Strategies to Find Your Coaching Niche
If you’re thinking about starting a life coaching business, one of the questions you’ll inevitably be asked is: “What’s your specialty?” It’s a topic that gets a lot of attention in coach training programs, and can quickly become a source of anxiety if you don’t have a ready answer.
The fact is, it can take time and experience to narrow in on a coaching niche. So why do we focus on it so intently right out of the gates?
The simple answer is that nobody hires a “life coach”.
Why do people invest in life coaching, truly?
Do they hire a coach because they want to spend an hour talking to someone once a week? Not usually!
People work with life coaches because they want something – they have a goal in mind, a problem to be solved, or they want a specific end result.
With that in mind, let's consider this niche thing from a practical point of view. If you’re unable to articulate what results you help people achieve, potential clients are likely to choose another coach who can.
The Niche Advantage
Having a niche allows you to get clear about your message, and the transformation you want to help others achieve. It’s a way of clarifying and bringing focus to the work you do.
Selecting a coaching niche can feel like a monumental decision, but it doesn’t need to be a difficult one. In this article we’ll take a look at what it means to niche, why having a specialization can help grow your coaching business, and how to go about selecting the right one for you.
What’s A Coaching Niche, Anyway?
The purpose of a niche is to differentiate your product or service. From this perspective, choosing a coaching niche is essentially a marketing decision. A niche helps your ideal clients find you, and allows you to sell your services as a life coach.
Let’s take a look at a few examples to see how this plays out.
Life Coach - A generalist that is trained to help clients accomplish goals/actions (this describes pretty much everyone who graduates from a life coach training program!)
Confidence Coach - Specializes in building confidence/confident mindsets in clients
Women’s Empowerment Coach - Focuses on helping women take life into their own hands and on their own terms
Career/Leadership Coach - Helps clients achieve goals in their current careers, or guides them towards identifying their ideal careers
Love & Relationship Coach - A life coach that specifically focuses on helping clients achieve goals in their personal relationships
As you can see from the examples above, you can specialize in a wide range of areas! For even more ideas about what’s trending in the coaching industry now, check out 20 Hottest Life Coaching Niches.
Do You Need A Niche?
If you're not sure where you want to focus, serving as a generalist is a fine place to begin.
As a life coach, you’ve been trained in the foundational principles and methods to help clients get from Point A to Point B. With this knowledge, you are well positioned to support a range of clients towards taking aligned action in their lives.
The reality is that you are more likely to discover your coaching niche rather than “choose” it.
The most important thing to focus on in the beginning of your coaching career is NOT nailing down your specialization. It is to actively practice coaching!
As your experience grows, you may find that you naturally gravitate towards a certain type of client, or a particular topic that you are most excited about. You may also notice that you are most effective when serving clients in one particular area versus another.
Your coaching specialization is likely to shift and change over time. Sweating over the perfect niche has stalled out many new coaches before they even get started. Don't let that be you! Breathe easy and just begin.
“When I first started as a coach, I knew I wanted to help clients with Passion & Purpose, Empowerment, and Relationship Recovery. Over time, I found that Purpose Driven Personal Branding became more rewarding. Thus over time, I have focused more on pursuing that niche because it continues to resonate with me and I am able to serve my clients at the highest frequency.” - Joyce Chen, JRNI graduate and Coaching Instructor
Pros and Cons of Niching
There are long term advantages to having a niche, and most of these ladder towards helping you build a sustainable coaching business over time.
- A niche offers you further differentiation as a life coach
- Makes it easier for clients to seek your services (and easier for you to identify the clients you want to work with!)
- You can develop a more distinguished specialized practice for yourself
- Can help strengthen your personal brand and offerings
- Allows you to focus on your ideal clients
There aren’t a lot of explicit "cons" to having a niche. With that said, there are some things to be aware of as you are starting out.
- If you niche too early, you might be limiting yourself to a narrower client base than you intend to
- If untested, you may discover that your niche is too narrow or not of interest to the general public
- You may specialize too soon in an area you are not an expert in or truly passionate about
Define Your Coaching Themes
To narrow in on coaching specializations that may be a good fit for you, consider where your background and experience line up most naturally. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) has identified a set of broad Coaching Themes that provide us with a place to begin. They include:
- Communication Skills
- Interpersonal Relationships
- Organizational Development/Leadership Development
- Personal Growth
- Self Confidence
- Team Development
- Work-Life Balance
While these represent a wide swath of coaching topics, comparing broad categories against one another is a reasonable place to start. Ask yourself: Which do I feel most drawn to? What areas might I eliminate from consideration?
In addition to the themes identified above, you can also become certified in specific techniques or theoretical practices. For example, you can be a Positivity Coach with a practice rooted in Positive Psychology. Or you can become a Character Strengths Coach with a practice informed by the VIA Strengths Assessment.
The great thing about the coaching industry is that you have the freedom to define a niche any way you like. So long as it is in service to an audience that will benefit from what you offer, and falls within your training and scope of practice, you’re good to go!
