Episode #16: Ways to Niche in Graphic Design So It’s Not Scary


Welcome to this episode of Earning by Design. This is episode number 16, and I really appreciate you tuning in today. I’m going to be talking about how to go about niching.

Now, I just want to put a word out there for anybody who says the word niche. I believe that is something controversial, whether you’re supposed to call it niching or niching. I would like to say the original sounding of the pronunciation of the word was niche, but I know niche is very commonly used as well.

So I want to respect anyone and let you know I do say niching, but I hope that doesn’t annoy anyone or make you want to tune out. So why should you niche? I want to just make sure that we cover this very briefly here, but to make you understand the power. So when you start a design business, you are a marketer.

You have to be a marketer as a business owner. Marketing is the subject of making yourself well-known and interest and liked and trusted by another person, by the person you want to eventually buy your services, buy your products, buy whatever you are offering in exchange for money. So when you’re marketing, that can go in many forms.

It can go in the form of doing content marketing where you’re putting out blog posts or podcasts or YouTube videos, or you’re doing social media where you’re putting out ideas and getting people interested in you. So marketing can also be in the form of saying what your service is and making people interested in your service. There’s a lot of ways to go about marketing, but if you don’t know who you want to attract, it makes the job a little bit more complicated.

And that’s where when you decide who that person is and know them and know why they would be interested, your job gets a lot easier. Now, if you have an amazing service and you are such a skilled designer, but no one knows about you, that’s not going to help you get hired. And if you are amazing, but you’re putting out your work in the wrong places, that’s also not going to help you because you’re not marketing.

You’re not making the right people know about your services. So let’s say you want to be a designer and you want to work for everyone. You want to work for all small businesses and you don’t want to niche.

You’re like, no, I don’t care how many times Lauren says this. I don’t care how many times I’ve heard this. I will not niche.

Well, I just want you to think about this as yourself as a consumer, because you’ve taken away all those that are meant for their uniqueness and the ability to make them feel special. Those clients that you have, you take away that special feeling. And I’m going to give you an example.

When you go into a store, I know a lot of people do online shopping these days, but let’s just say you go into a store and you are looking for specific things for clothes and you don’t see your size and you see some things that are too small, some things that are too big, and you just don’t see your size. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel very special. I don’t feel very cared about when I don’t see my size.

I feel like this store is not meant for me and they don’t really care about me. But if you do find your size, something that fits you and your uniqueness, your unique body, your unique style, you’re going to feel more special and that you’re being listened to, you’re being cared for, and that you will probably buy from this store again, or you’ll buy something at that point. I know that there are specific stores that I, as growing up and still to this day, when I will never go in them because I’ve had one bad experience where their clothes were meant for somebody that must be about, I don’t know, a toothpick and I could never get into their pants.

So those kind of stores, they’re not for me. They don’t have my uniqueness and they’re meant for somebody who has a stick figure body. So just as a kind of quirky example, it just gets you to really see that when somebody is there and really cares about and has thought about the type of person you are, you feel more connected.

You feel much more likely to purchase from them. And that’s the same thing for a design business. When you are there for a specific type of client and you know what really gets to their core, why they really need to market themselves well with great design and you speak to that, you are going to make them feel special.

You’re going to make them feel important and they’re going to be much more likely to go with you as opposed to someone else. Another way to look at this, just to really put it home, and then I’m going to talk about the different ways to niche, different ideas around the subject, different examples of great designers that have niched. I’m going to give you all that, but I want to just say something here.

(6:41 – 7:35)
When you, we are, everybody here has specific things. Everybody in this world has interests that are unique to you and you go to places, you listen to blogs, you listen to YouTube channels and podcasts and social media accounts and newsletters that are specific to your interests. As a designer, that is an interest you have.

You are a graphic designer, a brand designer, UX, UI designer, web designer, illustrator, motion graphics designer, whatever type you are, you have that interest and you’re going to follow things that are aligned to that interest. You also probably have more personal interests and maybe your brother or your friends are not interested in design and so those things that you follow are not meant for them. They’re meant for you.

