There are a lot of experts in the coaching industry that will tell you the KEY to success is choosing the correct niche.
But even though this advice seems simple and straightforward it can be incredibly difficult to choose a niche. Should you choose a niche that’s the most profitable? the most authentic? the most interesting?
All of this wondering what to choose and which niche is right for you can lead to feelings of doubt and uncertainty.
Can you relate?
The thing about coaching niches, and company names, and logos, and business branding is that they all sit on top of a deeper question. A question that’s incredibly hard for most coaches (and people to answer)
Who am I? As a coach, as a human, as a practitioner?
Who am I?
Every coach who’s trying to discover their niche runs into this question like a brick wall. But this question doesn’t have to stop you. Instead it can inspire you.
Here’s how I work with this question as a coach and how I advise new coaches just starting out.
1. Understand you are not one thing –
And you never will be. You are so many things all at once. Brave and terrified, beautiful and flawed, clever and kind of a dolt.
Your desire for simplicity and clarity make sense when you’re trying to choose a niche. That’s the point of a niche. It’s a simple handle people can grab a hold of. But that’s all it is. It’s a handle attached to a mug filled with the infinite nature of the universe.
If you try to make the handle infinite no one can grab onto it. So don’t try. Just figure out what part of you is easiest to grab a hold of.
I became an executive coach because when I was a personal trainer my favorite clients were startup founders and executives. That’s why I chose it. Because those kinds of people seemed to like that kind of handle.
2. Realize you are always discovering who you are –
Before I was an executive coach I was a mindfulness based personal trainer, then I was a dharma trainer, then I was a mindfulness and happiness coach. I’ve been all kinds of things.
I’ve built and taken down half a dozen websites. I’ve changed my company name three or four times.
In the beginning you don’t really know who you are and what’s going to work. Most coaches feel this and refuse to take action. They want to wait until ‘they’re more confident’. But that’s incredibly hard to do. Because the more you think about who you are the less you know.
The best way to find out who you are (as a coach) is to go out and be something. Just say you’re a divinity coach, or a process coach, or a transformational coach and see what happens. If people respond, if you find you can feel more and more comfortable with it as you tell people, then keep going. If it doesn’t resonate with people or it feels like sand in your mouth. Say something else.
You will change a lot in your first few years as a coach so don’t worry about getting it right on the first try. Let yourself take some time to practice and learn.
3. Get that there’s no magic bullet –
No niche will make you immediately successful. No coach you hire will do that either. Nothing is a magic bullet. Sure having a pre existing network really helps. So does having some innate or learned sales or enrolling skills. But beyond that, building a coaching practice is about being in the business of connecting to and serving people.
It’s primarily a relationship business and relationships take time and skill to build.
You may think that if you can just get the right niche you’ll have it made in the shade. But this bigger question “Who am I?”, takes time to figure out.
The right niche can make a big difference. But knowing who you are deep down in your bones makes an even bigger one.
So don’t rush it. Let yourself stumble a bit and figure things out as you go along.
4. Accept that most people will simplify who you are and what you do into what they can understand –
A coach once told me that there were only really 3 kinds of coaches – Executive, business, and life coaches.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve explained to people what I do and they say back to me “oh so you’re like a life coach.”
Niches are great because they help people understand who you work with. They make it easier for clients to refer other people to you. But in the end they are only ever a vast simplification of what you do and who you are.
You do this with people all the time. Your friend Brian is the new dad, your colleague Susan is the former indoor cycling coach, and your neighbor Veda is a dance teacher.
Yes Brian became a new dad after years of trying and a few miscarriages. Fatherhood has changed him in powerful ways. Yes Susan left cycling after a challenging period and has been inspired to help others who struggle with their emotions. Yes Veda teaches a form of modern dance influenced by kundalini yoga and tantra. But those details are hard to explain and remember. So you simplify them.
Other people will ALWAYS relate to your work from a simplified version of what it truly is. And they will relate to you as a simplified version of all that you are.
That’s what we do. We simplify. That’s what a niche is, it’s a simplification that makes communication easier.
You are not simple, but your niche can be.
If you understand that it isn’t everything, it isn’t all of you, it’s just a sliver of the infinite that you are.
The good news is that “A sliver of the infinite is still infinite.”*
So don’t spend so much time worrying about your niche or caught trying to answer the question of who you are as a coach.
Work on answering the question, “Who am I?” everyday but never finalize your answer. Instead keep discovering and creating. Once you get enough of a hit to simplify then do it. But don’t ever stop searching and learning.
Because that’s what will make you a great coach and an interesting human being.
Niche Resources –
My friend Greg Faxon wrote this dope post on life coaching niches – I think it’s really good. https://www.gregfaxon.com/blog/21-coaching-niches
I also really love this infographic my friend Adam Quiney made – https://adamquiney.com/niche/
* I think this line comes from Michelle Masters of NLP Marin