Of course there can sometimes be good reasons why it isn’t a good idea to narrow down your niche. However, having spoken to literally hundreds of ELT freelancers about niching, I’d say that at least 9 times out of 10, a reluctance to niche is based on misunderstanding what exactly having a clear niche means and why it can work so well for marketing your business.
Here are the 4 most common reasons I hear, and their counter-arguments.
1. Fear of limiting opportunities
One common misconception among ELT freelancers is the fear that narrowing their focus will limit the variety of opportunities available to them. It’s totally understandable. If you’re already a bit worried about where the next client is coming from, why would you voluntarily reduce the number of options?
However, the opposite is often true. By establishing a niche, ELT freelance professionals can position themselves as experts in a specific area, which will actually make you more attractive to those specific kinds of clients, and bring in more opportunities.
By casting your net too widely, you may be making it much harder to get noticed by anyone, losing out to the specialists in every area you work within.
2. Not wanting to turn away work
Having a clear niche is about getting known for one thing, so that you are front of mind when someone wants that specific thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean saying no to other opportunities. You can clearly carry on taking on any work which comes your way if you know you would enjoy doing it, and it pays well, and fits in with your other commitments.
You could even decide to market outside your chosen niche, just in a different way. For example, you could decide to become known as an online teacher of IELTS (though I’d recommend getting more specific still), but still use your contacts to gain regular work as a CELTA tutor.
3. There are already too many IELTS teachers (or whatever niche you have in mind)
This is only a problem if your niche is too broad, and you aren’t able to distinguish yourself you’re your competition. Remember that niche is not just about the reason why your clients are learning English. Everyone can find their unique angle within a larger niche by considering all the different factors around both their clients and themselves. It could be about a more specific reason to study for IELTS, a particular approach to methodology, even personality (yours and/or theirs).
In this way freelancers can carve out a space for themselves even in seemingly crowded markets.
4. Variety keeps things interesting
While variety can indeed keep work interesting, it’s important to recognize that having a clear niche doesn’t have to mean doing the same things all the time. Having the opportunity to focus on one area, rather than half a dozen, can give you the time and head space to dive deeper into that area, and truly become an expert.
It can also offer the opportunity to stop reinventing the wheel in your lesson planning. The better you get to know your niche, the more you’ll understand what the core content is in your programmes, enabling you to develop asynchronous materials to go alongside your live teaching or training.
This can then give you the opportunity to scale up your business and truly work less and earn more.