Two ways to niche
The concept that there is more than one way to niche throws some people. I’ve discovered two ways to niche (there may be more) and would like to share them with you.
Horizontal niching is offering something to a wide variety of people. Shallow horizontal niching is offering one very specific thing to that wide variety of people. Think of a stream that’s an inch deep and a mile wide. An example would be offering only copy editing but offering it to authors in every genre as well as to bloggers and brochure writers. Niching tighter there would be helping create only titles but doing it for anyone (people who need book titles, article titles, movie titles, dance club titles…).
Vertical niching is finding a particular group to serve and helping them with a tall stack of their needs. Deep vertical niching is offering everything you can think of to that narrow group of people. It might look like serving only authors of nonfiction business books but supplying everything they need: writing coaching, editing, an author website, liability insurance, a laundry service, and so on.
When you combine those directions and depths, you get several combinations.
Double niching can be good
Double niching is offering one thing to a one group of people. Double niching narrowly would be offering one very specific thing to one very narrow group of people. An example would be helping only misery lit authors and only with their book covers. Double niching can be good. For people just starting out, double niching narrowly can be a brilliant idea. It’s how to become known for one thing, assuming you do it well.
The people who lovingly tell me that they don’t know what I do seem to want me to niche in that very specific way. It seems they want me to say something like, “I help authors of nonfiction business books decide on the titles for their books.” That’s not going to happen. I do help authors of nonfiction business writing facilitate the birth of their writing, but I help them do more than just one specific task. I double niche to an extent. I niche vertically, and I also limit what I do for them (I don’t recommend everything a nonfiction author could possibly use, and I don’t market their books for them).
When niching is bad
Some say to focus on one thing until you become known for it. I did that, for a decade. It’s time to become known for more tasks in my vertical. Becoming known for one thing caused a problem. Because I did that for a decade, people think of me as just an editor and are shocked to find out that I do more than just that single aspect of helping people with their writing.
That’s because I became known for one thing. People assume I niched horizontally even though I didn’t. I’m not going to be “just an editor” simply because some people don’t understand that I help certain people (business owners, coaches, and other leaders) to do certain things (create and repurpose nonfiction content such as writing books and blog posts, and turning podcast episodes into blog posts, books, and social media content). I’m not going to create a life where I’m doing the same task for 16 hours every day just because someone thinks I should. Neither will I do it because it would make it easy for someone to tell others what I do. To me, it seems easy already: I help people create and repurpose nonfiction content (mainly books, blogs, and podcast episodes).
Variety of client needs
What that looks like varies from person to person depending on their needs. I think that’s what confuses some people.
Some clients need help with a book, others with their blog posts. Some need copy editing, and others need all of the types of editing. A few want the full book development package or even ghostwriting. Others need writing accountability group coaching.
Instead of trying to remember the different tasks I perform, friends who want to refer people to me should focus on this sentence when the question of what I do arises. “Jennifer Harshman helps people create and repurpose nonfiction content.” Here’s a slightly longer version: “Jennifer Harshman helps people create and repurpose nonfiction content such as books, blog posts, and podcast episodes.”
Think about your two ways to niche. Will you niche horizontally or vertically—or both? Will you go deep or shallow?