Web design niche – the why, what and how to choose
A niche is about narrowing your focus to a smaller specialised group. You’ll go from ideas everywhere to a laser beam focus.
Why you should consider choosing a niche
Everyone will have different reasons for choosing a niche. Here are my main reasons.
1. Become an expert
It’s a more persuasive case if someone says “talk to Dave, his company specialises in web design for higher education”. A portfolio of work around a specific niche is beneficial and reassuring for potential clients.
Experts can charge higher fees than generalists. The expert also tends to lead from the front, which suits my style of project management.
The more you do something, the better you get. It gets more natural for you but brings more value to the next client and the next project. Clients gain your combined knowledge within a niche. You can share what’s worked to make previous projects successful — talking from the point of experience and expertise.
2. Be more productive
The more you learn about your niche, the less time needed to understand what type of proposals and services will work best.
Time spent researching design trends and best practices can be applied to future projects.
You’ll be able to speak the lingo and discuss industry trends. Clients will save time having someone who already knows the ins and outs of their market.
3. Predictable projects
Each niche has a unique communication style and decision-making process. The more you work in a niche, the better your insights and instincts become. You’ll have sharper skills when considering what projects to take on and what to decline.
If you create a new product or service for one client in a niche, it’s also likely to be suitable for others in the same niche.
4. Be memorable and relevant
People have an abundance of choice, only a Google away. They seek ways to filter and categorise information into relevant and digestible decisions. Being transparent and specific about what you provide allows you to stand out as the clear choice.
Your website content, blog articles, social posts, and email marketing will all become more personal and persuasive to your specific audience.
Will it push other business away?
People hire designers and agencies for a multitude of reasons. People contact you because they like the look of your work, your attitude, process, personality or others refer you.
A niche won’t drive away generic work, but it will strengthen your offering for those who are in your chosen niche.
Types of web design niches
*denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialised section of the population.*
There’s no right or wrong approach. You can decide to mix and match styles to fit your needs.
Below I’ll list types of niche approaches. This list is not exhaustive. Don’t think of it as strict rules to follow. When you start something new, you have to monitor it and be flexible to tweaks and changes.
- End users
A sector is the most common niche people choose. It’s also the easiest to get wrong.
Don’t choose a sector-based niche simply because you have experience in that area. That sector has to be something you’re passionate about and have an audience that will pay you.
You can market multiple related sectors. For unrelated sectors, consider an umbrella niche.
Great at building websites in SquareSpace, Shopify or WordPress? Showcase that so people know they’ve found help.
Web design has terms like UI, UX, branding, art direction, customer journeys, and a boatload of others. Avoid phrases that are not familiar to your ideal clients.
An umbrella niche is a way to connect multiple niches. I use transformation to connect recruitment and higher education — because both are life changing events that require reassurance.
The drawback of umbrella is that it can be confusing for clients to understand.
If you’re starting a new web design business, avoid an umbrella niche.
Someone who understands a clients audience is worth their weight in gold. This niche tells potential clients “we know your audience and know what they need to choose you”.
Designing for end-users is a clear design approach, but marketing your niche with the end-user first will only work if your clients also view their end-users as the most crucial element.
An outcome-driven niche is more natural for clients to understand and view you as a match to their needs.
Outcomes allow you to simultaneously empathise with the problem and show how you can fix it.
I think this is one of the best strategies when combined with another niche.
Avoid making promises you can’t deliver. Too many web designers have content promising more leads and sales. These deliverable are outside the control of a web designer and require marketing and sales skills too.
You don’t have to stick with one niche approach. A combination can help you filter down to the exact type of people and projects you want.
Hidden Depth has multiple niches. In order of priority:
- Outcome: get a website you’re proud to show the world.
- Umbrella + End users: Transformative web design for people making life-changing decisions.
- Sector: Specialising in web design recruitment and higher education.
When combing multiple niches, make sure they complement one another. Each should enhance the other. People making life-changing decision applies to people going to college or finding a new career, so they strengthen the whole offering.
I’d recommend starting with one niche. Don’t add others until you are confident with the primary niche.
HOW: Questions to consider when choosing your web design niche
A niche will only work if it’s profitable for you and affordable for clients.
- Do clients have the budget to work with you? Too many people choose a niche because they’ve done previous work in an industry or because it’s an exciting niche. That’s great once the majority of businesses in your niche consider your rates feasible. They should see your pricing as acceptable without stress, worry and endless deliberation.
- Does this market have good profit margins? Businesses like restaurants have tight profit margins, so a high-end website will not be common.
- Are they an industry known for prompt or late payment?
- What opportunities are there for additional revenue like care plans, hosting, marketing or content writing.
Some niches have more a-holes than others. Think hard about who you want to work with over weeks, months or years.
People make a project a collaborative, fun and stress-free project. Or they make it a battle and question every decision. Choosing the right people is the most important thing.
- Who are the decision-makers and people you’ll work with during a project? Could they make things easy or difficult?
- What are their roles, pains, hopes and passion for the work?
- Are they used to being the sole decision-maker and could be difficult when working to your schedule?
- Do they value what you provide? Do they view you as an order taker or strategic partner?
- If they refer you to others, what would their compelling reason be?
- How long will it take from enquiry to approval? In education, we are often asked to tender for projects. Tenders can take weeks or months before we know if we’ve won the project.
- Shorter sales cycles are beneficial when starting a new business.
Your skills need to live up to the requirements of your niche. You may choose a lucrative niche, but if you don’t deliver on expectations, you’ll lose long term.
Passion is the thing that will keep you going when times are tough. You need to be interested and passionate about a niche. The more you care; the more willing to learn and awareness to notice.