You’ve probably also noticed that one of the most challenging parts of online entrepreneurship is finding the right niche.
Look around, and you’ll find tons of information about how to do the whole “making money online” thing.
Whether it’s affiliate marketing, dropshipping, selling t-shirts, or whatever else, you’ll find a wealth of step by step guides that can teach you just about everything you need to know about strategies that work.
Sure, there’s a learning curve at play there. And it can get kind of overwhelming if you’re new to all this stuff. But with some time, dedication, and perseverance, you can learn what you need to know to start making a profit as an internet entrepreneur.
Whether your goal is to bring in some extra beer money with a fun, low-maintenance little side hustle, or to create something you can scale over time into a liveable, sustainable income, you can make it happen.
But you may have noticed something. Despite all the awesome free information out there, there’s one thing that, at the end of the day, no one can really spoonfeed to you.
And that’s finding a niche.
In a lot of ways, that’s really the tricky part. And it’s a central aspect of a bunch of different kinds of online businesses.
Maybe it’s not universally applicable, per se, but niche selection is essential for such perennial /r/entrepreneur standbys as affiliate marketing, dropshipping on Shopify, creating monetizeable Instagram accounts, and more.
It’s also important to what I do, which is Kindle publishing.
I know there are other Reddit posts out there about finding a niche, not to mention a million blog posts on the subject.
But even so, I wanted to share my own “in-the-trenches” knowledge and experience because I noticed there’s a lot of bad information online.
I love this stuff. I remember when I was starting out spending hours upon hours throughout the night (and often saw the sun come up) researching different niches.
Again, my experience is with ebook publishing, but I’m also talking about broader concepts that are applicable in other entrepreneurial pursuits.
So here’s my advice on finding profitable niches. And it’s maybe a little contrary from what you’re used to hearing over and over again.
So let’s get started.
This is a pretty long post, so here’s a quick TL;DR of the key points.
- Go for profit over passion. Profit potential takes precedence over your own personal interest in a subject. Remember, you can always outsource your content and copy to someone who does know a lot about the topic.
- Go for big, evergreen mass market niches that always sell. I’ll explain why, and what these niches have in common.
- Focus on solving a specific problem. “Getting in shape” is a broad niche. “How to get a six pack in 6 weeks or less” is a specific problem.
Autosuggest is one of the most efficient ways to pinpoint those specific problems. This applies on Amazon, as well as on Google and Youtube. You can also find tools like KeywordShitter and AnswerThePublic that make it easier to find and collate that information.
Should I Pick a Niche That Interests Me?
This is a pretty common question, and yes, I have been asked this by people quite a few times.
And honestly, this is something that comes up periodically here at /r/entrepreneur, I’ve noticed.
There are two pieces of advice you see a lot. And they’re mutually contradictory.
Some people will say, “Yes, go for your passion! You’ll be miserable if you’re grinding away writing content for a niche in which you have zero interest. Find what moves and drives you, and channel that passion. If you’re into cars, do affiliate marketing for auto accessories. If you’re into fashion, try finding a subniche in apparel and accessories.”
Others say the opposite.
“No matter how much you love something, when you create a business out of it, it’s going to feel like work. And this could lead you to resent something you used to love. Don’t make a business out of your passions or hobbies. Pick something toward which you’re more neutral, but that you know is going to sell.”
So which is it?
Both arguments honestly have some pretty good points.
Personally, I like to lean toward the second option: choosing a niche based on the bottom line, not on personal passion.
That’s not to say you can’t choose a niche you’re at least somewhat into. But here’s why I’m more in favor of Option 2:
- A lot of hobbies and interests are, frankly, kind of hard to commodify. If you’re into, say, French symbolist poetry, there’s not a whole lot you can really do with that. At least, not at scale.
- With some things, commodification kind of “feels wrong.” Think spirituality, that kind of thing. This is pretty individually variable, though, and I’m not here to make any value judgments of any kind.
