What is a niche?
There’s no need to overcomplicate what a niche is.
A niche is a set of related topics that revolve around a problem or a community.
Niches come in a lot of shapes and sizes, however.
Key concepts to understand when it comes to niches are “niching up” and “niching down.”
Niching up would be broadening your niche and niching down would be going more specific within a broader niche.
For example, “cooking” is a niche, and “cooking for keto diet” would be niching down within the cooking niche.
Niching even further down would be something like “cooking for keto diet for busy moms.”
You can see the difference in scope.
One is very broad and the other is more targeted.
That would be defining a niche based on a problem.
“Cooking” is a problem and your job is to help your audience solve that problem.
Another way of defining a niche is by the community you’re serving.
“Off-roading,” “off-roading in the US,” and “off-roading in Southern California” would a good example.
You basically narrow down or “niche down” based on the size of the community you want to service.
It’s important to know you are not forever-chained to the “sub-niche” you choose.
Vertical movement within a niche is fine.
For example, if you started within the “off-roading in Southern California” niche and you’ve established yourself as an authority figure within that niche, you could easily niche up.
Expanding to the entire state of California or even the entire country would be something you could do.
Going too broad at first and succeeding is not impossible, but it’s a lot harder.
Creating content around broad topics such as “off-roading” itself means you’re competing with the heavy hitters of the industry.
It’s like bringing a stick to a tank fight.
The odds of your content appearing before theirs for broad keywords and topics is slim to none.
This brings us to the main subject of this article – mistakes people do when choosing a niche.
1. Not following your interests
This is one of the most important things to nail when choosing a niche.
Choose something you’re interested in.
Many people, myself included, sometimes even use the word “passion.”
“Do something you’re passionate about.”
That’s all fine and dandy, but not everyone’s even discovered their passion yet.
Yes, I’m a big believer in “discovering” your passion.
Some people are fortunate enough to discover their passion at a young age.
It seems like such a great fit that other people assume they were born with it.
But it doesn’t always work that way.
Sometimes you have to try several different things for a certain length of time for one of them to stand a chance of becoming your passion.
In other words, give yourself a chance to find your passion by following your interests.
On the other end of the scale, committing to something you have zero interests in is a sure path to failure for at least two big reasons.
Creating content within a niche you’re not interested in means creating a job for yourself.
And nobody likes jobs.
The other reason is the fact that nobody gives 110% at their job.
People who are genuinely passionate about the subject will outwork and outperform you because of one simple fact – doing the work is more fun for them.
And it takes A LOT of work to succeed.
So, a good rule of thumb is choosing something you’re interested in that you’re also curious about and can see yourself following that curiosity.
2. Not niching down enough
We’ve already touched upon this problem in the introductory part of this article.
Let’s go with the example of the cooking niche.
It’s hard to even wrap your mind around how many cuisines or recipes there are in the world, isn’t it?
Trying to go this broad is impossible for a single person.
You would be going against the world’s leading authority sites on the topic of cooking.
How bad would that be for your chances of success?
Imagine Gordon Ramsay shouting you down every step of the way.
Apart from the entertainment aspect, it would be disheartening.
Your content would go nowhere in the search results and you’d have a hard time establishing yourself as an authority figure.
And establishing yourself as an authority figure is very important in the eyes of Google’s search algorithm.
Arguably, it’s becoming the most important criteria as the algorithm becomes more and more sophisticated.
To avoid drowning in the ocean that is broad niches, learn to swim in a pond first.
Let’s say your mom or grandma is from Eastern Europe and she taught you a lot of the recipes from that cuisine.
Why not start from there and build a name for yourself?
You’ll face a lot less competition and your content will stand a chance of being discovered.
Like I said before, niching up and expanding, later on, is perfectly fine.
3. Niching down too much
Let’s continue with the fine example of Eastern European cuisine.
It is delicious, by the way.
Niching down too much would probably mean concentrating on one dish and one dish alone.
Sure, there probably are a lot of variations of Goulash (stew) out there.
But making Goulash a sole focus of a cooking blog?
It probably wouldn’t work as a long-term strategy.
