No matter how you pronounce it, the riches really are in the niches. If you’re the web designer for everybody, you’re a web designer for nobody. One of the best ways to fast-track your freelance trajectory is to carve out a vertical for yourself. You’ll need some niche ideas—but first, what does that mean exactly?
What is a Niche?
I’ll resist the temptation to Google the dictionary definition of “niche” and just spitball on what it means in the context of freelance web design. A niche is a segment of potential clients who all share a common thread (usually industry). The best niches are hyper-focused. For example; instead of targeting home builders, you would be the go-to guy for log cabin builders. Keep going. How about the web designer for veteran-owned tiny house log cabin builders? If you’re not scared, you didn’t niche down enough. In the words of John Lee Dumas, “niche down ‘til it HURTS!”
Your niche doesn’t always have to be industry-based.
You could instead cater to a particular CMS like Wix or Shopify or Magento.
Why Commit to a Niche?
By specializing in one specific business type, you are at a tremendous advantage compared to jacks of all trades. If you were opening a children’s dental office and needed a new website, you would likely be thrilled to find a freelancer with extensive experience in your industry. Working with a designer who speaks the language and isn’t starting from zero is a huge perk for any business. Does pledging allegiance to one sector mean you won’t get any clients in other circles? No, but if you select your niche wisely, that shouldn’t concern you anyway.
It is SO much easier to gain a reputation in a smaller silo of the universe. Once you get those first few launches under your belt, projects will sell themselves. Even as a freelancer, you’ve already caught their attention and earned their trust because you are part of their world. Their peers have vetted you—saving them a whole lotta shopping around. From a marketing and advertising perspective, niching down gives you focus and precision in your efforts too.
Choosing a Niche
When searching for niche ideas, it’s ideal to find one that is currently under-served in what you offer. Sure, there may be a few other web designers targeting that vertical—but a little friendly competition is a good sign.
This next piece of advice is REALLY important because it’s one of my most painful lessons-learned, personally. Consider the persona of your niche client. It’s safe to make some generalizations and lean into stereotypes here because this is very much a gut decision. Are they friendly? Passionate about their venture? Willing to spend for results? Progressive about technology? Financially stable?
About five years ago, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to form an “agency” called DashCrowd; specializing exclusively in bar and restaurant websites. Fun fact: bars and restaurants have NO money! The few who are lucky to claim some profit aren’t exactly quick to part with it to invest in their digital presence. Probably the worst trait I wish I had known before diving in… they don’t put anything on credit cards! My restaurant clients refused to ever place a card on file for recurring payments. I was always the last vendor in line to get paid too. My average restaurant client was about 3 months behind on billing at any given time. The reality is, these proprietors are mostly scraping by in one of the most stressful, unpredictable fields on earth. It’s not an environment I had any business inserting myself into and I’m still paying the price to this day. Do your homework and choose a niche wisely!
One more piece of advice here: factor in the likelihood of a given niche hiring freelancers. Think about a pharmaceutical company or auto maker, for example. They aren’t paying Timmy Smith in his mom’s basement to build their websites (sorry Timmy). No, they contract established global agencies. However, plumbers and roofers and real estate agents would absolutely gravitate to independent contractors for their marketing needs.
Niche Ideas for Your Consideration
Instead of rattling off every industry under the sun, I’ve highlighted just a handful of the ones that intrigue me this year. The possibilities for you are endless. Take some inspiration from this guy who makes websites for farms or these folks who literally productized the funeral home industry. WHAT!? Hopefully, this will give you a mindset framework as you start to research your own niche ideas and the potential of each!
The public demand for dentists is not going anywhere. It’s a dependable niche that tends not to fluctuate. However, one characteristic that makes this vertical so appealing is the community behind it. Dental professionals who operate their own offices have a very exclusive club. They share ideas, experiences, and tips with their fellow comrades online. I experienced this first-hand when a dental client of mine told his peer Facebook group about me. The leads flooded in (and still are)!
Real estate is booming and builders are finding creative ways to make the most of every square inch of land on this planet. These companies need a fairly specific type of website which highlights their available floor plans, sub-divisions they build in, and demonstrates their quality of work. It’s easy to see why they would want a freelance web designer with experience in this specific industry.
Women Owned Business
I know I can’t really say this but I’m actually jealous of the sisterhood and comradery I see among women in the startup world. If you happen to be a female web designer, embrace that natural connection and shared aesthetic to help fellow lady bosses bring their dreams to life online!
From small-town places of worship to big-city megachurches, religious institutions rely on their digital presence to grow their patronage and serve existing members. You might be surprised how much activity there is on a church website—from the busy event calendar to online donations. Get yourself in with a small parish and work your way up through reputation. I hope it goes without saying this applies to synagogues, mosques, temples, and everything in between as well.
With the growing popularity of no-code and low-code platforms, brilliant software solutions are being launched at an incredible rate. The developers of which are exhausted from creating their app—and eager to have someone else handle the landing pages. Communities like IndieHackers make it easy for you to build some notoriety for yourself amongst these newly-minted makers.
Hair & Beauty Salons
At the time of writing this article, our country has been cooped up inside for almost a year and we are looking a mess! People cannot wait to get back to the salon for some well-deserved pampering. Established shops are gonna want to refresh their online presence and a whole bunch of new salons will surely start to pop up. You can be the person who understands their unique needs and offerings and can launch a website as beautiful as their blowouts!
Short-Term Rental Properties
Tourism is about to come back in a major way. Competition among vacation properties will be fierce. This is good news for someone who specializes in short-term rental marketing and design! Hosts took a big hit in 2020 and are not crazy about giving a piece of their business to sites like AirBnb and VRBO. You can help them take back their online booking process with a beautiful, full-featured website!
Online learning was on track to hit $1 billion per day by 2025. That trajectory was significantly expedited during the pandemic. People are taking education into their own hands and experts are pumping out courses as fast as humanly possible. They may have the content and curriculum in their head, but don’t know how to build out an online course or website to market it. That’s where you come in!
People are discovering their passion for baking. From specialty breads to creative cookies, home bakers have been able to quickly create a loyal following on social media. It’s only natural they start to sell their tasty goods online!
I doubt I’m the only one who ate my way through lockdown. As we begin to open our doors and step out into the world once again, the sun will shine brightly on what’s become of our personal health and wellness this past year. This lends plenty of opportunity to individuals qualified to get us all back into shape! Nutritionists, trainers, and coaches not only need help establishing their online brands, but building hybrid digital solutions for their client programs as well.