I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again. When it comes to picking an online business niche, the freelance life is pretty sweet.
After running my business full-time for a little over four years, I could never imagine doing anything else. It’s not always perfect but nothing compares to the freedom and flexibility that working online offers. Not to mention, the paychecks aren’t too shabby. 🙂
Working from home is especially great for busy moms who want to make money without taking anything away from time with their family. In fact, my main reason for becoming a freelance writer was so I could still homeschool my kids after becoming a single mom.
If you’re a mom (or even if you’re not) who’s looking to side hustle or build a full-scale online business, freelance writing could be your groove. But, something else might be a better fit.
Before you can jump into the work at home lifestyle, there’s one thing you need to do first: choose an online business niche.
(Note: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may earn a commission if you click and make a purchase. I only promote products and services that I know and trust.)
What Is a Niche and Why Does It Matter?
Good question and here’s the simple answer your: your niche is what your business is focused on. You could be a freelance writer, like me, or you could be doing something totally different, like being a freelance proofreader or managing Pinterest accounts for up-and-coming bloggers.
(And if you’re thinking about becoming a blogger yourself, check out my step-by-step guide to starting a blog. Or, if you’re ready to launch your blog, head straight here and sign up for hosting with Siteground starting at just $3.95/month.)
Your niche is your specialty; it’s what makes you different from all the other mom bosses out there.
My online business niche, for example, is writing which is pretty broad. I’ve narrowed my freelance niche down even further to specialize in writing about personal finance, investing and small business.
Your online business niche is important because it allows you to hone in on a very specific target: your ideal customer and/or client. It’s a lot easier to grow a successful business online if you know exactly who you want to help and what problems you want to solve.
How I Found My Online Business Niche
When I first started working from home, I never really planned to be a freelance writer. I had recently become a stay-at-home mom and I knew that I wanted to make some extra money but I wasn’t necessarily looking for something that could end up being an actual real business.
My first foray into working from home was as a virtual assistant. I was making $10 an hour doing things like putting together slideshows for a local church’s Sunday morning service and editing listing flyers for a commercial real estate company.
Not exactly glamorous but I was making money and I was doing it from home, so I was immediately sold on the idea of having an online business.
I fell into that first opportunity more or less by accident; my former mother-in-law knew I was looking for a way to make money from home so she introduced me to a woman she knew who ran a VA business full-time.
I did that for a year but it didn’t feel like my “thing”. So I decided to look for something else that I could do.
Freelance writing seemed like a good choice, based on what I knew at the time about making money online. I wrote short stories and poetry (some of which was published) before my kids came along, and I’d always done well on writing assignments in college and grad school.
So I thought, hey, maybe I can a freelance writer.
I started writing for content mills, which is pretty much the lowest rung on the freelance writing totem pole. At first, I just wrote about anything. But then something happened: I started focusing on writing articles about topics that genuinely interested me.
At the time, I was struggling with budgeting, saving and debt so I gravitated towards personal finance. That’s been my main beat ever since.
If you’re looking for the TL;DR version, the takeaway is that I didn’t choose my freelance niche so much as my freelance niche chose me.
But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes you have to do some digging to find your niche.
Choosing Your Profitable Online Business Niche
I want to help you nail down your niche because after all, the sooner you do that, the sooner you can start building your online empire, right? 🙂
So if you’re stumped to come up with an online business niche idea, here’s what I recommend:
1. Start with what interests you.
Now, a lot of people might say that if you’re going to start an online business, you should be letting your passion lead you. On one level, I totally agree with this. Starting a side hustle or launching a business takes work and you don’t want to spend your time doing something you hate.
But what if you don’t really know what your passion is just yet? Or, what if you have multiple passions and you’re not sure which one you want to pursue?
This is where you want do some brain-storming and make one big list of everything that piques your interest. Don’t leave anything out, even if it seems unimportant.
The goal here is to explore the possibilities and tune in to what you’re most drawn to. Once you’ve made your big list, go through it item by item and ask yourself Is this something that really gets me going?
If the answer is yes, then keep it on the list. But if there’s something you feel more lukewarm than fired up about it, cross it off and move on to the next one.
2. Weigh your strengths and weaknesses.
There are some things I’m good at as a freelancer. I can write pretty well, which is obviously the most important thing. And I’m good at following directions and delivering what my clients and editors want (most of the time).
But I have an Achilles heel. I’m a huge, HUGE procrastinator.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disorganized. I know exactly what I’m working on for any given week or day and I always hit my deadlines on time. But I don’t always get an early jump on things like I should.