(7:36 – 16:33)
And similarly, things that I’m interested in or you’re interested in that are totally disrelated to design, such as, you know, I’m a big Disney fan and I’m basically obsessed. So I, if you go into my email inbox, you will find Disney blogs, Disney newsletters, Disney merchandise, Disneyland news, everything. It’s related to Disney.

I go listen to Disney podcasts. I watch Disney YouTube channels and that’s where my interests are. So Disney is not trying these different Disney people are not trying to cater to people who are into horror or they’re into other types of genres or nonfiction.

They know that’s not their people. They’re not trying to be everywhere for everyone. Obviously, Disney is definitely a huge, huge example, but those people who are obsessed with Disney know where to find them.

And those people who talk to them and are in that, that same interest, they’re going to be the ones that are, they know they’re catering to a specific type of person. So that same is true of clients. They’re going to be in different places that are interested to them and growing their own businesses.

So if you’re trying to be in places everywhere, you’re not going to hit the right mark necessarily. It’s a real hit or miss. They’re going to be in places that are specific to their industry, their interests.

So similar, you just have to kind of reverse the roles and think about your own self. Where are you online? Where do you go? And that’s the same thing for anybody. So in this regard, I want to give you some types and different ideas of ways to niche so that you can think about this and see that it’s really not all that bad.

You could start with a specific type of industry. That’s obviously a common one. And that could be anything from startups and tech companies, healthcare and wellness.

It could be the hospitality industry, which means everything related to travel and entertainment that could be including restaurants and travel agencies and airports and all these different things that fall under that. You could go deeper into those different industries that are under the hospitality as well. There’s fashion and beauty.

There’s an entire world in there, which includes packaging and branding and fashion labels and even designing surface patterns for different clothes. There’s food and beverage. Now, this could be anything from those that are selling like consumer product package goods of different food and beverage brands.

It could also include menu designs and branding for restaurants and cafes and bars. It could also include promotional materials that they would need. Then there’s also the whole music and entertainment world, which could be album covers, concert posters, music festivals, promotional materials for bands and venues and events.

And it could also be the entire entertainment world, which is movies and TV posters and different things in that realm that is a whole industry in itself. And you could have endless clients there. There’s the sports and fitness industry, which is sports teams is one that you could do.

If you just did nothing but sports teams and sports teams for universities or sports teams for the big time players, that in itself, you could be doing all their promotion, their social media, all their content marketing that they need. And the event venue and promotions that is an endless world in itself. Then there’s fitness brands and gyms and events, including their branding, apparel, marketing materials.

There’s real estate, which is really about branding is super important there, but they also need constant promotion of their listings, promotional materials. And then there’s a whole other field connected to that, which is the development world and builders. And those are the people who are building new developments either for businesses like commercial real estate, or there’s also residential and more of the ones that are doing it for creating maybe developments that are specific to communities.

And then there’s education and nonprofit designing informative fundraising materials for educational institutions, maybe nonprofit organizations. You could even niche down further into specific types of nonprofit organizations, maybe ones that are meant for health or ones that are meant for mental, mental illnesses, or specific to women and children. There is an endless amount of nonprofits out there.

And sometimes they will have budgets. There’s, there is this kind of debate, whether they only will hire people who are volunteering or very cheap, but there will be the ones that have the budgets. I’ve seen designers work with big, big, huge nonprofits that have big budgets.

There’s also publishing where they specializing in book covers. I was in this when I worked in-house doing magazine layouts, illustrations for publishers and authors, that’s an massive industry. And even though there’s a lot of eBooks these days, they still need designs.

They still need those. They still have conventions many times a year. I used to go to them all the time and they have trade booths.

They, they have lots of promotional materials and constantly there’s books coming out all the time. There’s also the whole gaming world where, you know, maybe if you’re a UI UX designer, you can get into video games and doing their apps and doing promotional materials for that. So those are just a handful under this category of industries that you could think with for that specific one.

