How to decide on your VA niche

How to work out your Virtual Assistant niche

Having a Virtual Assistant niche comes with numerous benefits not least because you want to be the irreplaceable VA whose clients would pay anything rather than lose, than an average do-it-all VA who can be easily interchanged with a cheaper one. You definitely have an area of expertise in your repertoire, so let me help you work out what it is!

How to work out your Virtual Assistant niche

I’ll start by saying that many (okay, pretty much all) new Virtual Assistants get totally hung up on the whole niche thing. They think they have to focus on just one thing and that if they don’t have a niche then they won’t get any work.

These assumptions are false.

Because niches can be a confusing subject, let’s dive down into what a niche is, whether you need one, and how to find out what yours might be.

What is a niche and do I need one?

Simply put, a niche is just something you already know how to do and are good at – an area of expertise if you will – and the great news is that, after numerous years in employment, you will definitely possess more than one.

Having a niche/set of niches will be beneficial for your Virtual Assistant business in a few ways:

  • You will always know how to do the job and won’t worry that you can’t do what is asked of you.
  • You will know exactly how long a task will take which means you can provide an accurate quote.
  • You can easily explain what you do and how you can add value.
  • Clients will see you’re confident in your skillset and ability and won’t worry they’ve hired someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
  • Because you already know how to do the task, you’ll never suffer from Impostor Syndrome.
  • Your experience means you can offer insider advice and solutions the client may not have thought of or even knew existed.
  • Marketing is easy because you will know what you’re looking for and where to find it.
  • You will become the go-to VA for that niche.
  • Clients will see you as a valuable resource and consider you an irreplaceable asset.

As you can see, offering things that you already know how to do comes with a plethora of perks!

How my own niche came about

When I first started out as a Virtual Assistant I read somewhere that I should have a niche. However, even though I had been working in events for years (blind, much?) I had no idea what it could be so I didn’t do anything except look for work and try to earn some money.

My website said I offered admin and event support and that was that.

I pretty much just took whatever work I was offered.

After a while, I noticed that I preferred certain tasks and clients more than others. I realised that I liked very organised clients (and hated working with scatty ones) and, because I wanted to eventually travel, I preferred project-based tasks that I could do whenever I wanted.

I didn’t particularly like doing expenses and I hated call-answering, but I loved social media and research as they aligned with my personal interests.

I also noticed that I liked helping people with ‘techie tasks’ such as syncing and importing emails in Gmail as well as setting up landing pages, newsletters and autoresponders. I had picked up these skills via clients and in my free time and really enjoyed them.

I still wouldn’t say that I had a clear niche, though.

One day, I realised that all my clients were consultants and solo business owners so I defined myself as someone who offered support to those types of people. I then decided that my niche was techie tasks for extremely organised but time-poor consultants.

It was only after being referred to a global social media strategist to undertake research and analysis for her clients that I hit the jackpot. I simply adored the work she gave me and knew I’d be happy doing it all day long.

So that’s what I decided to do.

Once I was comfortable with her tasks, I started contacting other social media strategists, consultants and digital marketers to explain that I worked with people just like them and what I could help them with.

Gradually, I swapped out my uninteresting clients out for shiny new ones by identifying, qualifying and then contacting the people I wanted to work for using the carefully-honed method I now teach in this guide and I stopped accepting every enquiry that came my way.

I can honestly say that discovering my niche supercharged my business. 

Although everything worked out fine in the end, I could have definitely made more money if I’d identified my niche sooner.

I also wouldn’t have spent so much time struggling to find work or taking on every task I was offered. Doing this was actually detrimental to my business as I felt as if I was at the mercy of others – which I was.

There are many types of Virtual Assistant

I know an extremely busy traditional PA who specialises in taking minutes for meetings. She is the only person in her area who offers this service on a freelance basis and she has more work than she can handle.

I know another Virtual Assistant who specialises in e-publishing and Kindle tasks and prefers to work with chaotic creatives, one who solely works with freelance doctors, and another one who loves setting up online courses for coaches.

