How to find your niche as a designer

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If there’s one piece of advice you get over and over again when you’re getting started as a designer (or any creative career really)- it’s that you have to define your niche.

This seemingly simple task can hold people up for weeks, months- even years in getting started because they can’t figure what kind of designer they want to be, who they want to work with, what their style is...it’s overwhelming!

Another roadblock we face, is that as creatives, we tend to be curious at heart. We want to try lettering or coding our own sites and these types of endeavors have the potential to keep us distracted instead of pursuing our true passion.

While we’re focusing on all the things, we’re missing out on the projects that can take us to the next level of our specialty.

By the way, I’m totally a sucker for being multi passionate when it comes to different design fields. It definitely took me a few years of experimenting with different projects and working with a variety of people to find my groove.

If you’re like me - keep reading to learn how to find your niche as a designer!


How to find your niche as a designer

Some people seem to have it all figured out when it comes to their design career. They’ve chosen their craft, mastered their style & seem to instantly connect with an audience of raving fans. Meanwhile, many of us spend some time floundering around trying to see where we fit in and what we’re most passionate about.

The key here, is to get experience.

There’s no point in passionately declaring you would like to be a wedding invitation designer - only to find you’re not really into print work! This part of the process often means that in the beginning, you’ll be taking on a variety of projects, creating self initiated work and working on side projects.

A lot of the time it’s finding out what we don’t like before we land on what we love doing.

Side note, I know this can be easier said than done. I felt like I was in this phase for a long time. I would look around and it seemed like everyone else was forging on ahead with their true passion! Ideal audience!

It’s easy in these moments to feel like a fraud or develop serious FOMO. It can be discouraging. But in the last couple years as I’ve honed my niche (for me it’s been digital design + marketing materials) it suddenly clicks!

I’m definitely a believer in the saying that, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be :) *End side note.*

While I’m an advocate for taking on a variety of projects to gain experience, that doesn’t mean take on every project that lands in your inbox.

Make sure you set up some boundaries avoid those projects that have red flags. A big red flag early on for me was projects that make you feel like a “design robot”. Design robot happens when a client sends you a design and wants you to copy it directly for them. This can feel defeating and lead to frustration and burnout.


Make sure your portfolio reflects your niche!

This is one of the most important steps to attracting the projects you want to work on. If you have a have a bunch of web design in your portfolio, but you want to be a letterer - there’s a disconnect- you feel me?

Eliminate any projects from your portfolio that don’t represent the kind of work you want to get. You know the saying “like attracts like”? You get more of the types of projects that are in your portfolio because potential clients can see that that’s what you know how to do. This can be frightening, because it means you’re accepting that you could be turning down potential business.

You’ll want to be adding projects that reflect what type of work you’d like to get. If you don’t have much client experience in your desired field, you can try a couple “self initiated” projects to get you started.

It would be ideal early on in this process to work one on one with a couple people, as it can give you stronger case studies to display in your portfolio, testimonials & help you refine your process.

If you’re having trouble finding those first couple clients, see if you can come up with a  “trade”.

Back in the day when I was trying to be a “blog designer”- and had 0 blog designs to market myself :P - I approached a couple bloggers I liked to follow and offered to design a blog header in exchange for a feature on their site. It was an awesome experience because it was a bite sized project (didn’t get overwhelmed with a full on blog design) but I could get experience working with another person, share their case study all while marketing my skills to their audience.

By sharing work that shows you specialize in a specific niche- you prove that you have the skills and will be a great fit for those types of projects.

To attract quality clients you need to show you’re a quality designer. Make sure you present your design process on your website along with flushed out case studies and testimonials.


What it Looks Like to define your niche:

Here’s a few examples of how you can define your niche as a designer:

Template: I’m a {specific field} creating {specific project} for {specific client}.

  • I’m a digital designer creating marketing materials for food bloggers.
  • I’m a web designer creating landing pages for online entrepreneurs.
  • I’m a logo designer creating brand identities for YouTubers.

Now add this to your website, about page & social media descriptions!

If you’re feeling panicky because you know in your heart of hearts that you have more than one passion, fear not! I believe that you can be successful choosing more than one niche. It’s helpful if you have a distinct style and type of client you work with so your portfolio feels cohesive.


Embrace Evolution

Remember, it’s more than okay to pivot your niche as you complete a project, either zoom in and get more focused or zoom out and try a different approach. Over the course of your career, you’ll be constantly going through this process! Whether that’s switching design fields, improving client communication, or creating a more effective design process.


To review:

Here’s why you should choose your niche:

  • Define your brand, what you’re known for
  • Easier to get clients that you enjoy working with
  • Become the “go-to” person
  • It helps you stand out
  • It’s easier to collaborate with others
  • You can more quickly master your chosen craft

 

If you’re brand new, choosing a niche might scare you because it:

  • Feels limited
  • Holds you back from the experimental phase
  • Fear of turning down clients

 

If you’re new to the game, embrace your newb-ness. Try out different stuff and eventually you’ll get more focused- I promise:)

 

Don’t forget to check out the free portfolio planner to get yourself organized!