As a VA there are many choices for you to make in your business, not least of which is to be a specialist or a generalist.
Many VAs balk at the idea of choosing a niche to specialize in, worried that by doing so they are “missing out” on possible business. What if a potentially awesome client is turned away because you’ve declared a niche which doesn’t sound right for them?
The thing is, once you do decide upon a niche, it provides you with much more focus. Your value proposition becomes simpler as does marketing and explaining what you do. It’s much simpler to be something specific to someone than everything to everyone.
So, what’s the deal with VA niches and how can you choose one?
Why Choose a Niche?
You’ve probably been in this situation before: you arrive on a new website and there are two main things you want to know; what is it, and is this for me? Unfortunately, there are many that are so general in how they are presented, the answers to those two questions are unclear.
You might give the website a chance by clicking around, looking for further information, but the chances are you feel overwhelmed, simply leave and look for something else.
The same thing goes for potential VA clients, they want to know the answers to those two questions too. You’ve probably noticed that there are a proliferation of options available online for people looking for a VA, so why should they choose you?
A very good reason is because you can provide them with a service that is specific to their needs. The pool of generalists may be overwhelming to them, but a specialist who understands their specific needs as a travel agent/realtor/coach (etc.) can provide them with additional value.
Need a quick guide for picking your niche?
Grab our steps here!
What Happens if I Don’t Choose a Niche?
Well sure, you could choose to remain a generalist and you might even do very well out of it, but here are a few things which VAs who switch from generalist to specialist have found:
- As a generalist, they ended up doing tasks they really hated because their job description basically said they do any administrative task. As a specialist, they could choose to hone in on the things they really enjoy doing.
- As a generalist, they tended to receive a lot of leads who weren’t the best fit to work with, whereas when they chose a niche, more qualified leads turned up.
- Prefer project work over a regular schedule? Choosing a niche makes this easier to get into as you can be very specific with people about the projects you specialize in.
- Many have found that, far from making it more difficult to bring in good customers, choosing a niche helped them to narrow down suitable customers and have steadier, more reliable work.
- Remaining as a generalist means you’re just another fish in a very large pool of candidates. You increase your potential competition and need to find more ways to stand out. Specializing gives you a better chance of jumping out at the right clients.
How to Find Your Niche
It’s all very well to explain to people that they should choose a VA niche, but the difficult part for most VAs tends to be actually deciding what that niche is. You might be good at a number of things and unsure as to how to narrow down the field.
One of the first things we’d say is don’t pick a niche because you’ve heard it’s trending and think that might make it an easy one to target. Choosing your niche shouldn’t be based off a trend watch or spur of the moment decision, but after personal research into the market and who you can best serve with your particular set of skills.
So, where should you begin when choosing a niche?
#1. Look at your skills and experience
You’ve probably got a long list of skills you’ve acquired, so create a list of all of these as they pertain to VA work. Note also anything that is specific to an industry or that you have particular experience in with any industry.
One way to do this is to create a spreadsheet listing these skills. Add columns such as “I love doing this,” “I don’t want to do this,” “I’ll do this sometimes”, “Clients always ask for this” and “Clients hardly ever ask for this.”
#2. Who needs these skills?
Once you’ve narrowed down your skill set, look especially at the things you really love doing and list some possible client types who need those services. Remember to list the types of clients for whom you’ve done that work before. Perhaps you’ve already worked with someone in a niche you enjoy?
At this stage, write down any and every type of client you can think of who needs those skills. You might find that there is something worth considering which you haven’t before.
#3. Choose areas to research
There are probably at least one or two niche areas on your list that jump out at you immediately, whether it’s a niche involving a certain industry, or simply specializing in certain skills.
Just as examples, you might be very familiar with aviation terminology and documentation requirements which makes being a VA for a small aviation services company a good fit. Alternatively, perhaps you are an expert when it comes to using Salesforce or Infusionsoft, so could market yourself as specializing in using a certain tool.
Which items on your list do you want to narrow for further research?
#4. Conduct further research
There is absolutely no sense in deciding you’re a real estate virtual assistant, coming up with branding and changing around your website, only to find that there is little opportunity in your chosen niche for the work you can offer.
How do you research these possible niche ideas? Here are a few tips:
Keyword Research – As a virtual assistant, generally people are searching online for services which you provide. A good place to start is to use Google Keyword Planner and check for the number of monthly searches for keyword phrases within the niche you are looking at. Generally speaking (and depending on whether or not you’re using highly local targeting), search numbers of 1000 plus per month are good, while you also want keywords of medium or low competition if possible.
Here’s what a search for “real estate virtual assistant” targeting the United States comes up with:
Do a Google search – You want to check out your competition and see what results come up. You can usually get the idea fairly quickly if a market seems to be saturated or not. Don’t forget to try different combinations, including your local area or state. Perhaps you have expertise in an industry which has particular rules depending on the state, so you could be a valuable resource in your home state.
Another clue to look out for on your Google searches is PPC ads. Generally speaking, if there are large numbers of PPC ads, including the top results and the sidebar ads, that means the keywords you are looking at are highly competitive and obviously profitable enough for someone to be paying for ads. These could be another clue that you’re looking at a saturated niche, but check the organic results too.
Tip: Don’t forget to look at video and image results too. It’s always good to see what your competition are up to there!
Look for numbers of possible customers – This can be done using Google too. How many businesses are there in your niche or needing the tools you specialize in residing in your targeted zone? If there are only a few possibilities, re-branding yourself for one or two potential paying clients is probably not a good idea.
#5. Make a decision
Armed with research, you’re now in a much better position to make a decision to go into a certain niche. You can now tailor your website, content and social media to suit and attract that niche.
Look to solve pain points that are particular to your niche (e.g. “do you find learning to use Salesforce too confusing and time consuming?”). Look for places online where your target client hangs out and contribute meaningfully to conversation on those sites. Get out there and reel ‘em in!
Need a quick guide for picking your niche?
Grab our steps here!
What Will Your Niche Be?
You might choose to carry on as a general VA, particularly if you’ve got a strong set of clients and a good reputation already, and that’s fine. However, for VAs who find themselves doing things they really don’t want to all the time because they can’t afford the luxury of turning them down, finding a niche and specifically targeting it just might be your ticket to better control and more happiness with your business.
Look for skills and experiences you already have and especially pay attention to those which you enjoy. Do your research and determine whether the niche areas you’re interested in have big enough markets to work for you.
What next? Move ahead and continue to grow your business.
Once you've got your niche picked out, you'll want to try the
only all-in-one tool designed to streamline your Virtual Assistant business.