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Is it a Good Idea to Niche Yourself as a Designer?

There are various schools of thought on this question above.

Many designers (both graphic and web) have plenty to say about the subject of specializing. And though some may feel it goes against logic to pick a niche for themselves, many are of the same mind as I am on the topic:

Niching yourself is a must.

But, why? Why do so many think that picking 1 or 2 areas to specialize in is better than casting a wide net and doing it all?

Well, let’s think about this in a different light for a moment.

The General Contractor vs. The Tree House Builder

Let’s just say for a moment that you had an awesome tree house. You didn’t build it, rather it’s been there when you bought your home, and it was one of the reasons why you bought the house (likely for the kiddos).

Now, let’s say the house is built around the trunk of the tree that is growing too large for the tree house and causing some major issues with it that make the tree house a danger to use. You don’t want to get rid of it, but rather you want to find a solution to fix the issue that keeps the tree healthy and the tree house around for years to come.

So who would you call? Would you call some random general contractor who likely doesn’t know much about tree health to fix it? Or would you try and track down a contractor who specialized in building tree houses and who knew just about there was to know about how to fix an issue like this?

Would you call some random general contractor who likely doesn’t know much about tree health to fix it? Or would you try and track down a contractor who specialized in building tree houses and who knew just about there was to know about how to fix an issue like this?

Well, while it may sound a little far-fetched, but in America there is an entire TV show about a contractor who specializes in building these. People from all over the world call him up to build their tree houses and to fix tree house related issues.

Why?

Because he’s known as that go-to guy when it comes to tree houses and people will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to him to build them one.

How To Niche Yourself as a Designer and Why

Now it may seem crazy that anyone would pay a ton of money to build a tree house, but many do. There is a small market for that kind of work and many prospects within that market are willing to hand this guy a blank check to build the tree house of their dreams.

As a designer, you can take the same approach as the “Tree House Guy” and specialize in a particular area. And here is why:

  • Specializing positions you as an expert and the go-to person to solve a pain point. | If you’re a graphic designer, you can niche yourself in surprisingly well-paying markets like the food industry (think brewpubs or the recent booming cupcake market). As a web designer, you can take a similar approach and target restaurants for your design niche. Doing this positions you as the person people in this industry need to go to if they want this sort of thing handled right.
  • Specializing brings in better pay. | If you can position yourself as that guy (or gal) that people need in order to get a particular type of design done, then you can charge more than the average designer and still have clients coming to you in a relatively steady stream. Your knowledge translates as expertise, and when people want the best then price doesn’t become an issue.

Those are just a couple reasons why so many say that choosing a design niche is imperative. From personal experience, I can tell you that choosing an area to specialize in just makes life easier.

So how do you pick a niche? Here are a couple suggestions:

  • Make a list of niches that appeal to you. | Do you love working with smaller boutiques? Does working with professionals like lawyers get your blood pumping? Would you like to design for children’s books? If you’re a web designer, what are you knowledge about besides web design? (SEO? Landing Page Conversion?) Write down anything and everything that you would like to work on and areas where you think there may be a market.
  • Research the niches on your list to find a good market. | Obviously, you want to pick one to two areas on your list that not only have a market you can reach, but that also pays well, too. This can take a little time, but it’s well worth the effort.

If you want more help in this regard, then check out this post by Kate Erickson with Entrepreneur on Fire.

So what’s your opinion? Should you pick a niche as a designer? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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