Do you have a favorite statistic? I do, and here it is:
Of all American men between the ages of 20 and 40 who are at least 7 feet tall, 17% are currently playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
That’s right. If you fit this demographic, you have a better than one in six chance of being a professional basketball player, right now (and a better than one in one chance of wearing custom-made pants).
Absent that – and given that there are just 450 players in the NBA and, I don’t know, 45 million American men between the ages of 20 and 40? – your odds are roughly one in 100,000.
One in six vs. one in 100,000. I’m no Blaise Pascal, but statistically speaking, these scenarios would appear to be significantly different.
But why the disparity?
Is it because the taller you get, the more skilled you become as a basketball player?
Hardly. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Height is such a colossal advantage in basketball that the taller you are, the less skilled you need to be.
Indeed, as NBA scout Ryan Blake explains in this fascinating Sports Illustrated article regarding life as a 7-footer, he sets the skill hurdle for these giants just north of deceased: “I’ll check up on anyone over 7 feet that’s breathing.”
Chances are though, you’re not 7 feet tall and you don’t play professional basketball.
But wouldn’t it be great if there were some similar ingredient in the world of solo professional marketing – something that, if you were to possess it, would catapult you to the front of the line and make up for your otherwise, overall, middle-of-the-pack-ness? (I mean no offense.)
Lucky for you, my unbehemoth friend, there is. It’s called a niche.
Yep, a niche. The one factor that, like excessive height in basketball, makes up for nearly everything else.
Why? I can think of at least three reasons:
A niche helps people remember you. Tell someone that you’re a freelance writer and they’ll smile politely.
Tell them instead that you specialize in writing white papers and they’ll remember you in six months when they receive one of those “Can anybody recommend someone who…?” emails.
A niche suggests that you are an expert. If you only do one thing, or only focus on one type of client – or both – people naturally assume that you must be pretty good at it.
And chances are, you are pretty good at it. When you spend a lot of time going deep in one area, it’s easy to stay well ahead of your jack-of-all-trades competition.
A niche helps you focus your marketing efforts. If you do a lot of different types of work for a lot of different types of companies, you’re essentially marketing to “Earthlings in my Hemisphere.”
If you narrow your focus, on the other hand – by industry, location, type of service offered, or some other truly meaningful distinction – it becomes clear where to spend your time.
Now you know which conferences to attend, which blogs to guest post on, which LinkedIn groups to frequent, etc. As important, since you have a tight focus, you know which of these to ignore.
Here’s the bottom line. When it comes to marketing your solo professional business, you can spend the rest of your life tweaking, polishing and incrementally improving whatever it is you’re currently doing.
Or, you can take one, giant, 7-footer-sized step in the direction of narrowing your business focus.
This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.