[Note, this post is huge. Seriously. You can continue reading the intro or…
just skip to the huge list.]
This Is The Biggest Problem With Your Business
What sets you apart?
What makes you different than your competition?
And if you aren’t different, then you are just same as everyone else.
And that’s a problem
Without being different, you won’t stand out. You won’t be able to attract the clients and the projects that you want. You’ll just be another general freelancer who does general work.
But people often don’t want general work.
They want to work with specialists. They want to work with someone that they know that will get the job done. In short, it all comes down to risk.
Someone who is a specialist appears less risky. That’s why people take cars to dealerships to get their cars fixed. It will likely cost twice as much as going to a general mechanic, but people feel like the dealership will do the right job.
And freelancing is like that. The specialists get to build up a brand, get even more skilled in their specialty, and get to charge ridiculously high rates. Like $X0,000 a week. And they even have potential clients coming to them.
And the generalists? They might get enough work, but it won’t be high-value. And they’ll have to keep hunting for clients.
So what should you do? The answer is simple: Specialize.
Choose something. Choose one thing to label yourself as. This one choice will pay huge dividends. It will help you get more clients, get higher-paying clients, and give you immense freedom in your freelancing career.
Part of the benefit is that it helps you to build a brand. If you say you can do everything then you’ll be known for doing nothing. But, having a brand fixes that.
It will help you to be ‘top-of-mind’ when other people talk about their business problems. For instance, when someone says “I am really struggling with my Facebook ads right now” to their friends, and if you are known as an expert in the Facebook Ads, then that friend will be more likely to refer you.
And don’t be worried about getting locked into something. Specialization (also called positioning) is only a marketing focus. You can pick up any project you want, but you should have one specialization that you will build your brand around. This will help you have better content, better ads, and better marketing.
But you might ask, “how do I choose a specialization? Out of all the choices, what is the best one to make?”
Ideally, you should look for that sweet spot of passion and skill. Look for something that you are good at and that you like to do. But not all of us know ourselves that well.
Then, if you don’t know what you are good at, follow your passion. If you are consistent, then soon enough you’ll become skilled in what you love to do.
Passion trumps skill. Always.
But what if you just have no clue? Then, you just need to choose. Pick something, anything, and stick with it for awhile. If you end up hating it, then no harm. Just pick another specialty. And soon enough you’ll find something that sticks, and that is worth your time.
In the words of Will Ferrell: “Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.”
And don’t fear making the ‘wrong’ choice. You can always pivot. You can always change. What matters is that you begin. What matters is that you choose.
Still, to make your choice easier here’s a long list of things that you can choose from. They are broken into three sections: Programming, Marketing, and Creative Services. Even better I’ll use my experience as a freelancer and the general trend to say how profitable I think a given niche can be.
So ready to choose your next specialty and niche down? Great, Let’s go.
(And if you said “no” then I pick one anyway! Your future self will thank you for it).
Programming and Tech
Mobile apps are still a hot market right now, and developers who can make mobile apps are in high demand. The two main platforms are Android and Apple’s iOS, and though there are other platforms (like HP and Windows), Apple and Android are the dominant market leaders.
To create Android apps you’ll primarily need to know Java, but there are new tools that let you program Android apps in Python, Golang, and others. Still, Java is the primary language, and many of the tutorials out there are Java based. Which means that if you want to program Android phones you’ll do well to tackle Java.
For iphone or iOS apps you’ll need to learn Objective-C or Apple’s more recent language Swift. Swift was designed from the ground up to be faster than Objective-C, and to make developing iOS apps easier.
Niche Potential: Hot. Mobile app developers (or at least good ones) are hard to find, and if you can find them they are usually busy. As a result, they can charge a premium for their services. Some freelancers I know only work 4-6 months a year since the money is so good. In fact, demand is predicted to be 5 times higher than the available supply.
Front-end developers program the ‘front-end’ of an application, or, the part that users see. This includes displaying data, animations, interactions, AJAX calls, and some styling. Sometimes the role of a front-end developer merges with a web designer or UI/UX specialist, but for the most part, they work on layout and dynamic interactions. These are things like form validation, updating text, changing divs, and other data. What’s even more interesting is that Node.js keeps rising in popularity, and many front-end developers are doing more and more full-stack development (both front-end and back-end).
