Having a niche comes with numerous benefits not least because it’s far better to be the irreplaceable Virtual Assistant whose clients would pay anything rather than lose, than the average do-it-all VA who can be easily interchanged with another one. I know for a fact that you have an area of expertise in your repertoire, so let me help you work out what it is.
Simply put, a niche is just something you already know how to do and are good at – an area of expertise. After years of employment, you will possess more than one area of expertise.
Having a niche (or niches) is beneficial for many reasons:
- You will never worry that you can’t do a task
- You will always be able to explain what you do and how you can help
- Clients can see you love what you do and are confident in your abilities
- People like to hire someone who knows what they’re doing!
- Marketing becomes easy because you know exactly what type of client you are looking for
- You will be known as the superstar stand-out VA who is constantly recommended
- Clients will see you as a valuable resource and consider you irreplaceable
When I first started out as a VA I read somewhere that I should have a niche – but I had no idea what it could be so I didn’t do anything except look for work and earn money. My website said I offered admin support and that was that.
I just took whatever work I was offered.
After a while, I noticed that I preferred certain tasks and clients more than others. I liked very organised clients (and hated working with scatty ones) and, because I wanted to eventually travel, I liked 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 played on my personal interests. I also noticed that I enjoyed helping people with ‘techie tasks’ such as syncing and importing emails in Gmail as well as setting up landing pages, newsletters and autoresponders.
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 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 my personal 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 contacted more social media strategists and consultants as well as digital marketers as they also needed the same tasks completing. After a short while, I had many more testimonials and case studies that showed how good I was to even more prospects.
I swapped my old clients out for the new ones by identifying, qualifying and contacting the people I wanted to work for directly using the carefully-honed method I now teach in this guide and stopped accepting every enquiry that came my way.
Discovering my niche changed my career.
Although everything eventually worked out fine, I could have definitely made more money and wouldn’t have spent as much time struggling to find work or taking everything I was offered if I’d identified my niche sooner.
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 woman in the area who offers this on a freelance basis and she has more work than she can handle. She loves the work and is incredible at it.
I know another VA who specialises in e-publishing and Kindle work and prefers to work with chaotic creatives, one who solely works with freelance doctors and another who predominantly helps coaches set up online courses.
If I get enquiries for tasks that I don’t know how to do (or don’t like 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 VAs as there are businesses.
But identifying your own preferences and any areas of expertise will make a big difference to your happiness and success and it also makes 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. I have a very techie business so I need a VA who knows their way around online tools – or who at the very least isn’t afraid of technology.
Yes, I could show them how to use my systems (and I do) but 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 choose someone who knows the different platforms inside out, has an impeccable online presence and who can measure ROI and other metrics. I want someone who really knows this subject and I am more than happy to pay extra for their expertise.
Some clients will use more than one VA.
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 VA to undertake specialist tasks such as setting up an online course platform or creating a landing page with opt-in boxes that deliver a lead magnet and automatically add and tag the subscriber in their email autoresponder sequence.
And I know this because I’m the VA they hire to do it!
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 were a VA with 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.
You will already have a niche
Unless you’ve never worked a day in your life, you already have AT LEAST one area of expertise – you 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.
- The tasks you know how to do: newsletters, minutes, landing pages, events and project management, transcription, website support, social media, creating systems, specialist report writing etc.
- The types of people you do (or have done) the tasks for: coaches, HNWIs, creatives, consultants, trainers, directors, agencies, authors, speakers, marketers, event organisers etc.
- The industries you have worked in: the arts, education, healthcare, manufacturing, HR, events, finance etc.
- A combination of these things – because you will definitely have more than one area of expertise.
How to work out your own individual specific niche/s is covered in great detail in the niche section of my DIY VA course. I also help my trainees identify their niche and who they can work with via one-to-one calls.
You will have more than one niche
Remember, a niche is just something you already know how to do and are very good at. 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 niches.
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 does mean that you’ll need to adapt your marketing depending on who you’re targeting though. Where you find and engage 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 prudent to create different categories or pages for your different services on your website so you can direct prospects to the page most relevant to them. Any testimonials for that specific service would then be added to the correlating page.
You still need to diversify
Your niche/s shouldn’t be the only services you offer but should always be offered in addition to regular business support. 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 web developer!
Spread it out.
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 one impacted industry during the Covid-19 shutdown 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.
Some niches are more lucrative
Although the services you offer should always be things you are good at and enjoy doing, you also need to make a decent income.
The Covid-19 lockdown saw techie VAs massively in demand and rushed off their feet whereas it was the more traditional PAs who had to take rapid action to find more work. Small businesses needed to quickly pivot to online working and the tech-savvy VAs were able to immediately present viable ideas and then swiftly implement them.
Although it now seems quite obvious, because Covid-19 was a unique event that had never happened before, it was only when the lockdown occurred that VAs discovered how vital it was to have an understanding of virtual technology and knowledge of online solutions.
Tech skills will always work in your favour.
There are many examples of tech tasks in the blog post in my “Coronavirus and Little Ships” post but creating newsletters and virtual training solutions were popular requests.
You can always move sideways
Don’t worry if you have zero interest in specialising in the things you already know. You don’t have to take everything from your employed career into your freelance career, but I advise you to at least begin with who and what you know (the low hanging fruit) and then move slowly sideways into a different niche later.
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.
Start with what you know.
By starting with what (and who) you already know, your confidence will grow, you’ll bring in money and you’ll gain valuable experience in managing clients and running a business. 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 a personal interest in social media and as I became more proficient and confident, I tweaked my services, content, marketing and ideal client to reflect this.
Don’t worry if you don’t see your niche straight away and don’t fixate on it or you’ll never start – just go with what you know.
However, I promise that discovering your specialist areas of expertise will lead to better-paid and more enjoyable work and benefit your business in more ways than you can possibly imagine.