“If you’re choosing a niche… and it’s difficult… who ya gonna call?” (to the tune of “Ghostbusters”)

Mangled lyrics aside, niching is a huge issue most freelancers must deal with, whether they’re just getting started or at some point down the road.

Trying to find a niche that fits your freelancing abilities and aspirations is tough. You might agonize for days, weeks or even months. You might flip flop between a smorgasbord of different options. Or you might choose a niche decisively… only to change a few months later.

Plus, choosing a niche isn’t as simple as picking an industry and saying “I’ll work for that”. Niches can be much more than just industry.

But the benefits of choosing your speciality are obvious:

  • It attracts the right clients to you (and equally important, repels the wrong ones)
  • It lets you focus on becoming a skilled expert who gets paid more
  • It helps establish you as an authority in your field, attracting more people to you

When you’re going through the difficult process, looking to other freelancers who’ve niched successfully can provide the perfect inspiration. And there are none better than… the Ghostbusters.

Let’s look at 4 things the Ghostbusters did to dominate their (admittedly very specialized) niche.

Identified an emerging market early and jumped on

The “ghost” market was an untapped and undeveloped market.

And, like many new markets, there was a high degree of skepticism it was viable. Even their initial backers at the university concluded further investment wouldn’t produce any return.

Yet, even with their funding cut and out on the street, the ‘Busters sniffed opportunity — especially the whiskey-swilling Venkman.

So they went “all in”, buying the firehouse, doing up the famous Ecto 1 and decking themselves out with proton packs (unarguably the coolest ghost-busting tech known to man).

What It Means For You

  • You may not have dogs in fridges or paintings coming to life to guide you towards new markets, but can you look for under-served areas?
  • Do you have opportunities around niches that don’t have a lot of competition?

Quick note on “all in”: unlike the Ghostbusters, you don’t have to mortgage your home. Explore the new niche, offer a prototypical service and test the demand before you invest significant time, effort or money into it.

Became specialists in their chosen niche

Just like Liam Neeson, the Ghostbusters had a particular set of skills: that of “ghost busting”.

And apart from the occasional poltergeist, Marshmallow Man or possessed painting, ghosts were exactly what the Ghostbusters handled. They stuck with their core speciality and didn’t deviate too far from it.

(On a related note, they only ventured into the tangential niches of Mr. Stay Puft, Gozer and Vigo after they’d built a truckload of expertise in the ghostly niche. Sure, that was also a matter of timing – but it’s a valid point!)

That said, the Ghostbusters’ “other” work also serves as a lesson for freelancers. Just because you service a specific niche, it doesn’t mean you can’t do work outside those areas.

What It Means For You

  • What are your “ghosts”? (i.e. the 1 or 2 things you want to specialize in)
  • Are you able to occasionally take on work outside your niche?

Established themselves as experts

The ‘Busters were already very knowledgeable in paranormal studies before they launched their private sector start-up, so they began with a solid background.

But remember their first encounter with the “full torso apparition” in the library?

Absolute disaster.

The boys in brown didn’t give up, though. They swotted up on Tobin’s Spirit Guide, upgraded their skills and equipment, then proceeded to kick supernatural butt.

What It Means For You

  • How are you improving your skills?
  • What else are you doing to become an expert in your niche?
  • If you haven’t chosen a niche yet, what areas can you develop expertise in?

Knew their target audience

If you have a niche, you’ve got to know the target audience you’re serving.

For example, the Ghostbusters’ target audience was:

  1. Troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night,
  2. Experiencing feelings of dread in their basement or attic,
  3. Or had seen a spook, specter or ghost.

Fortunately for them, they happened to be based in a major city experiencing a sudden ghost infestation, which gave them a large target audience to serve.

For the rest of us with smaller audiences, the lesson holds true. When we know who we serve, we’re able to create better-focused marketing, like this.

What It Means For You

  • Have you really gotten to know your target audience?
  • If not, can you list out their characteristics? What are their problems or desires? What do they want? What are their beliefs?

* * *

Niching doesn’t have to be an excruciating experience. Follow the Ghostbusters’ lead, and you’ll find your area of expertise faster than you can say “Ghostbusters, waddayawant.”

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