Niche Potential: Strong. This niche could be marked as very-strong except for one reason: it’s harder to sell a client on only the front-end of a dynamic site without a functioning back-end (unless you know Node.js, or something similar, but then, that’s back-end development). For most data-driven apps you’ll need both ends to work and so you’ll either need to learn back-end development or partner with someone. Still, there is plenty of front-end jobs around there, as well as contract positions for those that are good front-end developers
<take a breath>. And then there is Rust, F#, Scala, R, Hack, Erlang, Haskell, Arduino, PowerShell, and hundreds of other random and/or half-baked programming languages. They are all different, and what you choose depends on what you want to do. [And to you programmers, no complaining if I didn’t list out your favorite language! The list was long enough.]
Niche Potential: Very Strong. Unlike front-end coding, it’s possible to sell someone on a system that is fully-functional and solves the problem but doesn’t look elegant. Granted I’m all for sweet looking apps, but this is the key advantage of learning backend development. You can sell an ugly but working app to a company, and as long as it solves the problem they will be happy. But, for the sake of sanity, don’t forget to go back and improve the app and do a full UI/UX overhaul.
This is the holy union of front and back-end development. You’re a one man (or woman) shop, and you can do it all. Unfortunately, you’ve got to work harder than most and learn both ends. And since it’s harder to learn both ends you might not be as good at front end work as a dedicated front-end or back-end developer. Still, you’re in a good spot. You understand the whole process and are able to confidently tell a client that you can build it all.
Niche Potential: Very Strong(+). This position gives you the unique ability to sell a complete application or service to a client. It allows you to focus on either programming end (back or front), and the demand for good programmers is high.
Now that we’ve covered the types of programming, we’ll talk about some of the niches that use these skills.
One niche is building web apps, like apps that use a general programming language and that run in a web browser. The general idea here is to build some sort of application that reduces your client’s expenses or increases their revenue. This could be a SASS product, a tool for a website, an internal management app, a dashboard, reporting tool, or something else. These are moderately difficult to sell mainly because of cost, but if you can find out how much value you can provide it’s an easier sell because you’ll lower the amount of risk. For example: if the client will save $250,000 dollars a year from your app, it’s a fairly easy sell that solution for $25,000.
Niche Potential: Strong to very strong. Companies always need more tools to become more efficient. The only problem is helping them realize that software will solve their problem. Not everyone knows that they have a problem, or even that there is a solution out there. So, instead of finding someone who doesn’t know they have a problem, find someone who feels the pain of the problem. Then sell to them.
Scripting on Demand
This is a rare niche. Some companies will need programs written from time to time to do specialized tasks. Often the task has to do with formatting data, and includes helping with database migrations, form data processing, or simple data extraction. Sometimes a company might keep you on hand for small tasks. But more than often there will be a big data project, and they don’t want to pull from their in-house dev teams.
To do scripting on demand you’ll probably need to know Bash scripting, and likely some other scripting language like Python, Golang, PHP or Perl. Don’t laugh at the last two. There are plenty of jobs for someone who is willing to work with older languages. Lastly, this niche starts to merge into other areas such as Network Administration or DevOps, mainly because this is a critical skill within those two specialties.
Niche Potential: Average to Weak. Just Google “freelance shell scripting”, “shell scripting jobs”, and you’ll find jobs in this field. Still, doing these tasks can help you land a SysAdmin or a DevOps role.
Application Programming Interfaces
This is a specialized subset of back-end development. These days, companies want their applications to run on multiple platforms. And by building an Application Programming Interface (API) they can use the same data source for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and PC versions of their app.
Niche Potential: Strong to Very Strong. A good API can make or break an app. And API developers are still in demand. Plus, with mobile on the rise more and more companies need a way to send data to mobile devices. This means the demand for API developers should be strong for awhile.
