In the classic book The 80/20 Principle, author Richard Koch lays out his 10 Golden Rules of Success, applicable to both business and to life in general. I have my own particular take on them, which is a little different than Koch’s, and are more specific to the creative lifestyle.
We are not all Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance masters of multiple disciplines. Conventional wisdom declares that any person, any business, or, frankly, any creative endeavor should do one thing, and do it well. Most of the time, finding your niche is easy; sometimes it’s not, and when it isn’t it can be a brutal struggle. My earliest outings as a blogger were within a very clear niche, tabletop roleplaying games. It was when I felt that I wanted to expand beyond that particular niche that I ran into trouble. There were several different things that I wanted to write about, and while in my mind there was a through line, it took a long time before I was able to articulate it. Now that I can — I write about creativity and the creative lifestyle — I can better tailor the blog posts so that they remain relevant to that topic. It wasn’t a matter of changing my niche as much as it was expanding it and looking at a bigger picture.
Your niche is also your filter. Run everything through that filter to keep yourself on track. If you’re doing something fairly high concept, it’s easy to keep focus. If you run a cooking blog, for example, you can look at any post and ask yourself “what does this have to do with cooking?”. If you can’t make it fit within the niche, you need to course-correct.
Sometimes the core skill comes before the niche. I think I was writing some pretty good blog posts, and doing a fair job of promoting the blog, before I settled on the niche. It didn’t help much; good marketing, as they say, only makes a bad product fail faster. Your niche will help you to refine that core skill. It’s easier to find readers interested in a specific niche, for instance, than to cast a wide net and hope you accidentally trip over people who’ll join you in that niche.
Are you a jack of all trades and master of none, or can you give a clear answer when people ask what you do? I’m a writer. My wife is an educator and an artist. Those are clear niches. That doesn’t mean we don’t have other skills and interests, but those are either offshoots or outliers that don’t alter our core identity, our personal niche.