Last week, I had coffee with a friend who is looking to start her own web analytics consulting business. In addition to giving her operational advice about what tools she’ll need to get started, I emphasized the need to find her niche.
She asked me what the top three things she could focus on to serve clients in the web analytics space. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer in my opinion. That’s because it all depends on the type of business, what tools a company has (or is lacking) and what customers they are serving.
It also depends on where my friend’s expertise lies and how she will differentiate her skills from those of other web analytics consultants.
So, here’s what I told her to focus on to get started:
Be a niche detective. Starting a freelance business is like solving a mystery. You need to unravel the clues as to where your skills will be most useful and which customers will demand the most of your time and expertise. So, I told my friend to go out and have coffee with everyone and anyone she considers to be a possible client or industry expert. Each meeting will give her insights to lead her closer to the niche to which she is most suited.
Focus on your preferred niche. It’s fine to say that you should follow the path to the money. Unfortunately, as a freelancer, you must also find projects that you enjoy doing the most. That’s because you will be more likely to succeed using the skills and expertise that you enjoy. And that will ultimately lead to getting more and more work in the future through satisfied customers and positive word of mouth.
Be picky. I read this article from The Next Web last week about why freelancers need to be picky about clients and projects. I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t mean that you should turn down a lot of projects early on. But once you have gathered some experience and confidence in the skills you wish to sell, it’s important not to burn yourself out or spin your wheels working on projects that take you away from the work that you enjoy doing.
Are you a freelancer or consultant working in a very specific niche? Do you agree? Please share your thoughts below.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that niche social networks are steadily on the rise in Canada. I am seeing a similar splintering effect happening in the peer-to-peer classifieds space. Canadian start-ups are carving out niche sites that appeal to a very focused set of shoppers and are finding unique ways to monetize these sites – something that Craigslist will not do. Sites like Kijiji and eBay definitely make money off of their sites but they do not offer the niche targeted audience that advertisers are seeking. Another benefit to a niche classifieds site is the ability to build a community around that niche and position oneself as an expert in that audience’s set of interests.
Here are some of the top niche peer-to-peer classified sites/communities that I have discovered to date:
iStopOver.com – Founded in Toronto, this international travel website helps travellers to save money and find a furnished apartment or house to rent when travelling abroad. Their services came in handy for two recent international sporting events, including the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. iStopOver’s competitive advantage is that they build trust with their users by holding the guest’s money on their behalf until confirmation of a reservation (i.e. the guest shows up and the place is to their satisfaction), and releases it directly to the renter/host once the guest approves to check-in.
SmartBrideBoutique.com – This Toronto-based start-up is focused on helping brides to save money on their wedding by purchasing gently used wedding products (i.e. wedding dresses, decor, accessories, etc.) from recent brides. It’s a win-win situation where brides-to-be can save up to 50% on their wedding items and recent brides can recoup some of their wedding costs. Check out my previous post about how these ladies inspire me.
CardSwap.ca – Have you ever been given a gift card to a store where you would never shop? CardSwap helps you to swap gift cards for other ones with other local Canadian users. Or, you can exchange the gift card for money.
JobDeals.com – I just heard about these guys at last night’s Sprouter event. JobDeals is a local job help resource which allows users to post their needs for local services and allows job seekers to pitch/bid on the work opportunity.
CommunityLend.com – This website must have been a savior to a number of people in the recent economic meltdown. CommunityLend is a destination where borrowers can lower their loan rates by auctioning off their loans to lenders who bid at the offered interest rate on your loan request until enough bids are made to cover the value of your loan. This service is currently only available in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
1DegreeBio – A reader just sent me some information on this site. You can’t get any more niche than hosting a marketplace for sourcing antibodies online! They have implemented an independent review process for scientists to rate and review products that are essential to their research. They are building a community to set a new quality standard in the raw materials that are the foundations of scientific research and discovery.
If I have missed any really important sites, definitely let me know.