Now there’s another way to niche, which is type of platform. And that’s how I did it, which is something like people who are selling on Amazon, people who are selling on Etsy, people who have specific platforms, maybe have a YouTube channel. You’re doing all the YouTube people who have YouTube channels and you’re doing all of their thumbnails.

You’re doing all their branding. You’re doing all their social media content. That is a whole area in itself.

And what I did with the Amazon e-commerce sellers is they have specific places where they are online. They are where they have congregations. They have masterminds.

That’s something that is important. And we’re going to talk about that is as well, which is the checklist of what qualifies for a good niche. So we’ll talk about that after this, but that is one you could think with is type of platforms.

You can also get into geographic location. So this is something that I really want to stress though. And I just saw a designer try to do this, where she was trying to do brand identity for New York city.

Now, New York city is one of the biggest places where there are massive branding agencies. So trying to compete with that, it’s just going to be a lot harder. Also, you wouldn’t want to do that for all of Los Angeles or London or some of these massive cities.

What I mean by geographic location is if you have a town or a region that is very unique, such as the Pacific Northwest, that’s where I live. And there are designers who have that style of that rustic kind of outdoorsy vibe to them. And they cater to other businesses in that region that want to emulate that same kind of vibe.

And that is in itself a niche. And you can just be working with people in your own local geographic zone. Maybe you come from a small town and there’s a specific feel to it and you can cater to all the businesses there because it also leads you down the path of where are they? Where do they go to congregate? And you know how to reach them.

So it’s a different thing than if you’re trying to be in all of New York city, because that’s a massive city and it’s pretty impossible to really have specific places they congregate. It’s just too big. So that’s something that you can think with.

There’s also budget ranges within these categories. So for Amazon sellers, I was first working with only those Amazon sellers who were very new and starting out. They were in their own specific places.

They asked, they followed specific type of people. And then I moved to more of the rebranding. They’re looking to take their businesses to the next level.

Maybe they got a really cheap logo originally, really cheap packaging, and now they have invested. They’re ready to invest more. So that is a specific budget range within that Amazon seller community.

(16:33 – 17:38)
And they’re going to be at different types of communities, different types of conferences, different types of masterminds, different online places than those newbies are going to be. They’re going to have bigger budgets and I can reach them and I know where they are. So that’s where the budget ranges can also work.

There’s also you can niche with social impact. Those are things maybe you’re really passionate about specific topics or specific causes that are happening. And you can get behind those such as environmental causes.

And there are going to be businesses that are really, really interested in working with designers who understand those because they have this alignment to those those causes, which is a big unifying point. Another one that can be a little bit controversial is working with specific people who are in the political party. They have the specific same political views that you do and you want to support their causes and you want to work with them while also getting paid to do their jobs.

(17:39 – 30:41)
There are let’s say you are more leaning to the left and you want to work with maybe certain people are running for office and you want to do their campaigns and design for them. That is a great place because you could align with their views. If you’re more leaning to the right and you’re more of a conservative and you are really passionate about getting that idea ideology out there, then you can work with those that are aligned to those views as well.

So this is a way that is maybe more of taking a risk you feel because then you’re going to be really alienating a lot of people. The point is that’s good. You want to alienate people.

You want to be specific for those that are going to be interested in you and I can tell you that a designer who is really interested in a specific political party and you’re gonna and somebody’s looking for a designer that aligns with that, that’s going to be a great bond and they’re going to refer you to others in that area too. So you don’t if you’re really into that that’s totally another valid niche to get into. I want to give you some examples of great designers and agencies that have gotten into niches.

I have about four I want to share that are super fun and different. The first one is called base design and they work with luxury brands in the fashion and luxury niche. So imagine going to like I don’t know if you’re familiar with this but Rodeo Drive or Beverly Hills type areas where there are these high high end fashion brands that you know people who go in there they’re going to spend minimums of thousands of dollars to buy anything.