Data visualization is creating dashboards or other visual tools to display data. This can be charts, graphs, reports, and even interactive tools. All of these help managers to make better decisions. And since companies have more and more data, they need better ways to understand what data they have, and what to do with it.
Niche Potential: Strong. Data is on the rise, and if you are skilled in turning nebulous data into useable information then you are poised to do well. One of the best ways to sell this is by telling potential clients: I can help you make better decisions based off your data. This way we will know what really works. Plus, it will be easy enough for your employees to use and understand.
E-commerce is a great specialty. As more and more businesses are started, many of those need help setting up and maintaining an e-commerce system. The most prominent e-commerce platform is Shopify. Other platforms are Woocommerce, Bigcommerce, Magento, and even Squarespace (who knew?!). What makes this niche so interesting, is that you can blend it with marketing skills to help them increase their revenue. And if you are able to do that, your value increases, and so does the amount of money that you can charge them. By the way, if you need a great Shopify consultant Kurt Elster should be able to help you out. He’s fantastic. He runs a Shopify-focused agency, and really knows his stuff.
Niche Potential: Very Strong. There is a lot of recurring work once a shop is setup. Since the online shop is often key to a customer’s revenue, they often need updates, revisions, and additions. Then when you add in recurring affiliate sales this can make e-commerce even more attractive.
Learning marketing as a freelancer is a vital skill. Even if you are a developer or a writer, without marketing you will have a harder time promoting your business. That is why every freelancer should know at least the basics of marketing if they want to do well.
So what are the kinds of specialties within marketing? Here’s a hefty list to get you started.
This is a huge field. On the macro end, marketing strategy can drive a company’s market focus, position, or even culture. On the micro end, marketing strategy can be as small like what email blasts to send, or how to use a Pinterest campaign. Overall, this focus aims at helping companies decide what to do and where to focus their efforts. This is the heart of consulting, and so many companies need this.
Niche Potential: Strong. Companies by nature have a desire to outmaneuver their competition, and to do that they need a superior strategy. And strategy consulting is a strong market right now. So, if you are good at what you do, then you should have an easy time finding work in this field.
Traditional marketing, creating flashy ads, creating billboards, and print flyers are old school. Granted some of them work, but they don’t work half as well as content marketing. Content marketing is basically creating “valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience” [Content Marketing Institute]. In other words, content marketing is all about creating content that gives customers value, that teaches them, and establishes trust. Then, when you have earned their trust, they are more apt to purchase products from you.
So what content can you use? This isn’t limited to just blog posts. To nail content marketing you can use: videos, blog posts, whitepapers, guides, photos, infographics, gifs (remember, it’s pronounced with a ‘g’ not a ‘j’), and more.
Niche Potential: Strong. Content marketing is effective, and as long as it remains so it will be in demand.
Social media is absolutely vital for a business if they want to gain exposure. By helping companies increase their social media presence you can help them reach potential customers that they couldn’t reach before.
As a freelancer you can help them get setup on important social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ (hey it still helps in search rankings), and Pinterest. You can also help them form a content strategy on what they should post on these sites and how often.
You could also design an instagram marketing strategy such as a contest or giveaway. You could use a free site like unsplash, and a free tool canva to help make infographics or images with overlaid text.
Next are Facebook ads, or setting up useful Twitter bots, Pinterest campaigns, and the list goes on. This section honestly could have it’s own massive list (which is a good idea for someday), but this will have to do. In short, the social media market is booming, and there are many ways that you can approach it.
Niche Potential: Super strong. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 90’s strong. The market is booming, and there is a strong need for marketers who can effectively use social media. Yet, you’ll want to choose a specialty within this topic and focus on that. This way you’ll be known as true expert, and you can become a master of your chosen platform.
Marketing automation is still a broad field that categorizes any marketing activities that are made automatic through the use of software. For example, this can be an email course that is ‘dripped’ out to subscribers. Or, it can be automated posts on social media. Or (and don’t mind me if I geek out here) you can automatically send welcome emails, or abandonded shopping cart emails, or send reminders for events like a webinar (which you can then automate). It’s a new(ish) and interesting field that can bring a huge return.