You could become the world’s leading expert on Goulash, but would you ever want to stop there?
I don’t think so.
Don’t confuse this with starting with Goulash and expanding from there, however.
Anybody else getting hungry?
If you want more info on how to recognize if your niche is too small or too broad, check out my article on that topic.
4. Second-guessing and doubting yourself
This one’s big for a lot of us.
Some people say “I’m just interested in so many things. I can’t decide.”
That’s fine, but you simply have to take that leap and make a decision.
There’s such a thing called “paralysis by analysis.”
It can send you into an endless spiral of doubt and second-guessing your every move.
Every second you take pondering what niche to choose is a second you’re not putting into doing the actual work which is creating content.
It’s all about creating content and putting it out there.
For example, a very reasonable goal for a blogger that’s just starting out would be to create 50 blog posts within the first 90 days.
That’s a lot of work, man.
Wasting a couple of weeks deciding what niche to choose means wasting enough time to create 7-10 articles for your blog.
If you’re in the middle of this, don’t be too harsh on yourself.
A lot of us made this mistake.
Just make a decision and get to the meat and potatoes which is creating content.
And those first 90 days are critical.
Many experts recommend going really hard in the first three months to create a body of work that stands a chance of being taken seriously by the Google algorithm.
Not that you can take it easy and post a couple of articles a month after that.
Because you can’t.
You still have to put a lot of work into your online business even after that initial stage.
But those first three months can give you a nice boost in more ways than one if you put in a lot of work.
5. Thinking you need to be an expert
You don’t have to be the most knowledgeable person in your niche to start an online business.
It’s enough to be above average, but with an interest in the topic and a willingness to learn and improve.
Experts are not born, they’re created.
Furthermore, every niche has depth.
You don’t have to talk about topics and subjects you’re not all that familiar with yet.
Create content for beginners at first and take it from there.
If you’re in this for the long run, you have years to improve anyway.
Just make sure to know a little bit more than your targeted audience and verify the information you’re putting out to the best of your ability.
6. Not understanding what you’re supposed to do within your niche
This one comes down to being interested in your niche and having a basic understanding of the problems and the community surrounding it.
For example, if you’re in the cooking niche you’d prepare dishes, create recipes, talk about ingredients, recommend cooking utensils and tools, etc.
You wouldn’t necessarily describe the chemical reactions that go on in the pizza oven while preparing pizza.
No one wants to hear about that.
Cooking is a blatant, common sense example, but some niches are more complicated than that.
Not doing the research may cost you time and effort while creating content no one in the niche is interested in.
7. Thinking a product is a niche
Putting it simply, a product cannot be the main focus of the niche.
The focus should always be the problem and solutions to that problem.
Of course, you will be talking about and recommending various products.
However, they should always be helping your audience solve problems.
Otherwise, your content will seem too salesy and pushy.
Your job is to inform, not sell.
The selling part is done by the manufacturer.
Your part is to help your audience picture themselves using the product and informing them what problems the product will help them solve.
Let’s say you’re in the fitness niche and you want to recommend an exercise program that helps alleviate lower-back pain.
Your content should revolve a lot less around the technical details of the program and a lot more about how your targeted audience can benefit from it.
Creating an article or a video briefing the audience on what exercises are in the program and how many sets and reps they should do makes for boring and dry content.
Instead, talk about what are the main causes of lower back pain, why someone should give the program a try, and the improvements that people in this program experience.
It makes for a much more enticing read and provides a lot more value to the audience.
8. Putting monetization before the content
By all means, do some research on the niche viability when it comes to monetization before you commit to it.
If you’re looking for your online business to be your primary source of income down the line, it has to have earning potential.
Meaning, the niche has to have an online audience willing to spend money, as well as products to recommend.
Also note that some ad networks don’t like controversial topics and niches such as, for example, guns or politics.
This, in turn, lowers your potential income from ads.
I would still go with one of those niches if it was my passion, though.
Interests/passion trump ad revenue.
Keep in mind that a viable niche needs a good-sized audience as well.
But people more often go too wide rather than too narrow.