If I get enquiries for tasks that I don’t know how to do or don’t enjoy doing then I refer them to a more suitable VA and they do the same.

The thought of disorganised messy creative types brings me out in a cold sweat actually *shudders* so I don’t take them on as clients.

One size does not fit all and there are as many types of Virtual Assistants as there are businesses.

But identifying your own preferences and any personal areas of expertise will make a big difference to your happiness and success and will make it far easier for your ideal client to find and hire you. 

Clients love experts

Personally, I’d always hire someone who really knows what they’re doing rather than an ‘all rounder’ who might turn out to be average at everything.

Yes, I could show them how to use my systems but I have a very techie business so I need a Virtual Assistant who knows their way around online tools – or who at the very least isn’t afraid of technology.

A director-level EA who specialises in travel and diary management isn’t suitable for what I need and I wouldn’t be a good match for them either.

Even though many VAs offer social media, I’d always go for someone who knows the various different platforms inside out, understands and knows how to measure metrics and who has an impeccable online presence themselves.

I’ve been quite surprised how many VAs offer social media yet their own channels are not up to scratch. They don’t seem to understand that social media is content marketing and has to be measured to ensure a good ROI.

Just as I wouldn’t ask my hairdresser to wire my house or do my accounts, I want someone who is really good at a particular subject and I am more than happy to pay for their expertise.

Some clients have more than one Virtual Assistant

It’s worth knowing that many business owners often have a ‘regular’ VA for the day to day running of their business but will engage a more expensive techie Virtual Assistant to undertake specialist tasks such as email marketing or setting up membership sites or landing pages.

And I know this because I’m the VA they hire to do them!

Unless their regular day-to-day VA is actively invested in the success of their business and goes out of their way to suggest ideas and help make their business stronger, they could easily be replaced by any other ‘general’ VA.

But, imagine if you had general admin skills and some in-demand techie abilities… you’ll find it much easier to find work and will always be an irreplaceable asset to your clients.

How to work out your Virtual Assistant niche

Unless you’ve never worked a day in your life, you already have at least one area of expertise – you probably just can’t see what it is yet!

A niche (which is basically things you already know and have experience of) fall under the three main categories of tasks, people and industry.

  1. The tasks you know how to do: newsletters, minutes, landing pages, events and project management, transcription, database creation, website support, social media, SEO, bid proposals, funding requests, creating systems, specialist report writing etc.
  2. The types of people you do (or have done) tasks for: coaches, HNWIs, consultants, trainers, directors, agencies, authors, speakers, marketers, event organisers, artists, musicians, change managers etc.
  3. The industries you have worked in: the arts, education, healthcare, engineering, HR, manufacturing, events, finance etc.
  4. A combination of these things.

Remember, a niche is just something you already know how to do and are very good at so, for example, you may have director-level experience, are brilliant at event support and have worked for many years in the finance sector.

Therefore, you have at least three areas of expertise.

You could stick to one incredibly specific niche and offer event support to executives in the finance sector but it would make more sense to spread the risk and increase the chances of being hired by marketing yourself as:

  • A director-level VA AND
  • Offering event support to freelance event managers AND
  • Working with businesses who work in or alongside the finance sector.

Having more than one area of expertise means that you’ll need to adapt your marketing depending on who you’re targeting.

Where you find and engage with them will vary depending on what they do, but you might find certain prospects in Facebook groups, some would be better contacted via my direct marketing method and others might be found at industry-specific expos or tradeshows.

You may also find it useful to create different categories or pages for different niche services on your website so you can direct prospects to the page that would be the most relevant to them. Any testimonials for that specific service would then be added to the correlating page.

Start with what you know

By starting with what you already know, your confidence will grow, you’ll bring in an income, you’ll gain valuable experience in managing clients and running a business, and you will start to collect testimonials.

If you do it this way, you’ll have an operational business while you build connections, figure out what tasks your ideal market needs doing and ascertain if that niche is even viable.