Well those type of businesses have a specific feel, they have a specific branding, they have a specific look and if you’re a designer that is really into that you could very well fit in with these type of businesses because they want somebody who understands the luxury the whole vibe that the their type of customers are going to be attracted to. There’s another designer whose name is Lauren Holm I believe I’m pronouncing that correctly. She specializes in hand lettering for food and beverage brands and she does a lot for restaurants and and beverage companies and this she’s incredible artist definitely look her up if you’ve never heard of her.

I will also have a link to her website in the show notes but I just want to say that what she does is she could have done hand lettering for any business out there but she chose food and beverage and that was something that that she knew would resonate with that type of audience that type of industry and I’ve also seen designers who choose the food and beverage and they have these bright and bubbly and wonderfully vibrant design styles and a lot of times that fits the food and beverage because they’re always looking to compete on the shelves and and make people excited to eat their products or drink their their beverages so that’s that fits a specific type of design style. There’s this other company I found called Mina Lima and they work in the entertainment and film industry and what’s really cool is they did a lot of graphic design and lettering work for Harry Potter the actual movies of Harry Potter way back when and they continued to have this great collaboration with Harry Potter they did a lot of work for the Wizarding World that those the theme parks and that are in Universal they worked with not just that on continuing movies and I know that they’ve done some other entertainment and film industry related items they have an incredible website they even have a shop in I believe it’s in London and it’s so cute very fitting of what they’ve worked with and that is actually graphic design in the film industry not even just doing advertisement for the films or movie posters but doing design that is showcased in a film that’d be pretty cool to have that so never never obviously that’s not something that can necessarily happen overnight you got to have show a portfolio for that probably have the right connections get into the right places be where these people are but if you make that decision that that’s where you want to go absolutely you can do that another one that I wanted to show this is the last example that I wanted to talk about is someone who you’ve probably heard of which is Aaron Draplin and he has a very distinct style that fits like I was saying earlier that geographic location he’s in Portland Oregon so which is very close to where I live and that is the Pacific Northwest vibe he has a style that really fits this area like I said but he does it for the action sports world so that’s like thinking with snowboarding companies that’s a big big industry that he’s worked with and he’s done logos merchandising for them different design items for them and many more in that field but his style is so great for it and it is fitting he didn’t he knew that his style was not for somebody who’s maybe looking to be a real estate agent or in the in the non-profit space or in the health care and wellness so he chose this area of the sports action sports world because his style fits that he had a passion for it he went for it and he’s been very very successful so you can see all the different ways that you can niche and there’s so much potential in every one of them but it’s a good thing to know and give yourself a checklist of well what is a good what is a good niche how do I know if it’s good how do I know if it’s going to be profitable because you don’t want to go for it and then you’re you’re stuck in this what what I feel is that most of the the niches that you can choose are going that I’ve just talked about are going to be a great fit as long as you take it all the way and you do all the right actions of making sure you do the research and the messaging and everything to to align with them but there are some criteria that you can just think with and a big one is is the mark what is the market size of that niche and you can just google market size for blank whatever the niche is that you’re looking to get into because that’s going to give you a prediction of is it going to be growing is it going to be shrinking you also can look at google trends and see is the overall industry going up is it going down was it affected by the pandemic at this point a lot of things have bounced back and we hope there’s not going to be another pandemic but that’s a good criteria just to to get a sense of it you also want to verify there’s online communities that you can go to where these people congregate they’re having common problems they’re looking to have those problems solved and they’re having common interests so they’re going to be in common places online now the only the only one that may be a little bit of an exception to this is a geographic location because those places may be only meeting in chambers of commerce but generally everything has some online aspect online associations are there associations for this industry as well or for this niche if you are looking to get into the entertainment industry of course there’s tons of associations if you’re looking to get in the food and beverage industry there are associations there’s real estate associations there’s tech company associations there are generally associations for anything and why i keep stressing that point is those that means that it’s a big enough industry that there is a group dedicated just to helping those type of people and they will put on different events they’ll have webinars they’ll they will train people they will have potential to have you be one