How to Find Your Niche

How to Find Your Niche | via the Rising Tide Society

by @shaycochrane

We’ve all heard that the key to exponential success as a business owner is finding your niche within your industry. Many people never push themselves to niche because they have a hard time getting past the fact that niching will likely require turning down work.  Fear of loss of clients can be crippling and keeps many creatives in a holding pattern that will never allow them to rise above their competition.  For others, they just don’t know exactly HOW to go about finding their niche (or they think that they have one but it’s not working) and it is that group of people that I want to address right now.

I want to give you a simple but possibly game changing way to define your niche.

The goal is that when a potential client goes looking for a particular product or service, you are the first and only name they think of.  I learned the following mind blowing way of thinking from successful internet marketer Ryan Lee who contributes regularly to Entrepreneur Magazine.  What I am about the share with you is possibly one of the most game-changing strategies I have ever implemented in my business.  

Are you ready?

How to Find Your Niche | via the Rising Tide Society

In order to establish a true niche in your industry you need to go at least 3 layers deep in your specialization. Three is the minimum.  In general, the more you drill down your specific offering and target audience the more potential you have for exponential business growth.  Let me give you an example.

Layer 1: Suzie is a Photographer

Layer 2: Suzie is a Portrait Photographer

Layer 3: Suzie is a Portrait Photographer Specializing in Children between the ages of 2 and 10

Alright…not bad…but were not at the “special sauce” yet.

Layer 4: Suzie is a portrait photographer who specializes in special needs children between the ages of 2-10.

BAM.  That layer, my friends, is where the magic happens.  Childrens portrait photographers are a dime a dozen. But when mom-of-3 Marissa is talking to her friend Taryn on the playground about her frustration with past portrait photographers who don’t understand how to work with and photograph her special needs son Luke; Taryn (who doesn’t even have a special needs son herself) recalls hearing about this amazing photographer who specializes in just that and passes on her name to Marissa.

I will add a side note here that I fully believe that your niche should have everything to do with your unique story and passions as an individual. So, in this case, let’s say portrait photographer Suzie grew up with a younger brother with severe Autism and has a special understanding of and passion for special needs kids that she thought was irrelevant to her passion as a photographer.

Let’s look at one more example.

Layer 1: Sarah is a graphic designer

Layer 2: Sarah is a graphic designer who does “brand design”

Layer 3: Sarah is a graphic designer who does brand design who specializes exclusively in designing stunning collateral marketing pieces

Ok…not bad…already deeper than most of the graphic designers you know?  But it can get even better!

Layer 4: Sarah is a graphic designer who does brand design and specializes in killer collateral marketing pieces made out of wood.

Wait, what?

It turns out, Sarah’s dad was a carpenter and as a kid she used to take the scraps and shavings of wood from her dad’s shop and burn designs onto them that she would sketch out by hand. Now she is completely innovating in the market with everything from exclusively designed paper thin wooden business cards and gift boxes to custom store signage.  And when the new hipster coffee joint opens downtown and wants to lead out with an earthy hand-crafted vibe they know exactly who they are going to call to create something magical for their brand because they remembered seeing her work two years prior long before they ever had need for it.

So now it’s your turn. All it takes is 5 minutes and a scrap piece of paper.  What are your layers and how deep and authentic can you get?  Once you figure it out never look back friends!

Shay Cochrane

After eight years as a successful wedding and portrait photographer, Shay felt her passion and creativity beginning to wane. In 2013, a light bulb moment in Homegoods convinced her to make the almost overnight decision: Jump head first into the unknown world of commercial styling and product photography. She's never looked back.

Her commercial clients span the globe (brands like Sugarfina, Pure Fiji, Truffle bags and Simplified Planner to name a few). However, she's most known for kickstarting the "styled stock" industry with the SC Stockshop, the first styled stock shop of its kind back in 2014.

Now creative brands everywhere use her styled stock imagery membership @SocialSquares to build their brand's visual presence online. She has been married for 13 years to her best friend and fitting counterpart, Graham. Together, they have two little girls and call sunny Tampa, Florida their home.