You might also move into another niche by accident. Sometimes a client will show you how to do a really enjoyable task, over time you become familiar with the process and then one day you realise you’re proficient and feel comfortable offering it as a service.

This is why it’s vital that you remain open to change and regularly review your skills so you can adapt as your career progresses.

I could never do what I do now when I first started out because I didn’t have the technical skills. But I had an interest in social media and as I became more proficient and confident, I tweaked my services, content, marketing and ideal client to reflect this sideways move.

You can always move sideways

Don’t worry if you have zero interest in specialising in the things you already know how to do because you don’t have to take everything from your employed career into your freelance one.

However, I do advise that you go for the low hanging fruit by starting off with who and what you know as you can always do what I did, and move sideways into a different niche later on.

For example, if you have worked for years in finance but you ideally want clients in the wellness sector, it makes sense to work with people you already know in the finance industry whilst you research and make contacts in the wellness sector.

Then you’ll still be working, gaining experience and earning money while you find out if the niche is viable. No point targeting the wellness sector until you know what they need doing and if they have any money!

Some niches are more lucrative than others

Although the services you offer should be things you are good at and enjoy doing, you also need to make a decent income.

When the pandemic hit, techie VAs were hugely in demand and rushed off their feet because small businesses needed to quickly pivot to online working.

These tech-savvy VAs were able to present solutions such as holding online consultations and selling downloadable products and then they could swiftly implement them.

Although it now seems quite obvious, because the pandemic was a unique event that had never happened before, it was only when the lockdown hit that many VAs realised that it was vital to have an understanding of virtual collaboration and online marketing platforms.

I’ve also seen VAs ask about niching down into bookkeeping in the Facebook group but the hourly rate of a bookkeeper is actually lower than the average hourly rate of a Virtual Assistant.

You should still diversify

Your niche/s shouldn’t be the only services you offer but should always be offered in addition to your regular Virtual Assistant support services.

I mean, of course, this makes sense – if you were a VA who was incredible at making websites then you’d earn far more money as a freelance web developer!

Niches are fantastic but it’s important to have clients across a variety of industries in order to future-proof your business.

VAs who had all their clients in an industry that was impacted by the pandemic, for example suddenly found themselves desperately scrambling for new ones.

Clients are not for life, and if you put all your eggs in one basket and the basket explodes, you’ll have egg all over your face.

Conclusion

Don’t worry if you don’t see your Virtual Assistant niche straight away and don’t fixate on it or you’ll never get going. Start with who and what you know and then assess and change course as you go along.

If you can’t see a clear set of niches straight away then just talk to everyone you know and have ever known (it’s called marketing!), see what people need a hand with and go from there.

 


Ready to set up your VA business?

If you’re done researching and just want to get going, then sign up for my DIY VA course – I even help you work out what your niche is!

FIND OUT MORE

36 Comments

Rika Susan

Hi Joanne,

Glad that I found you and thank you for your great article.
I just started my VA journey and I am kinda stuck to find my first client and feel demotivated 🙁
My background also in hospitality & tourism, and some event. But after I did so many research (Google search, job opp in FB groups, VA job platforms), I can’t find anyone looking for VA in this area. Did I miss something?
I have lots of experiences in administration, customer service, sales and some marketing. are this consider niches? because I want to offer services in that area.
Can I offer service to small business owner and solopreneurs or do I need to be specific with the industry or business such as education, coach etc? Thanks so much xx

Reply
Joanne Munro

Hi Rika, there are lots of questions in your comment but yes, you do have to have a marketing strategy and build relationships in order to get work. You rarely just apply for it like would a job. That kind of work is also very low paid. I would check out my free mini-marketing course and also join my VA Handbookers Facebook group as there is lots of info about marketing on there and it’s definitely the best place to ask questions. x

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Karen

Hi
My biggest fear is other VAs who want to connect with me on LinkinIn who want to steal my clients. So a client sees my profile and then sees a better VA with same skills. Mine is a legal niche. What do you think.