of those presenters one day and get in front of those people it’s a great indicator because then also you can look for the resources on their sites and understand what are the marketing problems that your ideal clients the the ones you want to get into which are also their ideal clients what are they running into what do they talk about what interests do these people have in in reading about and then you can put your own angle and spin on that when you’re doing your own content marketing so having it needs to you need to make sure that there’s common areas online that they congregate you need to make sure they have associations you need to check the market size of the industry and the google trends it’s also good to know if there are specific industry leaders that you can go find on social media see that they have engaged followings people are interested because that also indicates that it is an area that there you can find where they are online another way not just maybe in communities but also in social media platforms so those are five key really important points when you’re deciding on the niche and you know sometimes you just have to go for it and go all in when people just dabble a little bit in an inch and they don’t really go all into it that’s where it doesn’t get taken all the way because it takes time to learn about to get yourself known to be an expert in that area so that’s where you have to have patience business is all about patience it’s about persistence and patience i could not stress those two words more and niching just makes your job easier you’re not going to just be blindly shooting in the dark all the time if you know who you’re talking to you know where they are online and you know how to get them interested in your services you have those three those three points in you will be golden you just have to keep with your patience and persistence and keep going in that direction if you’re finding you’re posting a lot on instagram or on social media and not getting anywhere you’ve got to question first of all are your ideal clients there are you reaching them and are you putting out the right content that is actually going to be something they care about you have to be when you’re doing marketing it’s not about you it’s about who you want to reach so there you go i gave you a lot of ideas of how to niche how to approach the subject what to think with when you’re niching and different examples of successful designers who have done as well i’ve seen a lot of this world where people just try and just be everything a designer for everything and i always get upset when they’re not making it because they’re not having that that guts and the and the real knowledge that it does work i really recommend if you have serious doubts about this subject still go read the book this is marketing go read the book uh the one page marketing plan these are incredible incredible basic marketing fundamental books that changed my business and changed the way i thought about marketing i highly recommend those and as always i appreciate you being here truly truly do truly appreciate you listening to the end of this to all the way through the end of this podcast and if you haven’t yet i would love to hear your feedback you can always write it in a review in apple podcasts or rate it on spotify i really appreciate those and as well as please write me a message on instagram if you have any suggestions of podcast topics people you would like to see me interview i would love to hear from you because this podcast is for you thank you so much again and have a really nice rest of your day thank you so much for listening to this episode of earning by design if you found value today i would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a review on your favorite podcast platform your feedback not only helps this podcast to grow but it also helps to get in front of more designers who need help too so thank you sincerely for being here and for more resources to help you succeed in the world of design please visit forthecreatives.com that’s the number for thecreatives.com we offer a variety of courses programs and free resources all tailored to enhance your design skills and your business knowledge also be sure to follow me on instagram at for the creatives for more updates and tips and if you haven’t already join my growing community of over a hundred thousand subscribers on the for the creatives youtube channel that has more content all designed to fuel your creativity and your professional growth until next time keep creating keep exploring and continue to push the boundaries of your own creative journey i’ll be here to guide and inspire you every step of the way

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To niche or not to niche... that is the question

Niching is a very scary subject for many! But in this episode, I break down many different ways you can niche and 5 points you must think with before deciding on the niche you will choose. 

Key Highlights:

  • The Power of Niching: Understand why defining your niche is crucial for effective marketing and attracting the right clients.
  • Building Client Connections: Discover how niching helps create deeper, more meaningful relationships with your audience, enhancing client loyalty.
  • Exploring Niches: A quick tour through various niches, from industry-specific to geographic, highlighting the impact of strategic specialization.
  • Actionable Insights: Learn from the success stories of designers who have found their niche, coupled with practical tips to help you choose yours with confidence.

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Additional notes and links mentioned in this episode

Links from episode:

  • Lauren Hom: https://www.homsweethom.com/work
  • Mina Lima: https://minalima.com/
  • Aaron Draplin: http://www.draplin.com/

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