How I discovered my niche and learned to work smart

chemistry bottles with liquid inside © by zhouxuan12345678

It’s been four years since I first launched Word Nerd Pro, a one-stop word-nerd shop offering a variety of writing, editing, and coaching services. In those four years, my business has gone through several transformations. In the coming years, it will probably go through several more. But that’s okay. The best way to learn is by doing, and I’ve been learning a lot as I go. In fact, this hands-on education has helped me strengthen my business tremendously.

But as much as I still have to learn, there are some things I’ve finally caught on about:

Less Is More

When I launched the coaching arm of my business, I felt inspired by the different revenue streams other coaches were playing around with. Teleclasses, interview series, conference appearances, group coaching, etc. As a result, I kept adding more and more offerings to my site: various coaching and consulting packages, forums, e-courses… I even started working on a large-scope ebook that I never seemed to have the time to complete.

My main problem during this time? I lacked focus.

I’ve since learned a lot about how others enjoy learning — and even more about how I enjoy sharing knowledge and information. As a result, I’ve been able to pare things down and make my fewer offerings that much more awesome.

You Can’t Compare Yourself to Others

Similarly, you can’t look at your peers in the business world and assume that just because they’re doing things differently, you’re doing it wrong. Who cares if everyone else is spending big bucks on video posts? Who cares if everyone else is creating 100-page information products? If you model yourself after everyone else, it will be that much more difficult to stand out and compete.

Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, consider your unique strengths and play to them. Heavily. If you’re obsessed with checklists and worksheets (raises hand), consider creating your own workbook instead of writing a full-length book. If the thought of public speaking makes you want to barf (me again), keep your focus on one-on-one coaching.

Also, look for a hole in the market and consider how you can fill it. When I saw a lack of networking opportunities for word-nerdy introverts, I planned and hosted a Word Nerd Networking event that attracted 75 writers, editors, and other publishing professionals. The event earned outstanding participant reviews, and spawned a monthly, virtual speed networking event. Not too shabby, eh?

People Will Pay for What’s Important to Them

In the early stages of my business, I didn’t know what the market could bear, I was terrified of scaring away clients with overly ambitious rates, and I was pretty skeptical that anyone would even be willing to pay for something that came so easily to me. As a result, I low-balled my rates, took on low-paying work, and quickly burnt out because I was working hard — not smart.

Now I see the value in what I do, and it makes it easier to walk away from clients who insist they can’t afford my rates. “Keep me in mind when you have the budget to pay professional rates,” I tell them. The smart ones realize that what I can do for them is worth it. The others… well, they’re not the types of clients I’m looking for.

Steph Auteri is the founder of Word Nerd Pro, a one-stop word nerd shop offering a variety of writing, editing, and coaching services. She has been published in Playgirl, Time Out New York, Nerve, The Frisky, and other bastions of fine writing. She is a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.

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