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Joanne Munro

Hi Karen, while I would usually recommend that you just link with your target market (people who could become clients) it may be that you end up working as an associate for another VA or even just becoming friends and passing work to one another should you be at capacity or even sick.

Also, you can hide your connections in your LinkedIn settings so others can’t see who you are connected to and you should also turn off the “people also viewed” setting as well. This will prevent similar people from showing on your profile.

You can see how to do that here.

People do business with people they know, people they like and people they trust. So not only could new VA connections not see who you were connected to, your client wouldn’t be amused if another VA came in and tried to undercut you. It would say a lot about that VA and your client is unlikely to want to switch to someone who would do that. The best thing to do is to focus on your client relationships so that your clients would NEVER want to part with you!

I hope that helps. x

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Evgenia

Hi Joanne
Your post is very encouraging and the advice is fantastic; however, I’ve found it rather difficult to find just 2 or 3 niches. I worked as a remote EA for a small business Chairman for over 6.5yrs, where he asked my help with setting up the company, dealing with diary management, emails, reports, phone calls, research, lots of PPT presentations, data entry, transcription, company online presence, basic industry research, in addition to simple bookkeeping, financial reconciliation and issuing invoices. So while preparing to start my own business once more (I used to be self-employed years ago), I’ve found it difficult to decide how to market myself and where to find the right clients. I’d be most grateful for your advice.
Best regards
Evie

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Joanne Munro

Hi Evgenia, the Facebook group is the best place to ask this as I really only give personal advice to my trainees. However, most of the things you listed aren’t niches – they’re just regular admin support tasks. Tasks like Minutes, transcription, any industry-specific reports, and social media are more niche. You may find a niche is an industry you have knowledge of or the types of people you work with (organised or scatty, coaches or consultants, executives or start-ups). A niche doesn’t just have to be a service. And you don’t NEED to have one; it just helps you with your marketing.

I have a free mini-marketing course that might help you.

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Joanne A

Very helpful. Thank you. I feel better about starting my VA business now.

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Joanne Ransom

Hi Joanne, some great tips here. I am hoping to start up as a VA and would like to offer travel booking and event organisation as part of my service. However, I am a little unclear as to how payment would work for this type of service. For example, would I need to pay the costs and claim back from the client when invoicing? Finally, please can you recommend any free online tools to help VAs with travel/event booking? Thank you very much in advance.

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Joanne Munro

Hi Joanne, great questions but ones that would be best to ask in my VA Handbookers Facebook group as I don’t offer travel services and the questions have been asked a few times before.

Usually, the client either gives you their card details or sets you up with a company card. Sometimes they just want quotes and twill then make the booking themself – never pay for anything out of your own pocket in case the client fails to pay you! I don’t know about the tools as I don’t offer this as a service but plenty of VAs do and they can give you some options in the Facebook group. x

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John Kevin Bustria

Hi Joanne, very useful and amazing information it’s harder than I thought.

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Melanie

I am in the very early stage of becoming a VA, literally days, I’m currently a Senior Administrator in a Primary School. I’ve hit a dead end and have been looking for a way to move on for a while. Covid-19 lockdown, while completing my admin role from home, highlighted to me how flexible my skills are and that I do not need to be sat in an office to use my skills set. I just do not know what I need to do first to find clients etc. I’m sure I have a niche but just need to work out what it is. I really want this to work for me so any pointers would be gratefully received. Thank you. Mel

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Joanne Munro

Hi Melanie, I have a number of posts on marketing as well as a free mini marketing course. I would start with the Marketing and Finding work category of the site (in the right-hand side sidebar) and sign up to my free marketing course at http://www.munrocourses.com

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Lucy Hinojosa

I really like your post. It is all very encouraging. I feel I have much to offer, 11 years being a nurse in different fields including private and agency organising my own schedules and time. Prior to that, I spent years organizing peoples flight and travel itineraries both pleasure and business. I can do more than basic admin, but might start out with that just to find a feel. I could then branch out into medical fields. There must be clients out there who would be happy with me. Hopefully the Facebook closed groups I am starting to join will give me more ideas.

