If you’re a freelance web designer, it might seem to make sense to offer your services to anyone and everyone. Why limit yourself?
But after doing this for over a decade I finally realised that specialising is the way forward. Choosing a niche in web design enables you to do better, more profitable work that you actually enjoy.
My web development niche is non-profits. Clients come to me and I get enquiries through my website almost weekly.
In this post I’m going to explain the thought process that I went through to go from being a jack of all trades web designer to a specialist who commands authority with a niche audience. I’ll examine the benefits of choosing a niche and help you to work out which is the best web design niche for you. Then, we’ll look at some ways in which you can execute on this idea to build a more sustainable business.
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The decision to find a niche
I enjoy variety in my work. It’s one of the reasons I run my own web development business. BUT, too much variety can cause stress 😩
In my case, I could be freelancing for a marketing agency, contracting for a software development company and designing websites for local business clients — all in the same week!
That might sound like a lot of fun, but it meant that I was constantly switching gear, trying to keep up with what was going on with each client. What’s more, I might be working on Bootstrap with a team of .NET developers one day, and configuring WordPress plugins for small businesses the next.
To me, that’s not a business. At least it’s not a scalable, or even sustainable business.
Related: how do you keep up with trends as a web dev?
Why choose a niche?
As a freelancer in web design, you’ll sooner or later want to choose a niche for the following reasons:
- You’ll gain a deep understanding of the topic, and forge better relationships with those in that niche
- You’ll get more word-of-mouth referrals, as those within niches talk to one another
- Your working processes will be easier to establish, as projects become more predictable
- Your marketing activities will be narrower and more focused, and so you’ll see a better return on your investments
- You’ll eventually be seen as an authority within your chosen niche, so getting clients will be easier.
In a nutshell, niching is just smart business. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself all over the place trying to manage an array of clients with wildly varied requirements. Nightmare.
How to choose a niche
There are broadly two requirements here:
- You should aim to find a niche in an area that you are personally interested in*
- The market should be big enough to build a profitable business.
* some people aren’t bothered about this as they will instead recruit a team with the relevant knowledge and passions for the given topic. Personally, this is not for me. I need to feel interested in the subject matter, but that might not be the same for you!
Now, luckily the second point is mostly done for us: web design is a proven business, people design websites for money every day.
So now we just have to choose our niche. How about web design for…
- Independent coffee shops
- Vegan food businesses
- Self-published authors
- SaaS startups
- Specialist manufacturers
There are plenty more web development niches to choose from! Can you think of any more?
Marketing to a niche audience
How do you create a niche marketing strategy? Let’s take the self-published authors audience we mentioned a moment ago. Remember: in this example we’re changing up our business model to focus squarely on making websites for self-published authors.
And when you market to a specific audience, you address their problems and goals directly. Here’s how you might provide a service to this group:
- Offer 5 template styles for them to choose from, each fitting a specific genre or style of author (these could be designed by you or you could use a WordPress theme)
- Provide some basic e-commerce functionality to allow authors to sell direct from their own websites
- Bundle in website hosting and basic maintenance, billed yearly.
To help establish yourself in this space by providing even more value, you could also offer an affordable book cover design service, or proofreading function by partnering with other niche suppliers. This is how to truly go above and beyond the call of duty to grow a niche business.
Niche market keyword research
When speaking to a targeted audience, it’s important to understand and address their questions and pain points. You can do this by doing niche keyword research, which will feel a little bit like you’re entering a rabbit warren. This analogy is literally expressed in the AlsoAsked report below.
In the above report I simply searched AlsoAsked for “author websites” and the discovery engine has returned a whole set of awesome keyword ideas that related directly to my niche.
If you were ever in any doubt that marketing to this audience couldn’t be profitable, look at some of the example search phrases here: “how do you create an author website?”, “how much does an author website cost?” and “how do I sell my first book?”
This knowledge is gold. If you’re helping authors to promote their books online, you can now create website content that directly answers these questions 🔥
Then, when they come across your offering, who do you think they’re going to turn to: you, the specialist book author designer, or some random web design agency that bangs on about WordPress? It’s a no-brainer.
Niche market landing page design
Let’s recap so far:
- We have our niche (authors)
- We know their problems, as demonstrated by our keyword research
- We now need a landing page to capture their interest and provoke action.
Targeted landing page design is crucial for developing a sustainable stream of high quality leads. Let’s look at two examples of a web design landing page. One is generic and the other is targeted:
When designing a landing page to connect with a target demographic, it’s important to focus in on their needs:
|Generic content||Purposeful content||Reasoning|
|We make stunning websites||Get the perfect website to launch your new novel||Instantly, the user knows if your service is for them or not|
|List of portfolio items||Targeted services list||By focusing on them, rather than yourself, and by directly addressing their motivations, you instantly build trust|
|Industry jargon||Social proof||Most of the time, clients don’t care what your tech stack looks like – but they do care if you’ve got a good reputation among their peers|
|Contact us||“Bring your books online”||Landing pages live or die by their calls to action, so make sure yours reinforces what your client is going to get from working with you.|
This isn’t hard
The truth of the matter is: you already have all the skills to do this! It’s just web design, but for an audience. Yes, you need to get to know that audience and fall in love with their problems, but honestly, that’s just good business anyway.
I hope this article has made you stop and think about how you position yourself as a freelance web developer. I hope it’s given you some motivation to consider finding a niche and exploring the opportunities that await you here. I did, and my professional career is more profitable and more satisfying than it ever was before. Go niche!