- Chances are, you’ll end up outsourcing most of the “grunt work” anyway. A quick look through /r/juststart confirms that when getting started, most people write their own content. But as someone who’s published tons of books and stuff, I’ll say this: no matter how much you enjoy writing, doing it all day, every day, in high quantities, burns you out like nothing else.
Even if you’re a super gifted writer — a professional writer, even — you’ll reach a point where you’ll want to outsource that kind of thing.
Why? Because if you’re doing all the work yourself, you will reach a point where you can’t scale anymore.
For instance, let’s say your output is 1 book per month. And after a few months, I guarantee you’ll want to take a break to recharge.
But if you are outsourcing your work, you can get 3, 5, 10 books done PER month.
(Again, my experience is in Kindle publishing, so I’m talking mostly about content, info products, etc. But I’m sure it’ll apply to physical products, creating an app, etc.)
At the end of the day, the goal here is to start a business and make money. For that reason, it makes a whole lot of sense to focus on profitability, the level of competition, the potential for a “first mover” advantage in a nascent market, and other things like that.
Again, you might have a hobby or a passion that actually does lend itself well to starting a business of some kind. Selling products, writing a series of books about it, blogging about it and posting product reviews with affiliate links, whatever.
But don’t feel like you have to start with your own interests. If you don’t HATE it or if it does not go against your values, then it’s fine. (But NEVER go against your values because you’ll end up sabotaging yourself. For instance, I will not promote a business that is related to drugs, violence, or porn no matter how much potential there is because I will not feel good about doing it and I end up sabotaging myself.)
Not interested in learning about knee high and thigh high boots tailored for the thicker calves of plus size women, even though there’s a rapidly growing market for that kind of thing?
Find a writer who’s a plus size woman who loves fashion and wears a lot of boots during the winter. Get her to write up your product reviews, or write up general supporting blog content like fall fashion style guides and editorials about body positivity.
She’ll gladly write for you. And no offense, but she’ll end up doing a heck of a better job than you, because it’s what she loves.
And, what you end up paying her is a tiny fraction of the amount of money you’re ultimately going to make from that content. Check out my post about what kind of freelancers to avoid to save yourself a lot of headache, though.
There’s a lot you can outsource, and for a lot less money than you might think. So don’t toss an idea just because it’s not a personal interest of yours.
The advice I give to my students is: get some stable, consistent cashflow going first, then you can focus on your passions.
You’ll enjoy these passions a thousand times more if you do this because there’s no pressure to make a profit from it. You’ll be way more creative also.
Do I Need to Be Knowledgeable About My Niche?
I kind of touched on this one in the previous section.
It probably depends on what kind of business you’re running, what your goals are, and other variables that can be different from person to person.
But what I do want to emphasize here is that you don’t have to feel like you need to be a world class expert on a subject to build a business around it.
Don’t let yourself succumb to the whole “imposter syndrome” thing. You’d be surprised what you can do with some simple Googling in your free time.
We live in a freaking golden age of information right now. Thanks to the internet and smartphones, you are literally holding the entire wealth of human knowledge in the palm of your hand.
With just some determination, some free time, and the magic of Google Search, you can quickly learn the basics about almost anything.
And honestly, the basics are all you’ll really need.
When it comes to content — whether it’s a book you’re selling, or a blog post housing affiliate links — what matters is that you know more than your audience about how to solve their problem.
Someone needs to attach two pieces of wood together with a nail? You don’t have to be a world class authority on hammers to give them the answers they need. You don’t need to know about the rich history of hammers, or how hammers are manufactured. You don’t even need to be all that knowledgeable about building and construction in general.
You just need to know that your audience needs a hammer.
And oh, look, you have a bunch of great product reviews of the very best hammers for their specific kind of nail. Or, you’ve got a comprehensive ebook that gives a full step by step guide to hammers and how to use them to pound a nail.
So don’t feel like you need to be a #1 authority or expert on your chosen niche.