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yassine moussa

thank you. I would ask you if it is possible to be a VA if you are not good at English

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Rachael

Hello!
Came across this article after searching “Finding my niche as a virtual assistant.” And after being in business for almost two years, I do not think I have my niche. I have clients that need monthly virtual administrative support. But I think my true passion is helping those same clients execute proper delegation of those tasks that they have me complete. Now I find my work fun to say the least but I have continued to have this pull to help others with how they can benefit from learning AND executing their Google Apps. I can’t tell you how many family, friends, and clients reach out to me to help them. Now, while I can’t coin the term as a Google expert, I want to narrow it down to help and make some money. I will keep working on my niche but I just wanted to thank you for this article!

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Joanne Munro

Thank you for your comment Rachael! You don’t necessarily NEED to have a niche, it just helps to identify areas of expertise (especially when starting out) that you can leverage and charge more for in addition to your admin services. These ‘niches’ usually reflect what the VA did as part of their career before they went freelance. Looking at your website however, it looks like social media and tech services might be one of your niches!

A niche could also be the type of clients you work with (I like very organised yet busy people, and not chaotic types) as well as the industry or types of tasks you undertake. Sometimes your specialised area becomes apparent after a while, but you don’t need to have a niche to be a successful VA. x

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Rachael

I’ve been wanting to become a VA for a while now but the more I read the more disheartened I get. I was so excited to begin with (probably being a bit naive had something to do with it), but now I just want to give up. I read over and over and over about finding a niche, but I don’t have one and don’t know what mine could be. I work in a bank, that isn’t a skill that could translate into becoming virtual! I don’t know what to do, I’m so upset 🙁

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Joanne Munro

Don’t get upset and don’t worry about it. VAs are freelance administrators; they are professional organisers. You’re just helping someone with their admin – it isn’t rocket science! My background was events and hospitality. Just offer admin services to busy small business owners and have your niche as your local area until you niche down. A niche can be the types of people you work with but it’s usually the types of services you offer. It’s not a huge deal my lovely. Plus you work in the financial sector so start brainstorming people who work in or alongside that industry – financial consultants etc. x

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Caroline

What do you mean by “suck it and see then adapt”?
Wondering if this is a typo and you mean, “try it and see”?

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Vanessa Datu

I found this site very helpful for an aspiring VA like me. I’ve worked as an IT professor for 5 years, then as a Technical Trainer for a multinational company for a year. My last job was as a branch manager for 6 years, a Japan-based company which also offers travel services. I am now seriously considering of finding a home-based job as a VA. But then, I do not know how to start. It’s like rebuilding a career all over again. I am confident regarding my knowledge, capabilities, and experience but then I do not know how I will be able to market these skills to clients. I’ve been reading lately regarding “finding your niche” and VA jobs. I hope very soon I’ll be able to start my VA job, and find a lot of help from sites and pages like this. Thank you very much.

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Joanne Munro

Hi Vanessa, I would suggest reading the ‘Marketing and Finding Work’ category in the sidebar (or at the bottom if you’re looking at the site on your phone). You definitely have the skills.

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Tanya

Hi Joanne, thanks for this post. You have given me hope. I have toyed with the idea of being a VA for the better part of a year now and now need to take the leap. Unfortunately the course is little too expensive at this stage but I am taking notes from all your blog posts. I really am looking forward to going forward. Tanya

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Ivy

I like the advice. Suck it up and see then adapt. I thought it was the end for me when I got hired as an ecommerce virtual assistant which was not my strength at all. My boss had all the patience in the world and had me working for him tirelessly for 2 years now. Until now, I am still learning.