Benefits wise it helps to engage your customers. It helps you to stay top of mind. It can help you qualify leads, and bring you leads that are ready to buy. It is a powerful tool that can save you loads of time, and increase your revenue. Best of all this process scales. Since you can automate a lot of tasks, you can have a system that scales with your business. You can now replace a typically high-touch sale process with a system that prepares your leads to become your customers.
And if you want this. If you want to connect with your customers, and to get your leads ready to become customers then you should contact me. This is my specialty and I’m really good at this. I can help your business reach more people, and get more leads, all through friendly automation.
Just contact me at Mountain Fresh Media and let’s talk about how I can help you.
Niche Potential: Strong (but it is relatively new.). The field is still growing and more and more companies are in need of marketing automation. Most of all, since this field lends itself to easier sales because of the numbers. If you know how much a lead is worth, and how much it costs to get a lead, then you can calculate an accurate Return On Investment. In other words, if you know you can boost the revenue of a 10 million dollar company by 10%. Well, then it’s fairly easy to sell that for $50,000.
This one is in here just for fun. Experimental marketing is using unique and creative means to give a company exposure. Think of the Pepsi taste test, Red Bull sky diving, T-shirt flash mobs, corn field art, Razor mowing (just Google Bic Razor Billboard), and, well you get the general idea.
Niche Potential: Weak. True this field has the potential for huge payoffs, but this kind of work isn’t common (hence the word experimental). So, if you can pull this off then you are poised to do well, but don’t count on it for consistent and stable work.
Search Engine Optimization
Commonly called SEO, Search Engine Optimization is the art (perhaps even Magic) of making websites increase in search rankings. The two main components are On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. Basically the On-page items are things that you can fully control such as page structure, on-page links, content, page speed, and more. Off-Page items are things like quality backlinks, and social sharing signals.
SEO is an ever changing field. Google keeps releasing algorithm updates that keep changing the way that search rankings are calculated. Gone are the days of having 500 comments on blogs and hitting the top search result. Now, you’ll need to have a fast website, be well linked, and show signs that people like your website. This is actually a good thing, because it means that the web becomes a better place, and better sites will naturally have an edge.
The market is even more interesting. There are plenty of sub-standard SEO companies, some good ones, and even fewer spectacular ones. This is in part because if someone is an expert at SEO, it’s likely that they will be able to make a greater profit promoting their own products. Regardless, those that are good at what they do are poised well to earn huge rewards.
Niche Potential: Average to Strong. There are so many ineffective SEO companies that the market seems flooded with them. There are too many inexperienced or shoddy SEO specialists and that makes things harder for the good ones.
But, if you can produce real results, and make a long-term impact on someone’s search rankings, then you’ll be in a good spot. Just expect that it might be harder to make sales.
Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is actually different than Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEM is a broader category that includes SEO. It also includes PPC advertising, social media marketing, ad-writing, facebook ads, and adword campaigns. Generally speaking, SEM focuses on paid advertising but also includes all the aspects of SEO.
So, now when the next time someone talks about marketing concpets you’ll have an edge on the conversation, and you’ll know that SEM is the umbrella, and SEO is like the central post of that umbrella.
Niche Potential: Strong. Lots of companies are seeking to improve their reach to clients but they don’t know how to do it. So, become a master of online ads, and you’ll be in high demand.
Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing methods of all time. And it still is today.
Email marketing is simply using emails to either build trust or to persuade them to take action.
It used to be that email was just used to announce a new product, or to send one-off email blasts. But there is better approach. A better way is to use email to build trust. To give first, and to give more than people expect. And then, only then, to ask for the sale.
For instance, you might send off a few emails that talk about a key problem of your target market. Then talk about the dream of having that problem fixed. Then, talk about the solution of how to fix it. And then you introduce your product, that solves the person’s problem, and makes that dream come true. And this is a classic formula for a successful email launch. And knowing how to launch a product can be the difference between making millions, and making nothing.
