You might know your niche and be rocking it right now with your business! If so, congrats! But I know from experience that it’s not always that easy, and not having a specific target audience or taking on too much can be damaging to your business. My advice is to narrow your focus! Keep it as simple as possible, at least at the beginning. Starting and running a business is hard enough without having to complicate it further.
Narrowing your focus can be good for your business in a variety of ways. For example, define your target audience and focus on a specific group of people who will benefit from the specific services you offer.
Or narrow your focus to specific high-value tasks that will grow your business. Trying to work on EVERYTHING can lead to overwhelm and stress. That’s obviously not good for you or your business and will not get you to where you want to be.
This post will explore the ways you can narrow your focus to grow your business.
Define your target audience
I have read so many articles that say focusing on a specific target audience is best for a business and a key thing to do when you start. But it meant I had to spend time doing market research rather than designing. Bleh! I’m much better off just targeting every business and offering every design service, because everyone needs design, right?
WRONG! I faded into the background as just another freelancer, overshadowed by the professional-looking high-powered design businesses who had their own offices packed full of iMacs!
It was only when I went to a business advice meeting where the lady told me that I just don’t stand out enough in the sea of designers, that I realised that I needed to focus my target audience and provide services for a specific type of person.
She asked me what I enjoy doing most, and I said website design. Then she asked me to narrow that down even further, and I said I enjoyed designing websites for small creative businesses. I seem to be able to do my very best work when the business I’m working with is creative themselves. There are less restrictions and our creativity can run wild! Creative and crafty business owners usually want to be involved in the whole design process too, and I love that! I also realised that they usually don’t have the budget for a custom website design and think they can DIY it, however that’s not always as easy as Wix likes to say it is, and so they needed a cheaper option that could give them a great website for their business without breaking the bank.
I decided to spend a lot of time doing market research and I also used this handy questionnaire from byRegina.com to help me figure out my target audience. The questionnaire is for defining your ideal reader profile for your blog but it’s also helpful for defining your target audience for your business.
Narrow down your services
“So what do you do?”
You should be able to answer this question with one simple sentence. For example, “I’m a website designer who works specifically with creative businesses.”
I do actually offer other services as well, e.g. print design or branding, but my main focus is website design, in particular budget website design. I respond to people asking for specific services but I only actively sell my website design services. Why? Because website design, specifically my unique budget website design package, is where I’d like my focus to lie.
When I first started my business, I quit my full-time job and decided to go solo with my design career. In my spare time, I was also running a craft business where I was making and selling gifts. I foolishly thought that I could leave my job and run both of these businesses successfully and that I could offer everything to do with design.
My perceived motivation and time was totally different to my actual motivation and time. I was trying too hard to do too many things and in the end, I had to temporarily stop my craft business (which I have now restarted on a much smaller scale!) and re-evaluate my design services.
Focusing all of your efforts in one place is going to make more of an impact than focusing them everywhere!
Assess your services based on your target audience and determine what they actually need. It might be that you need to tweak one of your services slightly or it might mean that you have to create a completely new offering like I did, but try to focus on one thing and be an EXPERT! Once you’re established with your specialisation, you can keep expanding if you want to.
Keep productive, not busy
You can also narrow your focus in the day to day running of your business. Instead of keeping ‘busy’, keep ‘productive’. Focus on the tasks that will get your business to where it needs to be. If you need help deciphering what tasks are important and what tasks aren’t, read my post here.
I add all sorts of things to my to-do list e.g. ‘tidy desk’ or ‘download meditation app’. These are things I’d LIKE to do but not things that I should be doing in my business time. Instead, I should be focusing on tasks like ‘email 5 new potential clients’ or ‘invoice design client’, both tasks that grow my business.
To stop my crazy creative mind drifting off topic as it likes to do, I’ve created a schedule. My schedule includes blocks of time to do blogging, social media, marketing, admin, design work and product development.
I set a timer and stick to my important tasks from that category. I’ve even included a set amount of time for me to do whatever I like so that I can tidy my desk or download an app without feeling like I’m not being productive.
I’ve also created a list for future plans and for tasks not related to my business, so my main to-do list is just full of the important and focused tasks that I need to work through. It’s also colour coded depending on importance! I use Todoist to organise my tasks.
Leslie Samuel’s blog post on explores this topic further and recommends that 80% of your time each day should be focused on 3 important high-value tasks.
Specify your social media and marketing efforts
Where do your customers spend most of their time? Through the process of finding your perfect customer, you should get to know everything about them, including whether they are a Facebook person or an Instagram person for example!
Rather than spend all of your time and effort spread across multiple social media channels, figure out which ones work best for your customers or where your customers are most present and stick to it.
Focus on just one or two social media channels and become an expert in using them. You’ll find that instead of spending 20% of your time on 5 different channels, spending 100% on one or 50% on two, will bring in much better results, both for that channel’s growth and for your income.
It’s the same with other marketing efforts. Why pay for a newspaper advert if your target audience mostly reads blogs?
I admit when I first started, I thought I’d have to try absolutely everything, and I’ve still got my list of every possible marketing idea that I could come up with. If I go back through it now with my target audience in mind, I could probably erase at least half of those ideas that would just be a waste of time and money!
A key thing to remember is: it doesn’t matter what you prefer or what you like if you’re not your target customer. You need to put yourself in their shoes and find out what works best for them.
There’s a phrase I learnt when I was just a marketing/design apprentice working at a start-up marketing company, “Keep it simple stupid” otherwise known as KISS. It’s a design principle, but can be applied to your business as a whole. Keep your focus simple and specific, and enjoy growing your business!