How to Find a Niche: Start with the Timeless Evergreen Niches That Always, Always Sell
When people talk about niche selection, they put the biggest emphasis on specificity. They focus on narrowing things down.
Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s definitely something you should do. But that step comes later.
Before you begin, you want to focus on “selling what sells”.
There are big, massive, evergreen niches where there will always, always be a market full of people itching to break out their pocketbook and pay you for solutions to their problems.
Now, these niches have some pretty important things in common. And I think it’s worth talking about those things.
What is it about these things that make them so perennially profitable?
It comes down to basic human desires. Love, sensory pleasures, material wealth, self-confidence, social success, self-actualization. These desires are basically universal, at least within contemporary Western culture.
They revolve around things that people want on a very deep and fundamental level, in ways they’re not necessarily even fully aware of.
Love and friendship. For the most part, humans want to find a romantic partner with whom they can share both emotional and sexual intimacy. Someone to love them and support them.
Social success. People want others to like them. This ties into things like beauty and getting in shape, although that also relates to the desire to find a mate. It also ties into self-help topics, like how to be more confident, how to get better at public speaking, etc.
Material wealth. Good old “how to make money.” Whether it’s investing in real estate, starting a small business, or whatever, people are always looking for ways to make more money. Again, this also ties into the concept of social success.
Entertainment. People like to have fun. They like humor. They like to laugh. They like to read about celebrities or whatever, vicariously reveling in the sumptuous glamour and sexy scandals of the rich and famous. A lot of late 20th century sociologists and thinkers wrote about the concept of the “culture industry.” Think of that kind of thing.
Self-actualization and personal fulfillment. People want to feel content in their lives. They want to find a sense of peace with the immanent reality of their own existence. They want to find ways to create meaning and infuse their lives with a sense of purpose that makes them feel complete.
As I mentioned, there might be some cultural variance here. I am not a psychologist, nor am I a sociologist, nor am I an anthropologist or a historian. Someone more knowledgeable on these subjects might be able to weigh in here.
So, here’s a list of the specific “mass market evergreen niches” I’m referring to. Each of them ties into at least one of the general human desires I was talking about above.
- Mass media. Celebrity bios, stuff about TV shows or entertainment history, that kind of thing. Also “geek stuff,” pop culture stuff, etc. Think “pop culture,” which kind of runs the gamut from trashy tabloids, to comic book and TV show fandoms, and everything in between. Everyone partakes of the mass media culture industry. There are radically different audiences within it — from blue collar housewives who devour the latest from TMZ, to sophisticated urbanites with a refined appreciation of contemporary interior design and decor, to people who are geeks and proud of it, guys who play D&D or have an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars trivia. Sports stuff is in this category, too. Even fashion fits here.
- Diet and weight loss. This is America. We’ve got a massive obesity epidemic going on. We’re constantly surrounded by foods that are bursting with calories, but that aren’t very filling. (Seriously, take a look at the nutrition facts on those little cans of Coke and stuff. It’s insane.) People are always trying to lose weight — and unfortunately, in most cases, failing at it. It can take some time to find a regimen that works for their personal tastes and their lifestyle.
- Fitness. Another thing people want is to get fit and get in shape. This one pairs well with weight loss and dieting, but it’s really its own distinct niche. Getting fit doesn’t always mean losing weight.
- Self development. Self-help books are always a perennial bestseller. One of the most important things we need to do in this life is to understand ourselves, and sometimes even better ourselves. I mean, think about it. None of us chose to be here, and if we did, we don’t remember it. We’re thrust into this world, as conscious beings capable of joy as well as suffering, facing down the eternal coldness of the hard problem of consciousness. People look for ways to infuse their lives with meaning and a sense of purpose. They look for a compass to guide them through life’s confusing twists and turns.
- Cooking. Everybody eats food. Some more, others less. So cooking is another perennial niche you can consider. Cookbooks sell like crazy, believe it or not.