  1. These are helpful tips! I think I’m missing the special sauce. I’ll be brainstorming to get more clear. Thank you!

    1. Jill, Thank you! It takes time and yes, LOTS of brainstorms and re-assessing after each project. Did I enjoy that? Did it go well? Why or why not? I’m cheering for you!

    2. Jill, it definitely can seem like that. Sometimes the thing we need is right in front of our faces! Hope you got clarity and narrowed in on your niche.

      Shae, thanks so much for this post! It’s definitely got me to start thinking and narrowing in on what I do. It also helps to clarify what I say to people when they ask what I do!

  2. Great info! Looking forward to hearing more from Shay & Graham at the #TuesdaysTogetherTampa next week!

    1. Tami! I’m so glad you will be joining us! I can’t wait to meet you!

  3. Holy schnikies batman this is amazing advice!!! I never even thought about it this way! I guess I have to really dig deep! Could this play a role in why I’m not attracting the right clients?!?

    1. Yes! Absolutely! Once you define your niche, your portfolio and website copy needs to change so that it represents exclusively that niche and will therefor attract your ideal client in that niche. If you are not attracting the right clients then take a closer look at what is in your portfolio and what your website and blog copy says because it must be communicating a different message and resonating with a different client then you actually want. Its all fascinating isn’t it!?

  4. Thanks for the article and tips! Do you think finding your niche is something to be done after you’ve been in your industry for awhile? I consider myself new and even with your tips, I’m not sure what my niche is. Maybe it’s something that takes time to uncover?

    1. Katherine! Absolutely!!!! I have been a professional photographer for a little over 10 years now and only found my niche in the last 2.5 years! The first 8 years were spent in wedding and portrait photography just mimicking what I saw other people doing. The more you can ignore what other people are doing, hone in on what you love and are best at, and listen to what people need and are asking for – the sooner you will uncover your niche but you can’t always rush that process! It takes time and lots of trail and error! For me it took 10 years worth!

  5. This gave me a whole new perspective on what a “niche” really is. Going to define my “layers” right now!

  6. Wow! I’m so excited to think more about this and define my layers until I get to the point where the magic happens… simple sounding advice, but so hard to implement! Really appreciate this post! Thanks, Shay!

  7. I’ve been reading a lot, from many ‘experts’, on how to find your ideal client and this is by far the best explanation out there. I don’t know what my niche is yet, but because you broke it down into layers with examples, it’s like an aha moment went off for me. Finding your niche will help you define and lead to your ideal clients.
    Thank you for this article.

  8. This is great advice!! I just have one question, which seems to be what keeps me from knowing my layers. How do I know what I specialize in, if I haven’t gotten enough experience to know yet? Being a wedding planner, and aside from planning a few small scale events for friends or family, I’ve only truly planned 2 weddings myself, and they were small, and also friends. So how do I find a niche when I don’t even think I have one yet? This also causes me to doubt what I’m doing, and if I will even be able to do it. What if I’m bad at it?

  9. Oh no…. I have struggled with my niche for months…. And it is that easy??? I am going to refine it till I get to the killer core!

  10. Thank you for such a great post. I had gone 3 layers down, and 4 in terms of (law) firm size. I had been debating specializing in the “type of firm”, and now I realize doing so will help me target my demographic even more.(I target small and single person law firms who need digital asset management advice/management.) This is wonderful, and told me I should go forward and specialize. Thank you!

  11. Love this advice, Shay – thanks so much for sharing! Before reading this, I thought I had a niche – I help creatives FOCUS to actually complete their projects but I’m definitely missing that 4th and possibly 3rd layer.

  12. Thank you!
    This is exactly the guidance I’d been looking for! I took a break from blogging and now that I’m ready to get back to it, I’m going to use your formula to help me pin-point my niche!

  13. The only blog I really want to sign up on and you don’t have an annoying compulsory mailing list to join. =) you’re exceptionally good at this. Please sign me on if you have one. Would love to read everything you write.

  14. This has impacted me to a very big extent.