BY TJ Walker


The hardest things for most people to do who want to become experts in a field and make a living form following their passion is defining their niche. If you can’t define your niche or if you pick an awful niche, you won’t do well—it really is that simple.


In a sense, this is true of all careers regardless of whether you are trying to be an entrepreneur, a solo practitioner, an expert, or just a mid-level manager in a big corporation. Warren Buffet always says that, financially, an individual is better off being an average or below average money manager than being the 2nd or the best poet or violinist in the world. This is true. It is also relevant to people who want to follow their passions because it means you can’t define yourself as 2nd or third in anything. You have to define your niche as #1 at something.


Your niche is not “I want to be like Anthony Robbins.” Your niche is not “I want to help people achieve their goals by developing higher self esteem” Your niche is not “I want to be a life coach.” Those are all fine sentiments but they are fuzzy feelings that, left to themselves, will lead you nowhere.


If you can define a specific narrow niche when you start your career as a passionate expert, you are very likely to fail because you will never gain traction and you will never figure out how to gain an audience or make money. And it won’t matter how high your IQ is, how many hours a week you work and how many advanced degrees you have. On the other hand, if you pick a narrow enough niche, and one that you have a true passion for, then you are likely to succeed, it doesn’t matter if you r field is as specific as how to cook the world’s best chocolate chip cookie or how to snowboard (if you picked the snowboard field in 1975 when no one else was doing it).


Here are a couple of common mistakes I see people make in selecting a niche; “I want to teach people the spiritual way to obtaining financial success.” It’s an interesting concept, but I see people try to enter this field all the time and they have no actual interest in finance, stocks, bonds, portfolio management, or math itself. All they have is a general fuzzy notion that it’s better for the psyche to be free of financial woes. That’s true, but so what. This person doesn’t have enough basic interest in the core subject matter to ever be convincing as an expert.


Another common problem I see is people who want to be a career coach. Contrary to popular opinion, but failure to ever keep a job for more than 6 months and now being unemployed does not automatically qualify one to be a career coach. To be a successful career coach, it helps to have actually had a successful career in a particular field. So when jack Welch, a billionaire who was a wildly successful CEO at GE for more than 20 years decides to put out a shingle calling himself a career coach, he’s quite credible and can charge almost any fee he wants.


Certain topics lend themselves to making money in certain ways and don’t work in other ways. For example, I often meet people who want to share their passion for their religion. They want to give speeches about their particular religious or spiritual beliefs. And they are constantly surprised and dejected that large corporations and trade associations don’t want to hire them and pay them large speaking fees. The problem for these people isn’t that they aren’t great speakers or aren’t passionate experts in their field. Their problem is that corporations and trade associations don’t ever pay speakers to talk about religion because it is highly likely the corporation would offend half their employees for doing so.


There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a living as an expert on a religion or spiritual field, but if that’s your field, you need to either get a church or religious organization to higher you and give you a salary or you’ve got to start your own organization and get individuals to donate to you. The model of getting corporations to pay you just doesn’t work for these niches otherwise.


What is it you really want to do? You will never be successful if your goal is “to have a home-based business.” That’s not a goal or a niche; that is a real estate issue that is irrelevant to customers, clients and fans.


Wanting to “be your own boss and not have someone tell you what to do anymore” is not a niche that will make you an expert at anything—it just means you may or may not be a difficult person.


Politics isn’t typically a good niche for people to make money unless they are running for office and win. But if you define your niche tightly enough and our true to your brand, anything is possible. Let’s say you defined your niche as “I want to be the most obnoxious, most extreme political blond woman commentator blond women willing to say that all Democrats and liberals hate America and want to destroy the world.” That might not have seemed a great career choice to a lot of people in 1985, but Ann Coulter has made tens of millions of dollars doing just that for more than a decade.


Before you waste time on logos, colors for your web site, and graphic design for your blog, figure out what it is you do for other people. Until you can define your niche, all you are doing is puttering around with a hobby that may or may not be an expensive hobby.

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