Pathways To Your Niche
New coaches often put a lot of pressure on themselves to figure this all out immediately. However, we like to think of it like “declaring a major” in college. Some people enter university knowing exactly what they want to do. But many more take their time, trying out different possibilities before settling on a course of study.
Give yourself the grace you need to explore, and try to enjoy the process along the way!
Coaches drill down into their niches in a variety of ways. They either:
- CLAIM - niche based upon existing skills & expertise
- CREATE - develop an area of specialization based upon an unmet need in the marketplace
- DISCOVER - start as a generalist and uncover what niche naturally develops over time
Elements of A Profitable Coaching Niche
If you’ve developed a list of specializations you'd potentially like to explore, the next step is to pressure test them. There are four key components that a rewarding and profitable niche should satisfy:
1. Clearly serves an existing audience
- Who will you serve and how would you describe this audience?
- What life stage are they in? What help do they need and what’s holding them back?
- What attitudes, beliefs and thoughts do they have?
- What’s in their heart and what are their deepest desires in life?
- Who are the people that will "win" after working with you?
2. Offers a return on the client's investment
- What are their needs mentally, emotionally or in life?
- How will your ideal client benefit from working with you?
- What challenges will you help them solve? What dreams will you help them achieve?
- Do you have a track record (or can you reasonably develop one) of achieving these results for your clients?
3. Leverages your strengths and skills
Take inventory of your skill sets and signature themes from your life and career that can serve your audience:
- What unique combination of skills, talents and certifications do you possess?
- Are there subject areas that you already have expertise in that allow you to better connect with your audience?
- What skills do you have that others have come to you for over and over again?
4. Makes you excited to serve your clients
Do you get excited, fulfilled and inspired to serve a specific group of people in this area? If not, move on to other ideas that will light you up.
How To Evaluate If A Niche Fits
Once you've generated a list of possibilities, use these filters to discover if it makes sense to move forward.
1) PASSION & ENJOYMENT - “Is this fun for me?” Does this topic conjure energy inside you? Is it an area you are passionate about and would enjoy developing?
2) POSSESS TALENT, SKILL OR EXPERIENCE - “I have the skills to serve here” Can you point to expertise & experience based upon lived, learned or cultivated skills that you’ve acquired over time in this area?
3) CONTINUE TO TRAIN & LEVEL UP - “I am committed to continual growth in this area” Are you interested in ongoing learning and improving your skills within this specialization?
4) IS OF SERVICE TO A CLIENTELE BASE OR COMMUNITY - “I feel good about serving humanity with this skill” Do you have a defined audience or ideal client that you know would benefit from working with a coach in your prospective niche area?
If your answer is yes to all of the above, you are on your way!
Communicate Your Niche
To connect the dots for your potential clients, identifying the specific area of transformation they can expect from working with you. In other words, what will you help your ideal client achieve? Ideally, this is clearly stated in 12 words or fewer, using language that resonates with the audience you want to serve.
This is the simplest framework to start out with:
I help _____ with _____.
I help (IDEAL CLIENT PROFILE) with (NICHE/SPECIALIZATION).
Niche: Hope & Empowerment Coach
Specializations: Finding your voice, Self-Confidence
I help individuals who seek to embolden their futures with self-empowerment through building confidence.
Niche: Fitness Coach
Specialization: Holistic Health, Healthy Mindset & Nutrition, Functional Fitness
I help individuals seeking holistic health with Fitness Coaching.
Niche: Relationship Coach
Specialization: Helping women build healthy relationships
I help women seeking healthy emotional relationships with Relationship Coaching.
Define your message and begin to share it
Building a flourishing coaching practice requires an ability to connect with the right clients - those people who will be profoundly moved by your message.
Narrowing in on a clear specialty helps you keep the marketing messages simple. Whether you're into empowerment coaching, or are most skilled at assisting others to find clarity, tell people exactly what problems you can help them solve. Specificity will get you better results than casting a wide net.
As you discover what makes you unique as a coach, you will find it easier to share your message. And as you share, you will get the feel for who that messaging is attracting. From there, you can decide if this is the niche you want to pursue... or not.
For more resources on how to weave messaging and storytelling into your coaching practice, check out:
- The Right Way to Let Your Story Lead Your Life Coaching Practice
- How to Share Your Story as A Coach
- Five Growing Niches Where Your Story Matters
As you’re doing the work, remember that this is a journey. There is no finish line, and no “right” way to do things. There’s just your way. Allow yourself the room to experiment, iterate, learn, and evolve.
As you find your own unique path, let these four final principles help guide you:
- Walk the walk
- Tend to your own corner of the universe
- Beware gremlins of comparison
- Have fun and enjoy the ride
READY FOR LIFTOFF?
Grab your copy of our guide: 6 Steps To Start Coaching Today!
This free publication, written by JRNI Coaching co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, will give you the tools to discover your niche, find clients, and get started on your path to becoming a successful coach.
Plus, when you sign up -- we'll keep you up to date weekly with coaching techniques, and the occasional much-needed kick in the pants to keep you motivated on your coaching journey.
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