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Nichole

Thank you for sharing this story. I have been flirting with the idea of becoming a VA for the last 7 years. Up until last year my life was really a roller-coaster so I was not ready. For years I was also working on my BA in web development, but could no longer afford both school and my family. Over the past year I have been focusing on creating a web design business, but found thats not what I really want to spend everyday doing. I realized I can do it sometimes to satisfy that interest I have for it, but I can also do other creative things like photo and video editing, blogging, marketing and typical admin duties so I do not get burnt out (which is my biggest struggle since I love working). I have always been an entrepreneur, I had my first business when I was 8 selling things I made door to door, eventually around 11 yrs old I started a neighborhood lawn care and babysitting business where my friends worked for me as I set the appointments and did the “marketing”. Those were always some of my favorite childhood memories. So I find myself now self training in marketing, SEO, and brushing up my skills in business management and most of the Adobe CC apps. My ebook & training library has taken at least 300GB of space. I feel so passionate about learning and becoming successful that I stay up all night trying to grow my skills. So I am truly thankful for business minded professionals who can share their stories to help inspire and motivate business minded newbies like me.

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Joanne Munro

That’s fantastic! It sounds like you have a whole lot of desirable skills that would be valuable to clients – especially the web design, marketing, SEO and other techie stuff. The great thing about being a VA is that you get to mix up what you do so you don’t get bored of doing the same things all day. You might even have a Scanner Personality like I do – read Barbara Sher’s book “Refuse to Choose” to see. I bet you are.

Thanks for the comment and sharing your story – I look forward to hearing how you get on! x

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Joan

Joanne, thanks for sharing all of this great info! You mentioned that in the past you’ve gotten assignments you weren’t sure how to do, but your client showed you and you wound up learning something new, were those happy accidents?

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Joanne Munro

Hi Joan, yes they were very happy accidents! The interesting thing is that often people will just Google ‘Virtual Assistant’ then call you without even looking at your website. Then, when you speak to them, they like you and want you to do the work even though you’re honest about your limited capabilities in that area. They’re usually very happy to show you what to do (they just don’t have the time to do it) and POW! you now have a new skill.

I’m actually working with 2 experts I know to offer you guys info on SEO, email marketing and how to build a WordPress website in a day. They’ll be low-cost products but they’ll not only show YOU how to do something, you’ll also be able to offer them as services afterwards. I’m pretty excited about them actually, these are people who really know their stuff and are happy to provide the content to my readers. x

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TOYO Tony

Great post! A virtual assistant generally can do most admin tasks but it definitely helps to determine what your specific skills are. This leaves room for you to make relevant changes to your website, social media profiles and business cards/adverts, and can separate you from the rest of the Virtual Assistants out there.

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Alexandra Elcombe

I am in the beginning of my ‘start-up’ VA Business. It is very difficult when you have not worked for anyone in the town. I am joining Forums and VA sites,but still nothing at all. THis is harder than I thought. After 24 years in Admin work which I am so passionate about,it’s becoming such a downer to seek work everyday I loose faith,any advice on where I could start ?

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Joanne Munro

Hi Alexandra, Well done for going freelance but you’re thinking a little small – being virtual means you can work for anyone in the world! Don ‘t limit yourself to your town but think bigger. You’re not going to find clients on VA sites and forums – they’re in different places. You need to think WHO is my target client and WHERE can I find them. I tell you exactly how to get new clients in my guide – you have to donate some money but it’s very reasonable and it’s the only method I use to get new clients. If you apply the method you WILL get clients as it works for me every time.

So think bigger Alexandra and move outside your town! x

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Mirna Bajraj

Joanne,
I liked this post very much. I totally agree with you that it is not so easy to decide what is your niche, not even if you have been developing this activity for a while like me. I started my practice in 2009, have a good bunch of retainer clients that belong to different industries. So it is not easy for me to say which is my niche. I could say that all of them are freelancers and work alone. The positive side of not having a specific niche, however, is the fact that as my clients work in different industries, I deal with many different topics which makes my job very interesting and fun. I can assure that I don’t get bored at all!
I know that narrowing my target niche might help me get more clients. Well, this is something I haven’t accomplished yet…. 🙂

Reply

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