Niche Potential: Average to Strong. Email is still the BEST way to reach out to customers. It converts better than Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. It’s pretty easy to see why. With social media you have a feed. And if an item in that feed passes then you miss it. In contrast, with email you need to open an email message to see what’s inside. And if you don’t open it, the email will stay unopened in your inbox. And there are more reasons than this, but it’s the key reason why email works better for making sales.
The web is full of ineffective and slow websites. First off, many customers have a site that doesn’t have any call to action, and they don’t have a clear purpose. They just have a website that sits there and looks pretty (well, that is the hope).
In contrast, these site owners could make more money if they would a) decide what the 1 action they want their customers to do, and b) design their webpage to do that one action.
Second, lots of sites are extremely slow, and don’t load well. Google released a page speed tool, and it’s useful for giving advice on how to make your website screaming fast. You might think speed isn’t relevant, but there are plenty of studies show that a slow website directly correlates with lost sales.
Niche Potential: Average. The benefits of web optimization are huge, but it’s hard to sell. Many clients think that they just need a new design (they might), but more often than not it’s things like slow page speed, bad layouts, or a weak marketing focus that are causing the problem. Still, trying to convince someone that their slow site is the main culprit can be a hard sell.
Copywriting is the art of crafting words that influence readers to do something. Often, that ‘something’ eventually leads to closing a sale, and good copywriting will close more sales than poor copy.
And copywriters are needed for more than just writing the content for a website. These days, copywriters can write content for: blog posts, white papers, emails, social media posts, advertisements, podcasts, video scripts, online courses, webinars, and more.
And good content writers are in demand. Companies are trying to expand their presence through content, and they need good writers for that.
Finally, you can really leverage your time as a writer. As you get faster at creating content, and using methods that double or triple your productivity (like the Pomodoro Method and using Dictation), you can really increase your effective hourly rate. Some writers can even make an effective rate of $250 per hour.
Niche Potential: Average to Strong. The world consumes content and needs more of it. And, if you’re good then your clients will pay you well. But, be warned that there is a lot of competition in this field so you’ll need to find a way to stand out.
This section includes an hodge-podge of different creative tasks. This includes things like video, illustration, design, photography, and more. So, here’s an eclectic group of some of the creative services that you can provide.
If branding is how people ‘feel’ about a company, then corporate identity is how a company ‘looks’. This identity often includes all the visual aspects of a company such as logos, colors, typography, business cards, slogans, etc. In essence, setting a corporate identity is all about how a company will appear to the public. And you’ll need to use both design and marketing skills to get this done.
Niche Potential: Weak to Average. Many larger companies will only turn to large agencies for identity help. And small companies often don’t have the budget to work on their identity. This leaves medium sized companies. And out of those medium-sized companies you’ll need to find one that 1) has a budget for identity, and 2) cares enough to change it. In short, this is still a valid niche, but it certainly is harder to pull off as a freelancer.
Simply defined: branding is a relationship between a company and its customers. Yet it is deeper than this. It’s how people perceive the company, how they feel about it. It’s not just a logo, though that is part of it. And it’s not just a slogan, though those can help. It’s everything wrapped into one, all with a focus on building a connection with the customer.
And a freelancer could help assess a company’s brand, and see where it is inconsistent. They could review a company’s advertisements, logo, slogan, see if they all build up the same image. In short, a freelancer could do a full brand audit. Then this can open the door for other design and marketing work.
Niche Potential: Weak to Average. Just like with Corporate Identity, lots of companies won’t hire freelancers to help them with branding. It’s just too risky. One solution to this is to actually form an agency. Get 2 or 3 other designers/marketers, and starts building a brand for yourself (see what I did there?). Then you’ll have the credibility to tackle larger projects, and will be able to charge higher rates.
Web design is not dead. As a freelance niche it is still alive, and people still want hand-crafted, and personally-configured websites. But not everyone wants this service. So, be aware that some clients will want a brochure site that can be whipped up with a site builder. These kinds of clients are usually low-value as they don’t care about their site.
So what do you do? You need to position yourself either as 1) an agency and focus on volume. Or 2), position yourself as a premium service-provider (agency or independent) and focus on quality.
