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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Do you service a design niche?

According to Lynda Falkenstein, author of Nichecraft: Using Your Specialness to Focus Your Business, Corner Your Market and Make Customers Seek You Out. “Many people talk about ‘finding’ a niche as if it were something under a rock or at the end of the rainbow, ready-made. That's nonsense,” she says “Good niches don't just fall into your lap; they must be carefully crafted.”

Back in episode 54 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about what a design niche is and the benefits of working in one. If you haven't listened to that episode yet I suggest you do before continuing. But just to elaborate a bit more on the subject, a design niche and a field are not the same things.

If you specialize in designing for the medical industry you are targetting a field. However, If you specialize in designing websites for dentists, you are targetting a niche within the medical field.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing on a field instead of a design niche. I just want you to know the difference.

And remember, you can do both. Even if you specialize in designing websites for dentists, there is nothing stopping you from taking on a chiropractor as a client. It's ok to have more than one niche or to branch out and take clients outside your niche. It’s your business after all. All of this is discussed in greater detail on this episode of the podcast. Please listen to get the full story.

Now you may be wondering, “If I can work with anyone even though I'm targeting a niche, what’s the point of even having a niche?”

I discussed this in episode 54 but here are the main points of why you may want to have a niche.

  1. It’s easier to identify potential clients.
  2. You become a sought out expert in the niche
  3. You get better referrals within the niche
  4. There will be less competition in the niche
  5. You can have more focused marketing material
  6. Increased chance of repeat business

So how do you choose a design niche to target?

Determining your niche.

What type of client do you want to design for? Be very specific. Identify things like geographic areas, the types of businesses or customers you want to target. If you are not sure whom you want to work with, it will be a lot harder to make contact with them.

The smaller and more focused the design niche is the better your chance of succeeding within it.

Targeting Startup companies may be too broad a niche. But aiming at startup companies that create green, eco-friendly products out of bamboo is a better goal.

Keep in mind that it’s always best to find a niche that you are familiar with and possibly have a passion for. Look at your interests and hobbies. Maybe there’s something there you could target.

Marketing to your niche.

Marketing to a specific design niche is easier than marketing to a non-niche. All of your marketing material, be it your website, brochures, Facebook ads, business cards, can be designed specifically to appeal to that niche, which will make them easier to spot by people within that niche.

Look to see what type of visuals and wording is already being used in your target design niche and structure your marketing material to follow suit.

Present relevant work in your portfolio.

The best way to win over a client is to showcase work that appeals to them.

If your target niche is yoga studios, you don’t want your portfolio to showcase the website and poster you designed for a monster truck show.

If you're going after a niche within the design space such as Logo Design, then you better have some good logo designs to show off. And perhaps remove any unrelated projects such as car wraps and websites from your portfolio. Anything that distracts from your skills at logo design should be minimized.

Remember, you can have more than one design niche, so save that other work for a different portfolio on your website, or better yet, on a completely different website.

You’ll have a much better chance of being hired if you showcase projects that are similar to the niche market you want to work in.

Start promoting yourself.

Now that your marketing material is in line with the design niche you’re targetting it’s time to start promoting yourself.

This is the grunt work that will lead to your success.

Create social media accounts that are consistent with the niche you are targetting. Drop by and introduce yourself to related businesses in your area. Do some research, Invest in some stamps, and mail out brochures, postcards, business cards, to anyone who may be a potential client. This is a great opportunity to use a virtual assistant as I explain in Episode 62 of the podcast: How to use a virtual assistant for your graphic design business.

Find out where people in your target niche meet up and go see them face to face. Imagine a convention for restauranteurs. Everyone there owns a restaurant and is there to learn ways to grow and improve their own restaurant. They may be interested in other attendees but there's little they can actually gain from them. Now imagine you introduce yourself as a graphic or web designer who specializes in marketing for restaurants. That might just garner a bit of attention for you. Especially if your marketing material follows suit.

Start hunting for clients.

There are potential design clients everywhere. In your hometown, across your state or province, and across the globe. All you need to do is look for them.

Find businesses in your targetted design niche that are in need of a rebrand or a new website and approach them. Drop by in person if you can or introduce yourself by phone or email. Explain how you found them, who you are and suggest some ways you could work together to benefit their business.

Don’t alienate them. Focus on what you think is working well with their current material and then suggest ways to improve upon it.

If you start off by critiquing what they are currently using you may turn them off before giving yourself a chance. Especially if they are very attached to their current designs.

Show your interest in your chosen design niche.

To succeed in the niche game, you have to have the knowledge and a general interest in your chosen niche. If you don’t, it will quickly become transparent to your clients.

Remember that one of the benefits of choosing a design niche is to be viewed as an expert in that niche. To be viewed as an expert you need to be able to show your knowledge to potential clients. That’s why choosing a niche you are already familiar with is often your best choice.

Clients would much rather pay premium prices for a specialized designer that already understands their business, their hurdles, their competition, and their target market, instead of having to educate a different designer on all of that.

By showing potential clients how much you know about their industry, you automatically start to align yourself with the company, and they will immediately start viewing you as a valuable asset they want to work with.

Be patient but persistent.

You know the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” well neither will your portfolio of dream clients. It will take time an effort on your part. But if you persevere you will have a much better chance of success.

Just because a client turns you down doesn’t mean it’s the end with them. Some companies, especially very large ones are always changing and developing new strategies and ideas. Keep reaching out to them every few months by showing them projects you’ve done for other clients and asking if they have any projects they would like to discuss with you.

You never know. The time may come when they decide your services are just what they need.

Niche marketing is a constant flux.

Niche marketing is not a fixed approach. There are many different ways to go about finding those dream clients.

Stay flexible for opportunities and listen to client feedback, and then fine tune to discover more and more about what you are passionate about and the best at.

One last thing…

If you are a new designer or a recent design school grad, don't’ worry about it. Create some sample designs within your target design niche that show off your creative skills. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t specifically designed anything in that niche before. As long as you're passionate about it it will show through in your designs.

Do be honest however and indicate that you are showcasing sample projects to show your skills, then replace your sample projects with real ones as you produce them.

How do you market to your design niche?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Florida-Boy

Thank you for all that you share. It helps encourage us that are looking to forward our own business's growth. I'm personally looking to venture into my own business.

I was wondering, you mentioned in a previous podcast that you use a virtual assistant, and they can be used for whatever kinds of tasks you may need them to do…To what extent do you think a lone designer/business owner should be answering the phone or using the virtual assistant to take your calls and/or messages?

Also, how do you balance working/designing with marketing yourself to new clients and taking care of business paperwork all when you are the only person to do everything?

Thank you so much for your response!

To find out what I told Florida-Boy you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Four Week Marketing Boost.

I put this guide together in the hopes to encourage you to look at your own brand and image. The daily tasks in my guide require only 15-30 minute of your time and focus on the parts of your marketing material that are often overlooked or neglected.  After completing this four-week plan you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A. you can text the word MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com