“You seem to know exactly who your customer is. You’re so crystal clear. How did you figure that out?” she asked.
I was on a guidance call with one of my clients. We were discussing her business niche. I could feel the energy of her frustration in my earbuds as she spoke.
Like all my lovely clients, she is moving through the beautiful mess of bringing her spiritual pulse into the heartbeat of her business.
Before we make this vulnerable journey, we typically have a business that feels packaged. Meaning, we created it using the parts and pieces recommended by online experts. We built something we could tell our dad about without getting a raised eyebrow or worse, a lecture about the necessity of a professional business plan.
THE TYPICAL BUSINESS RECIPE
1 cup customer avatar
½ cup products and offers with abstract/inspirational/catchy names
¼ cup list building strategy
1/3 cup useful content delivered in a dependable pattern
Bake in a website set to maximum gorgeousness.
Frost with webinars, interviews, and guest posts.
Dish it up on every social media platform you can.
This recipe generally works. I’ve seen it catapult friends into world-approved greatness.
Unfortunately I’ve seen the same friends BURN OUT because they felt slightly separated from the people they served and the work they ultimately ended up doing.
There is nothing more exhausting than feeling like you have to edit yourself to grow or maintain success.
When you are not clear about your niche, you end up adjusting yourself to be attractive to clients the same way I adjusted myself to be attractive to boys in high school.
“You like heavy metal? Gosh! Me too!”
“You want me to lie to my parents? Done.”
“You want to mess around in the nasty, musty, spider infested ‘fort’ you built when you were 12? Um…okay.”
The problem (I’m sure you know where I’m going) is this approach requires muting the gentle but persistent whispers of your wisest self.
We all have them. We faintly hear them. We absolutely crave them. But it’s hard to trust them when they’re not part of the recipe everyone else is following.
When I stopped being needy (as in needing acceptance) in my love life, I stopped engaging in crazy patterns with boyfriends who often lied to escape my suffocation (because that’s the sort of drama it took for me to get the message) and magnetically aligned with the most unexpected, wonderful man who very quickly became my life partner. No editing required in our almost twenty years of ebb and flow.
The same applies to business. Of course I ended up learning this the hard way as well.
MY FIRST BUSINESS ATTEMPT
The first iteration of my work was molded based on the recipes of successful people I wanted to be like.
I created some popular content and built a sizable email list fairly quickly. I think we’ve been brainwashed into believing these two things are the pinnacle of online success. They’re not. Sales are. And I wasn’t making any.
(P.S. I have since discovered how to close sales with ease and intention. Here’s how I do it.)
The root of the cash flow problem in my first business boiled down to this: I decided who I was going to target based on what I believed people needed and what I wanted to do to help them overcome the problems I invented for them.
My niche was based on my personal assumptions about what people struggled with and what they would spend money on to fix.
At the time, I couldn’t see how disconnected this approach was. But I sure felt its affects.
Every blog article, service, offer, product, or social media post was the equivalent of throwing a pebble into the Grand Canyon.
That didn’t land? Maybe this will…
The most frustrating thing was, I purposely held parts of myself back: parts of my personality and spirituality I thought wouldn’t be attractive to potential clients. It was a tiresome dance that involved bending and twisting in an effort to be appealing.
Of course that version of my business crashed.
But that crazy situation needed to die so something new could spring up from the compost.
WHAT I LEARNED
Getting clear about your niche isn’t about deciding what you want to do and who you think needs it.
Getting clear about your niche is an organic unfolding that happens over time as you pay attention to the world around you.
Put another way:
You don’t pick a niche.
You are guided to a niche (if you stop being stubborn and allow yourself to be).
Getting clear about your niche is an incremental journey. It involves following a soulful impulse by taking intentional action, and then watching what happens so you can align and prepare for your next step.
When I started Simple & Soulful, I was being nudged to create websites (actually, it was a swift kick in the arse and you can read about it right here).
That’s as clear as I was. And yes, I was frustrated by my lack of clarity.
But with every single project and potential customer interaction I paid close attention to:
+ what I enjoyed
+ what flowed
+ what felt clunky
+ where my skills gapped
+ who joyfully paid my fees
+ who dickered with me like my services were some kind of digital garage sale
In consultations, client calls, Facebook groups, webinars, surveys, and my blog - I listened to people talk about the their concerns relating to website design and making money as a spiritually minded solo business owner. All the while, silently scribbling in my notebook.
I wrote down what people said about their fears and frustrations.
I captured their visions for their ideal businesses and lifestyles.
When appropriate, I asked what held them back and wrote down their exact words.
Every conversation revealed an insight I hadn’t considered and little by little, I was able to see my dream client come into focus. As my lens became clearer, I adjusted my marketing to speak directly to that person.
I went from being a website designer for busy people.
Being a website designer who also offers business guidance to solo business owners.
Being a website designer, writer and guide for introverted solo business owners who feel stuck in the overwhelm of their ideas. I help busy people slow down and create real businesses by aligning their work and websites with their soulful impulses.
USE THEIR WORDS
When I write or speak with my clients I meet them by walking through the doorway of their words. The ones I wrote down. This is very important.
My dream clients say things like: I’m overwhelmed, confused, stuck, need clarity on my niche; I have inner blocks; I feel anxious, frustrated, unsure; I don’t know where to start; my brand seems disconnected; I’m all over the place; I need cohesiveness; I’m intuitive and don't know how to communicate what I do; I would love to fill my practice; I’m tired of wasting my time; I’m ready to scale my business; I can’t make decisions; I didn’t finish that e-course because it felt too impersonal; my introversion holds me back; my website has too much copy; I have no clear direction; my last developer didn’t listen to me; and more!
(P.S. I pulled all of those phrases right from consultation applications clients have sent me).
If I don’t use my dream clients’ words, they can’t connect with me because they don’t truly believe I understand them.
THIS SURPRISED ME
The truth is I’ve experienced everything my dream client has. I deeply relate to this person. But I didn’t know that until I stopped trying so hard to define my customer avatar and simply started listening with curious fascination as she presented herself to me.
The more I listened, the more I understood exactly who needed me and precisely how my skills and talents could ease her burdens.
This insight freed me to be myself in every aspect of my business. I don’t have to self-edit or pose to fit in. If I did, my dream client wouldn’t recognize me. I discovered this by allowing myself to be organically guided to my niche instead of assigning the task of figuring it out to my over-thinking mind.
NICHE CLARITY IS IMPORTANT
There is no need to turn it into a huge ordeal that keeps you stuck, because staying stuck will ensure you never find it.
It’s a journey; and you can’t take a journey if you don’t take actual steps forward.
The journey to your niche begins with inquiry and slowly sparkles to the surface as you make adjustments that are guided by your intuition and are reflective of your dream clients’ concerns and goals.
A FREE TOOL TO HELP YOU
DISCOVER YOUR NICHE
To help you move in the direction of your niche I created a printable worksheet. You can type right on it for ease or print it out and put pen to paper. These are some questions I would ask you if we were on a guidance call together. I hope you use it and discover something new about your dream client and your work so you can take a meaningful step toward creating a business that supports the vision you have for your life! Enjoy.