That’s my weakness and it could be yours too. Or it could be something totally different and you might be awesome at something I suck at.
The key is knowing which is which. This may not seem like important but don’t skip this step.
Knowing what your strengths matters for finding your business niche because you ideally want to specialize in something that won’t have a steep learning curve. And being aware of your weaknesses makes it easier to head off problems that could sidetrack your efforts to grow your business.
Another tip: look for a way to capitalize on your weaknesses. As a VA, I found myself doing a lot of different things and no two work days were ever alike. It was a little stressful for me, since I prefer routine but if you’re the type that gets bored easily, being a VA might sound appealing.
3. Take stock of your skills.
Sometimes finding your online business niche is all about knowing what you’re good at (or what you’re not so good at).
Start a new list and this time, write down all the skills and expertise you have in your toolbox.
Start with the skills you learned in college, or through the various jobs you’ve had over the years. Your list might include things like:
- Writing, proofreading or editing
- Coding and web programming
- Graphic design
- Marketing and sales
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Teaching or tutoring
- Transcription or word processing
- Microsoft Office
- Data entry
- Verbal and written communication skills
Now, look at the skills you might have picked up naturally, outside of a career or any formal education and training. For example:
- Are you great at organization or getting all the things done as a busy mom?
Put it on the list.
- Have you mastered the art of pinning while scouring Pinterest for dinner recipes?
Put it on the list.
- Are you a pro at knitting, sewing or just making crafts with your kids?
Put it on the list.
- Do your friends use you as their go-to source for finding things online?
That goes on the list too.
Get it all down on paper. You might surprise yourself at just how many things you know how to do.
4. Identify the skills that have profit potential.
So there’s one thing you need to know if you want to start a business and work from home.
Not every online business niche or idea is a money-maker.
It sucks but it’s the truth. If you’re angling to find your online business niche, I’m assuming it’s because you want to make money. And if you want to make money, you’ve got to have something that people are willing to pay for. Otherwise, whatever you’re doing is just a hobby.
So what makes a particular skill profitable? Two things:
- It has to solve a specific problem
- There has to be a need for it
Sometimes, your skills might fit a broad niche. Freelance writing is a great example. From copywriting to blogging to technical writing, there are so many different types of writing you can do.
The goal is to niche down as much as possible and mold your online business to be an exact fit for your skills, knowledge and interests.
For instance, if someone asks me what I do, here’s what I tell them:
I write reported stories, articles and blog posts for major banking brands and personal finance websites.
It’s super-specific, and you should be able to describe yourself the same way once you’ve nailed down your niche.
If you’re not sure whether you have a skill that you can make money with, there’s a simple way to find out.
Google it. If other people are out there making money using the same skill you have or one that’s similar, you can too.
5. Connect the dots.
If you’ve made it this far, you should have two lists:
- What really interests you
- What you’re good at
You should also have a grip on your strengths and weaknesses, and an idea of how you can make money with your skills. Finding your ideal online business niche means putting it all together.
Remember when I shared that little blurb about my business earlier? Did you see the formula there?
Interests + Profitable skill = Online business niche
In my case, my interest is finance and my skill happens to be writing.
Look at your list of interests and compare that to your list of profitable skills. Do you see anywhere they overlap or complement one another?
For example, if you’re into crafting and you’ve got some decent writing chops, you could be a crafting blogger. Or if you love taking pictures and you know your way around social media, you could make money with an Instagram blog. (Neil Patel has an excellent step by step guide on making money with Instagram.)
As you’re mixing and matching interests to skills, think outside the box as much as possible. Come up with several different potential matches, then research each one of them individually.
The goal is to find the magic secret sauce formula that allows you to do something you really love and make money while you’re at it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
Finding the online business niche that’s right for you can take time and sometimes, you have to try different things before you find your sweet spot. A good way to find your true niche is to cast the net a little wider to start so you have some room to narrow down.
Someone who’s a great example of this is Carrie Smith Nicholson of Careful Cents. She started off as a financial writer and moved into blogging, then added VA work into the mix. Now, several years in, she’s taking steps to become an online business manager.
Her business has evolved over time, as has mine and yours likely will too. That’s the great thing about running a business online; you can change your niche as you learn more about yourself and what you’re truly passionate about.
So be willing to test things out and explore new opportunities when you find them. And most importantly, listen to your heart and your head when they tell you which path to follow.
Have you found your perfect online business niche yet? Hit the comments and tell me about it.
And remember to share this post if it helped you!