert Greene’s Mastery book. It’s perfect to illustrate what does it mean to find a niche for yourself

When you pick a niche, it doesn’t mean you’re a natural expert in something

As we saw from Matsuoka’s story, you can create a completely new niche that merges your different areas of interest. But you also can become an authority in a chosen field through commitment, consistency and repeated practice. 

Picking a niche means that you’ve decided which specific topic to learn continually so you can improve your services, or products.

“A professional is simply an amateur who didn’t quit”   Quote Mark Schaefer

You don’t necessarily need to love what you do. Sustaining an interest in it is enough. Passion shows up by doing, achieving and realizing.

According to author Mark Schaefer, your sustainable interest should be:

• Aligned with your strengths

• Providing purpose because it benefits others

• Inexhaustibly fascinating to you

Finding a niche requires introspection and research. But it only benefits you.

Reasons to pick a niche

• You won’t be one in a sea of many

• People will remember you and what you offer 

• Clients will be willing to pay more for your expertise

• Clients will trust you more

• You’ll have a focused area of study

Passion shows up by doing, achieving and realizing.

Combine introspection with market research to find your niche.

Your niche should be big, but not oversaturated. It also should have people interested in it. Here are three powerful exercises to help you with this. 

1. Only I... 

Only you can do what? Only you have done what? “Only I am the funniest, smartest, or most experienced” at doing what?

The intersection among your skills, interest, education and experiences can uncover something unique you can offer to the world. 

2. XY Grid

If you already know your topic well enough, choose the two most important factors for your target audience, and then plot them on an XY Grid. You’ll be able to see your sweet spot.

Example of XY Grid
This shows that an Interior Designer could stand out by being really experimental with low cost materials.

3. Ikigai

This is a Japanese concept that could be translated as “thing that you live for”. It’s related to the idea of finding your mission or purpose in life.

Ikigai - a Japanese concept

"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes."

– Carl Jung

Learn more about this topic

• Books

(Robert Greene)

(Mark Schaefer)

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto
(Blair Enns)

• Podcasts

The business of authority
(Jonathan Stark & Rochelle Moulton )

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