Plus, you can always niche up and expand your content.
In closing, committing to a niche solely because of the earning potential is one of the worst things you can do.
Money is great, but being happy and enjoying what you do is much better.
Accomplishing the latter is very doable so do your research and pick a niche you enjoy.
9. Thinking there’s such a thing as “easy money” niche
Fast and easy money doesn’t exist.
I suggest stopping chasing it if you are.
Many people end up chasing fast and easy money for a decade and end up failing over and over again.
Meanwhile, had they invested that decade worth of time into building something with solid foundations, they would have succeeded.
Sure, there are “unicorn” niches out there with low competition and big earning potential.
But they don’t stay that way forever.
It’s more of a matter of getting into such a niche at the right time and reaping the rewards before the competition catches up with you.
Usually, those windows of opportunity are very short and if you’re hearing about it online, odds are it’s already over.
Worry not, though.
There’s a never-ending supply of viable niches out there.
The internet is still in its infancy stage.
Even today, in 2020.
10. Not researching your niche before committing to it
I’ve touched upon this one in various parts of this article.
Doing research is always a good idea.
No matter what you do.
Your main goals are to identify the problems you can solve in a particular niche and if the niche is over-saturated with the competition or not.
The former is more or less easy to do.
The more problems there are, the better.
It only means you’ll have plenty of content ideas.
The latter is usually dependent on how wide the niche is.
If there’s too much competition, odds are you’re going too wide.
There’s A LOT of content on the internet today.
Keep one thing in mind, though.
If you’re researching the blogging side of the desired niche and determine there’s too much competition, look for alternative mediums.
Meaning, audio, and video.
The written word is not the only viable medium for an online business to exist in.
Many businesses exist only in video or audio.
I’m talking about YouTube and podcasts, of course.
In fact, apart from a few exceptions, you will generally find a lot less competition in the desired niche on YouTube and podcasting platforms.
Combine that with the constant growth in consumption both video and audio are experiencing year after year and you may have found a perfect opportunity in a niche that’s over-saturated in blog form.
Of course, not everyone wants to be on camera or in front of a microphone.
You have to know yourself and where your comfort zone is.
Expanding your comfort zone is a good idea, though.
Something to think about.
11. Being prone to “shiny object syndrome”
Some people just can’t commit.
If you’re like that, odds are you already know that about yourself.
Be mindful of it.
Jumping from niche to niche and from project to project is not a good idea.
To establish an online presence and become an authority within a niche takes a lot of work.
It usually takes hundreds of articles or videos to force compound growth in your audience size or any other metric you’re looking at.
But if you commit and stick to your online business, that compound growth will take you places you couldn’t have imagined.
It takes time and effort.
We’re talking years here. Yes – years.
Skipping steps doesn’t work.
There’s no such thing as easy money.
It’s just the harsh truth but it’s also quite liberating.
It means there’s no hidden formulas or magic potions you don’t know about.
Just the relentless grind of providing value to your audience and not giving up.
12. Not thinking long-term
Continuing with the same sentiment, you have to think long-term.
Not only in the sense of understanding that it will probably take years before your online business takes off.
You should also have a mid to long-term content strategy as well.
Be deliberate and surgical when it comes to content creation.
For example, it wouldn’t make any sense for a Christmas themed content to come out in July, would it?
It also takes quite a while for a published piece of content to reach its peak placement in the SERP’s (search engine results pages).
Nailing down something like that takes practice and experience.
Set aside time for improving your skills and closing up your knowledge gaps.
No one’s perfectly prepared and knows everything there’s to know from the get-go.
Planning ahead and being aware of what you need to do is key.
Let’s be real here.
You will make mistakes when starting an online business.
That said, you can eliminate quite a few of them by doing a tiny bit of preparation.
I say “a tiny bit” because you don’t want to get stuck in the “development hell” either.
It’s a media industry term for a film (for example) that never makes it into the production stages.
It’s much more productive to start “doing” and make some mistakes along the way than endlessly preparing for something you can’t be 100% prepared for anyway.
Some research is great, but at some point, you just have to take the leap.
You can do it!