And either way isn’t wrong. It just depends on what end of the spectrum that you want to focus on. Regardless, you’ll have an easier time finding work if you have a brand. And the only way to have a strong brand is to focus on giving people more value than they expect.
Niche Potential: Weak to average. The market is commoditized with cheap freelancers, and the number of site builders is continually growing. Which means there is plenty of competition. Still, I know people that charge $25,000-$60,000 for a website. So it is possible to get up there. But you won’t hit that if you provide low value, and aren’t known as an expert in your market.
Print freelancers are usually graphic designers that focus on designing for paper or textile publication. They’ll create images specifically for that medium, and can even work with a printer/publisher to make the final project. When I think of this medium I think of Kelsey Baldwin with Paper & Oats. She’s a single mom, a great designer, and one of the best print designers I know.
Niche Potential: Weak to average. There is still a need for graphic designers and illustrators, but like web design the market seems flooded with commodity freelancers doing illustrations. This isn’t programming where demand can outstrip supply 4 to 1. And that can make it harder to find work. But don’t be daunted by this. Just know that you’ll have to hustle.
Videography is the art of creating, producing, and editing videos for customer consumption. And it’s had an interesting progression. It used to be that you’d need a fully decked out production studio, with specialized equipment. Now all you need for editing is a good laptop, some editing gear, a large hard drive, some headphones, and you’re set. What’s even more interesting is that stunning HD videos can be made with the latest iphone and then edited in imovie. Because of this the bottom curve of the market is fairly easy to enter. Which means, that if you want to make any serious cash you’ll either need to specialize, or you’ll need to target the upper end of the market.
For instance, Chris Newman is a videographer who specializes in flying drones. He’s basically one of the best filmmakers that I know, and is in high demand. People fly him out around the world because he’s good, and he’s built up an impressive clientelle list. He’s even built up his own Drone University which helps people to learn how to fly drones so they can make a living doing that.
Or you could be like Vance Jacobs who specializes in military videography. Not only does he train with Green Beret’s, the Marines, Navy Seals, and more, he’s so good that his brand level is extraordinary, and is in high demand for military filming.
So you choose. You can be just another iphone videographer, or you can specialize, put in the time, and be one of the best in the world. The latter is the only way you’re going to make it.
Niche Potential: Average to Strong. Shooting and editing video is still tricky, and good shots can be worth a lot. Some companies will easily pay $3,000+ per day for filming. But this field is a little more challenging. Still, it can be worth all the effort.
Freelance photography is a classic niche. This where the photographer takes photos, processes them, and gets them ready for display. Yet the market for general photographers is close to full, and so a successful freelancer will have to niche. Now people want to have a photographer who specialize in things such as bridals, corporate events, rustic buildings, nature, animals, industrial settings, and sports. It isn’t enough just to be a photographer anymore.
Niche Potential: Weak to Average. With this field especially, having a strong reputation will be your best source for work. This reputation will not only increase social shares, but it will increase referrals, which is a huge part of the business of photography.
When looking back at this list I see two key takeaways: 1) Programming is still high in demand. There are other fields that are promising and that can still be lucrative, but programming seems to give the best return on investment. 2) You need to specialize. This is especially true for entry-level areas, or for areas that can be fulfilled with automatic software (like web or infographic design). In these niches there is still a need for high-touch human craft, but only for those that are good–really good.
Finally, the biggest takeaway from all this is: you can do anything you want to do. But you’ll need to hustle. You’ll need to build a name for yourself, and expand your reach.
So pick something that you like.
And then get to work.
P.S Do you scramble to find more work every month? Are you tired of low-paying work? Well, let’s change that. I consistently make over $10,000 a month freelancing, and I can show you how I do it.
So, are you ready to invest in yourself?
If so, take a little training that will give you huge results down the road. And I recommend you start with this course. In there you’ll learn how to find more clients, how to raise your rates, and why you need to specialize. In short, you’ll be put on the path to make over $10,000 a month like I do.
And you can do this! You just need a little more training and to improve your skills.
See you on the inside.