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How to find a niche as a designer/developer [Step-by-step guide]

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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In our article “How to Become a Freelance Web Designer”, we mentioned that one of the steps was to find your Niche. But what is a niche exactly? And how does it apply to web design? Why do you even need a niche? Can’t you just design all sorts of sites using all sorts of methods? The answers to all of these pertinent questions can be found below, in our comprehensive, How To Find Your Niche article.

What Is a Niche??

Firstly, you need to understand what a niche is. Google defines it as:


denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.
“other companies in this space had to adapt to being niche players”

So basically, a niche is a specialization. It may seem like limiting yourself is not a good idea, especially when you are starting out, but the truth is that choosing to specialize is a smart business decision.

A niche is a group of people who all have the same problem and often turn to another small group of people to solve that problem. If you are one of the small groups of people who can solve the issue, you are much more likely to get work than if you were one of a huge group of people who do not diversify.

google search results for shoes
Example of niche product categories in the shoe market and these are just a few!

Here are some great examples of what creating a niche can do for your freelance web design business:

1. It Brings In More Business

Yes, you did read that correctly.
Having a niche will actually increase the amount of business that you bring in. As mentioned before, when you have a group of people who have a specific problem, they want to turn to a solution provider who knows their business.

For example, A delicatessen that sells only home-baked goods needs a website. They will go online and have a look at other websites that fall into their niche.

Based on what they like, they will most likely contact the designer of their favorite website

If you are that designer, then you get the business.

As the word of your talent spreads throughout your niche, your business begins to increase. You begin to get all the referrals for your particular niche in your area. Eventually, you become the expert in your field and the go-to person for anyone who wants a website that isn’t generic.

2. Less Grunt Work

niche website

Part of being a freelance web designer is figuring out exactly what your clients want and need. If you are a generic web designer, with no particular niche, your potential client pool is so vague that you will have to spend a considerable amount of time each project trying to ascertain exactly what is needed. When you have a niche, your entire business model can be streamlined, allowing for more time actually designing.

Not being an expert in a particular field can mean that you may not understand the client fully.

For example, A lawyer needs a technical site set up that includes content and a whole booking system. If you have been designing sites for your artisanal delicatessens, you probably won’t know the first thing about a site full of legal requirements. A lot of your time will be spent figuring out exactly what it is that they need, and how to apply it to your personal experience in building websites.

If you don’t get it right, it may mean not only a large number of reworks but also a bad name for your business. When you have a niche, you can pick and choose your clients, saving everyone a whole lot of time and effort.

3. Marketing Is So Much Easier

Marketing your business is the main way that you are going to get clients. If you are simply a Web Designer, with no particular niche or expertise, you cannot market to any specific target. If you are struggling to get clients, niching will allow you to zone in on an exact group of people who have a problem that you can solve. It allows you to connect with clients, instead of just being one of a multitude trying to get their attention.

For Example: Your website business is up and going, and you need more clients. If you don’t have a niche, you simply advertise on social media that you design any site. Your advert gets seen by various people, none of whom actually have a problem that you can solve. If, however, you are an expert in designing sites for delicatessens, your advert can be targeted to restaurant owners or others within that particular field. Your advert has a much bigger chance of reaching someone that is in need of your services.

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Defining Your Ideal Customer Avatar

A great way to find your niche is to pin down your Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA). This will give a good base from which to decide what it is that interests you, and who you want to work with. This hypothetical person is the one person that you want to market to, and that you will have in mind the entire time that you are creating your marketing.

Ideal Customer Avatar Example

Answering the questions below will allow you a deeper look into your target market, and yourself as a provider. If you can’t answer all the questions, take the time to do some research. Talk to potential ICA’s, reflect, and make some educated guesses.

  • Is this client male or female?
  • What does this client look like (Be specific: hair/eye color, height,
  • How old is this client?
  • Is this client single, married, divorced, widowed?
  • If he/she has children, how many, and how old?
  • What type of education does he/she have?
  • What does he/she do to earn a living?
  • What books or types of books does he/she read?
  • What are his/her favorite hobbies? Why does he/she like them?
  • Where does he/she hang out?
  • What people does he/she hang out with?
  • Who or what inspires him/her?
    13Is he/she happy with where they are in life? Either way, why?
    14. What is his/her biggest pain point or frustration in life, ie; what keeps him/her up at night?

Create a User Persona

an Example of user persona

A user persona is a very useful tool when it comes to identifying your potential clients’ problems. With it, you can target the exact swath of the population that is in need of your services.

It doesn’t matter what you do, you always need to understand who you are building your product for. This ensures that you create empathy with your target market and that they connect with you.

Imagine this person in front of you.

How would you approach them?

What would you say to them to convince them that they need your services and not your competitors?
Xtensio has a fantastic user persona template that you make use of to nail down exactly who it is that you are wanting to talk to, and connect with.


Identifying the user persona for your niche will not only streamline your marketing further but also focus your efforts on clients who will make use of your services.

Using Your Niche to Find Customers

Once you have found your niche, you can begin to use it to find web design clients. I did touch on this a bit earlier, so let’s go a bit more into detail on exactly how this works.


Referrals are one of the biggest means by which you will find new clients using your niche. Once you have successfully designed a site for a customer, let’s use our delicatessen as an example, they will without a doubt begin to tell people in their circle about you. Should one of their friends or colleagues also need a website, your existing client will direct them in your direction. Keep the new person happy by quoting correctly, and understanding their problem, and you will soon have a new client. Each of these happy clients will now refer you to more people within their circle that potentially need your services.

Previous Work:

previous work

Great websites speak for themselves. If a potential client is in the market for a new website, or even a first one, they will without a doubt have a look at existing websites within their niche.

Our delicatessen owner, for example, has just opened their shop. They are doing well, but want to branch out and offer an online shopping service to their surrounding area. The first thing that they will do is have a look at the website of another successful delicatessen in the area. If that site was made by you, then there is a decent chance that the potential new client will contact you to build their site as well.

Check Out The Competition:

With a niche, you immediately know who your target market is. In the same breath, you can also find out who your main competitors are.

If you simply design sites for all and sundry, your competitors are everyone on the planet who has a web design business. And that’s a lot of people.
With a niche, you can find out where your clients go when they need a service. That way you can improve on your competitors, and offer clients an alternative that may be more attractive to them.

For example, we know that a new delicatessen opened up in our area. We also know that they have an existing site. By having a look at their site, and seeing what they are lacking, you approach them with a solution and a better product than what they are currently receiving.


Finding your niche when it comes to freelance web design does not limit you, it in fact helps you to find clients who really want your services. Standing on a box in the middle of a crowded street shouting about your services to anyone who is within earshot won’t help you to really connect with potential clients. However, establishing who in the crowd needs your exact services, and then waking up to them directly will guarantee you a much better chance of making a lasting connection.

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