Finding Your Consulting Niche

by | Apr 20, 2024 | Consulting, Nonprofit Consulting

 

Have you found your consulting niche yet?

Many nonprofit consultants start with a general desire to support the nonprofit sector and a wide range of potential services they could provide.

They have experience with fundraising, program development, strategy, operations, and more. So, they figure, why not help all organizations with all of the above?

Over time, though, most successful consultants tend to “niche down.” This means they have a clear idea of their ideal client, collaboration dynamics, and type of work.

Most importantly, consultants who find a strong niche are more likely to work with their ideal clients.

That sounds like the dream, right?

 

The benefits of a finding consulting niche

You might have heard people compare being a “generalist” to being a “specialist” (aka niching down).

There are pros and cons to both:

As a generalist, you might be open to more opportunities, serve as a one-stop shop for clients, and have a wider variety of work (which can be fun and interesting). On the downside, generalists can struggle to explain what they do, find themselves spread too thin, and miss the chance to be known as experts in specific areas.

In contrast, niching down can enable you to become an expert in your niche. This can lead to more referrals, more efficiency, and higher rates—not to mention better results for your clients. You can potentially work less, earn more, and be more selective about the clients you take on.

 

Different ways to niche in your consulting business

There are several approaches to niching down.

 

Niching by sector and organization type

There are so many nonprofits out there it can be helpful to find the type you most enjoy working with.

For example, some people love working with small nonprofits, direct service organizations, arts and culture nonprofits, or groups focused on mental health. Others prefer working with organizations that have a presence in multiple states or that do advocacy on certain issues at the state or national levels.

Think about which organizations you most enjoy working with. Is your current client portfolio tilted toward a specific sector or type of organization? Are there issues close to your heart where you would like to do more work?

Different types of organizations can also have different challenges and budgets. Your goal is to find the “sweet spot” where organizations’ needs align with what you enjoy doing most and with your consulting business budget.

 

Niching by scope of work

Grant writing is a very common niche for nonprofit consultants and for good reason. Nonprofits are always hustling to raise money!

Because fundraising is in such demand, many consultants start with this focus. But in reality, nonprofits need many different types of support. You are not limited to fundraising.

I’ve coached consultants who do strategic planning, board development, program evaluation, executive coaching, operations, HR, IT, communications, copywriting, and more. All of them have clients!

 

Niching by both sector and scope 

When you narrow your niche by type of organization, type of work, and potentially other factors, you can start to make a powerful case for your unique value-add.

You become an expert who is known for something specific.

Many of our members over at The Hive have developed these sorts of niches. For example, grant writing for arts and culture organizations in a specific geography.

Take your time when niching down to this level, though!

Often, people hone such specific niches over several years. They pay attention to the market and the type of clients they are attracting. Slowly, they refine their messaging, build their portfolio, and regularly assess their pricing and services.

 

Questions to ask to find your consulting niche

  • Which clients do I get most excited about working with and why?
  • Which clients do I dread working with and why?
  • What work do I truly enjoy doing? What work do I tolerate or “not mind” doing?
  • What work am I doing simply because I’m competent vs passionate?
  • Who is your dream client (type of organization, collaboration dynamics, scope of work, length of engagement, etc.)?

 

Above all, communicate your services clearly 

Even if you are still finding your niche, be sure to still communicate your services clearly (including on your website). Potential clients need to know what you do!

And, yes, your services, messaging, and niche can and should evolve.

Many consultants who join our one-on-one consulting boot camp are at a decision point in honing their niche.

They might have too many clients (and be working too many hours). Or they might be struggling to find clients—and to describe their services to clients. Or they might not even be sure where to focus their consulting business!

Often, by the end of boot camp, consultants discover they’re much more passionate about one area of work or type of client. This can empower them to raise their rates, better communicate their services, and be firmer in not going outside scopes of work.

The results: a consulting business that delivers impact and profit.

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