When you’re looking at career options, it can be tempting to head straight for the mainstream. There are always jobs in banking, general retail, healthcare and so on, right? Leaving aside the fact that with the disruptive pace of technology today, this may not always be the case, the big popular sectors are also often over-subscribed with bright, competitive and qualified people all hustling for work. That’s why, rather than trying to break into an over-crowded industry, it can sometimes be easier, more profitable and more rewarding to build your career in a niche sector.
What defines a niche sector?
A niche sector could be defined as a subset of a broader business area. Take healthcare as an example. You may have graduated from medical college and be looking for work as a nurse or primary care physician. Alternatively, you could specialize as a chiropractor or a pediatrician. These could be seen as niche sectors. Within the technology field, specializing in areas such as cybersecurity or web design could also be seen as niche.
Finding your niche
Finding the niche sector that’s right for you is all about identifying the things that you’re passionate about. What really interests you? Building a career takes hard work and dedication, and it’s hard to keep that up if you’re just in it for the paycheck. In addition to finding your passion, look at what you’re really good at. This means considering your broad natural talents: are you an empathic, caring person? Are you good with your hands? Do you have a logical, puzzle-solving mind? Specific skills can be learnt, but you need to have a capacity for them in the first place.
Going it alone
The true niche sector is often uncharted territory. It’s so fresh that hardly anyone has even gone there yet. For the natural niche entrepreneur, discovering such a field is manna from heaven. You can carve out your own path and create your own role. The thing to remember about starting your own business in an unexplored area is to clearly define your market, not just your product. Who are you selling to? What can you give them to improve their lives? How can you convince them that what you have to offer is something that they really can’t live without?
Big and small
When you’re following your passion, it doesn’t really matter whether you make your business into a massive success or whether you can just comfortably get by doing the thing that you love. Both are great achievements. Vangelis Marinakis inherited a small shipping business from his father, with just seven ships, and grew this into the Capital Maritime Group. He is now considered one of the most important and influential figures within the worldwide shipping industry.
At the other end of the scale, David Rees runs a successful business as a professional pencil sharpener. The former political cartoonist is so in demand that it takes him up to eight weeks to complete an order, at $500 per pencil.
The good news is that if a niche sector is relatively new, you don’t necessarily need a lot of contacts or impressive qualifications. It certainly helps to do your research, study the field and to reach out to existing professionals in this area, but you can do this on your own time. Join professional organizations relating to your sector, and attend industry events both to network and to learn about the business from the inside.
If you’re working as a freelancer or setting up as an entrepreneur, it’s vital to have a convincing online presence. This should showcase your skills, experience and personality. Use your character and develop the drive to be sucessful. Work for free if necessary to build up a portfolio and to develop skills and contacts. Don’t try to fit in with the crowd, but define what makes you different and use it! Marketing is often the most difficult aspect of working in a truly niche sector, as many people just don’t get what it is you’re trying to sell them. The upside of this is that the novelty value can often be a great hook for newspaper and magazine articles that can help you to spread the word – for free!
Remember, as markets grow, the number of available options increases. The growth of niche sectors is a sign of success. To take advantage of this, look at the bigger picture. Identify emerging subsets and coming trends. Learn to predict changes and to stay one step ahead. Look for new distribution channels, new tech developments, alternative approaches and shifts in buyer habits. Soon you’ll be on your way to being the number one name in your sector.