How to Escape the Trap of the Niche and Embrace Your Full Self

What if, instead of niching down, like all of the marketing experts tell you to, you began with exploring who you are?

What if you started your business on a foundation of self love? What if you gathered all of your unique and strange parts together and that was your niche, instead of an arbitrary idea of what you “should” do?

That’s what this post explores.

Yesterday, I met with a coaching client who has a therapy practice. For months, I had tried to get her to niche down. She is brilliant at helping families go through addiction recovery and I wanted her to focus solely on that.

She explained to me how much she loves working with healthy couples, and new mothers, and teens. I could see that she was struggling because she thought I would be disappointed that she didn’t want to niche down.

As she spoke, I realized that maybe niching down didn’t make sense for her. Maybe, instead of trying to get her to be super specific, I should celebrate her strengths and encourage her to use them with all types of clients.

You see, this client is extremely creative. She uses dance, storytelling, and sensory exploration to help her clients heal. I thought, What if she emphasized her creativity, instead of limiting who she works with? What if I help her do more of what she loves instead of trying to fit her into a nicely defined box for the sake of marketing?

When I told her my thoughts, she let out a sigh of relief. And so did I.

Even though every marketer tells you to niche down, it can often feel like wearing Spanx – so restrictive it’s hard to breathe. Your business may look sexier, but you’re never completely comfortable.

Niching down is like wearing Spanx. You may look sexier, but it's hard to breathe.Click To Tweet

Here’s how I’ve tried to niche down in the past:

I tried to figure out what people wanted. I looked at lists of psychographics and demographics. I picked one area or topic to focus on based on my strengths.

My main goal was to make it easier for people to “get” what I did. I wanted to make money quickly (which didn’t work, in case you were wondering). Also, to be painstakingly honest, I didn’t want to do the deep, messy work of truly looking at myself and then creating a niche based on everything that I am.

I tried to take a shortcut. It didn’t work.

I ended up with a blog and a business that felt so unaligned with me I had to dump all of my well-researched tactics and start over.

But I’m convinced there’s another way, a more intuitive, fuller way, to create a unique niche.

I want to create a brand, that doesn’t diminish me for the sake of convenience, but instead, represents who I actually am.

I’m sharing this with you because I’m guessing you may be sick of wearing metaphorical Spanx, tired of trying to fit yourself into a box so that other people “get” who you are and what you do.

The first step is to get down, in writing, or in drawing, or however feels good to you, all of your strange and beautiful complexities.

I’ve explored this in two ways.

First, I made this bullseye. The center shows my values in blue, followed by my actions in green, then what I make, and finally, what I sell.

Then, I wrote down some ideas about who I am and what I offer:

My approach: Playful, creative, connective, intuitive, innovative, concrete
My values: Honesty, joy, integrity, uniqueness, permission
My strengths: Writing, breaking concepts down, meeting people where they are, seeing different possibilities, teaching through expressive modalities, learning, making connections, humor, honesty/vulnerability, courage to explore
Things I love to do: Have deep conversations, go on adventures, write, connect, read, learn new things, celebrate other people’s uniqueness, create, experiment
Qualities I bring to my clients: Listening, reliability, care, exploration, permission, fun/joy
Key moments in my story: When I went on LEAPYear, shaved my head, became a teacher, pursued my own business, moved to Miami, grew Blogging on Your Own Terms, met my Soul Women
What is important for me to share: The complexity of creating, our endless capacity for reinvention through creativity and curiosity, stop defining and start noticing, it’s okay to follow the money

These are the things that feel intuitively right for me to explore. You are welcome to use my format to write your own list. Or it might look different for you. That’s okay, too.

If you know my blog, if you know my writing, you know that I can’t write a blog post without some concrete steps to follow.

So here are a few guidelines for how to begin exploring the fullness of who you are.

  1. Start with your values. What is your core, your foundation? Begin with that.
  2. Don’t let your brain take charge of this process. Follow your intuition. Write down whatever comes up, no matter how strange, embarrassing, or irrelevant it feels.
  3. Be creative. Draw. Paint. Dance into your niche. Seriously. Let yourself explore.
  4. Play. Go outside. Take a walk. Let your joy speak.
  5. Be curious.
  6. Go into moments of power in your past. What have you done or experienced that changed you forever? Those moments matter.
  7. Let yourself stay with complexity, with not knowing, with the messiness. Don’t try to “make sense” of it all. This part of the process is about seeing yourself fully. That’s it.

Here’s another truth bomb for you.

I don’t know where this is leading. I may write another blog post where I fold this into a unique, well defined niche. Or I may see a thread inside of this self-knowledge, and follow that to a project. Or an idea.

Right now, knowing myself feels like a solid foundation to begin rebuilding. So I’m starting there. And if it feels right to you, I hope you’ll start there with me.