- Dating and relationships. Finding a romantic partner is another big part of human life, at least for the majority of people. There are also the many problems of long term relationships and marriage — dealing with disagreements, keeping sex interesting after multiple decades, rekindling romance in the wake of an empty nest, etc.
- Gaming. This one’s maybe a little more recent and modern than the others, but it really is a golden niche. I guess you could really stick this into the “mass media entertainment” category, but I thought it deserved a mention on its own.
- Making money. Everyone wants to find ways to bring in some extra cash. Money doesn’t buy happiness by any means, but what it can do is secure the base of the Maslow Pyramid. And that’s really important.
There are more to this list. But what’s important here is what these niches have in common: an appeal to basic, deep-seated, universal human desires for things like love, acceptance, wealth, and meaning.
So these things are evergreen. There is always money to be made. You might be thinking, “Aren’t these super saturated and high competition?”
Sometimes, but they’re also massive and broad. There’s plenty of room in these markets.
The Key to “Niching Down”
You might not actually need to narrow your niche down as much as people seem to think you do. After all, go too niche, and you’re faced with a limited market. Sure, you might make some money, but you’ll hit a ceiling.
Anyway, the key to pinpointing a subniche is to focus on answering a specific question or solving a specific problem.
“How do I lose weight?” is a big thing, but it’s not necessarily super specific. There are a lot of ways to lose weight. There are also a lot of reasons for losing weight, and a lot of different subsections of the population of “people who want to lose weight.”
You’ve got people who are morbidly obese, whose very lives may depend on dropping the extra adipose tissue that’s slowly destroying their bodies.
But then, you’ve got, say, women in their 30s who aren’t obese, but who want to lose a few pounds. Like, 25 lbs or less. It’s not a health issue for them, so much as an issue of beauty, confidence, and sex appeal.
The way each of those groups goes about losing weight is going to be different. Their specific problems are different, and they’re looking for different things.
So let’s say you want to write an ebook and sell it on Amazon Kindle. You’ve got weight loss in mind as the topic. Cool.
Now, you need a specific problem.
The Power of Autocomplete: Finding the Exact Questions Your Audience Is Asking
So what’s an example of a specific problem? And how do you go about looking for them?
You can find them by doing some keyword research. It’s not just for SEO — it’s also a way to get a peek into what your audience is thinking.
In my case, the focus is on what people search for on Amazon. These days, when people want to buy something — whether it’s a product or a book on a subject — they’ll usually go to Amazon directly, rather than using Google.
But in other businesses, Google or even YouTube might be where you want to focus.
Whether it’s on Amazon or Google, you can learn a lot about what people are asking and where the demand is at by checking out what comes up with the autocomplete feature.
You can also check out resources like AnswerThePublic.com to find these questions, or use a tool like KeywordShitter or Keyword.io. The latter two actually draw from Google’s Autosuggest feature, so it’s a quicker way of getting that info than doing it manually.
Either way, you’ll find queries and searches like these, which are what you want to focus on.
“How To Lose Weight Without Diet And Exercise?” “How To Draw For Kids” “How To Lose Weight Journal” “How To Cure A Migraine”
Sometimes they’re actually phrased in question format, and sometimes they’re not but you get the picture.
Hone in on these specific questions and searches. Then, offer your audience a specific answer.
Whether you’re putting together a buying guide for protein shakes or you’re writing a series of ebooks about weight loss and getting in shape, you can maximize your profits by offering a specific solution to a specific problem.
This is what’s worked for me over the years: BIG Evergreen Niche –> Specific Problem Within That Niche
I’m not the only person offering this advice, or at least I don’t think I am. But, it works.
I realize that this subreddit is pretty diverse. Not all of us sell ebooks, or create monetized content. There are people here with cleaning services, with restaurants and bars, with brick and mortar boutiques, and more.
So my advice might not be applicable in every single case. But if you want to make some extra cash online, in a way that revolves around informational content, this strategy has worked time and time again.
I do hope this was helpful to some of you guys out there. Let me know if you’ve got any further questions about this stuff.
— This originally appeared on Reddit here