One common piece of advice given to entrepreneurs is Follow Your Passion. We’ve all heard it, I’ve said it many times. It’s something that sounds like it makes sense. But if you want to find a profitable niche is it the right advice?
The basic choice is whether to pick a niche you’re passionate about or one where you can make the most money. Those choices are the extremes, in the real world it may not be so black and white. Of course the ideal niche combines both passion and profit. But we can’t all live the dream of a flying ace who sells private jets – most of us have to sacrifice a little of our passion to create something that the market wants to buy.
So what do you get from a niche where you can indulge your passion?
- First and foremost it’s easier to engage in a business when you’re already engaged in the product. You understand the potential problems, how the market works and all the details that a new entrant has yet to discover. And when the going gets tough as it does for many small businesses you have extra stores of energy to keep going.
- You may well already have experience of people turning to you for information on your topic. You’ll understand their problems and you’ll know what the solutions are. In effect you start out as the voice of authority. A strong point in favour of passion is that people are more likely to buy a golf club from someone who knows everything about golf (especially if you’ve bought the product yourself).
- It’s easy to write content when the topic is your specialist subject. That’s not a small matter in a content-marketing age. Whether it’s a status update or a 2000-word blog post you know how to keep the conversation going.
Yes, you’re living your passion but what about…
- You may be unable to see that the topic you’re so passionate about is of no interest to anyone else. No matter how passionate you are about Bolivian tree snails there may be few people who’d bother to click on your website. And if they did click you wouldn’t have many products to sell them. For practical purposes take a look at an affiliate marketplace to see the sort of products that affiliates consider marketable. It’s also useful to consider if new product variations could appear in the future or if your product offering would be fixed.
- As a committed enthusiast you may not be the best judge of what’s of interest to the average customer. You risk being the perfectionist who creates something nobody wants. When I worked as a corporate photographer one thing that mattered to me was the resolution of my pictures. But I understood this was a technical detail of no importance to my clients. In effect it was just an extra constraint that I placed on what I offered but didn’t make a difference to sales.
- With a passion you risk identifying yourself too personally with your business to take commercial decisions, such as turning away advertisers from your special creation. And criticism or any other feedback for a personal project is harder…
- Passion can fade or another interest can take its place. In contrast a business requires a consistent commitment that’s way beyond an enthusiastic feeling, especially one that may not always be there. There may come a point when you don’t have the passion that enabled you to deal with the need for systems, processes and repetition.
- When you turn a passion into a business you risk killing the passion. You might be able to think of an example of this among the people you know? A friend of mine is a piano teacher who no longer enjoys playing the piano…
- Passion in one area comes with no guarantee of business success across the board. Running a business involves a wider set of skills than it takes to satisfy a hobby.
Don’t let these risks put you off. Just be aware they might happen. And remember you might be able to outsource problem areas or find a partner with a different skillset.
What do you get from a niche you choose for profit… apart from the obvious?
- You know from the outset that there’s money to be made. This isn’t a vague project to realise your dreams and see what happens. You know what the goal is and people are already showing you how to get there. Perhaps you don’t have their data but you can understand how the market operates.
- In an established market there may already be a large choice of products to sell. There may be a track record of what works for existing businesses. Affiliate marketers can look forward to suppliers creating more products which means your shelves will always be fresh. With everything in place you’ll know in advance how your business is going to be monetised.
- There’s a clear target audience and a way to get to them. You just have to follow the steps that others have taken. Instead of creating a community from nothing you know which blogs to turn to, the popular forums and existing social media groups.
- When the main market is being served and customers already understand your product you can dive deeper to explore new sub-niches. (You might be forced to do this anyway if the market is saturated…).
- The line is clear that you’re working in a business not an extension of your hobby. This promotes clear goals and a disciplined work ethic . The business model is more in line with the idea of ‘work hard, play hard’. You get to stop work at the end of the day and then you take yourself away to enjoy your passion fully.
So you did find a profitable niche, but…
- You’re not the only one who knows there’s money to be made. You’ll probably face tough competition with more experience than you.
Existing operators will have a better knowledge of the market and possibly more resources. And however good your plans these operators are in a position to take advantage of any progress you make.
- You may not have the expertise to manage a business in an unfamiliar market. But remember in these circumstances you still have the options of outsourcing or finding a partner with different skills.
- There is a flipside to the content-marketing advantage you get when you follow your passion. If all you want is to find a profitable niche you may be writing about subjects you may know nothing about or have no interest in. But don’t despair, there are plenty writers for hire who can create your content.
- The fact is that it’s easier to give up on a niche that you’re not passionate about. You wanted to find a profitable niche, you didn’t find one. That’s as far as your commitment goes. The ability to walk away isn’t a bad thing but of course you need a balanced view to understand when you’ve reached the end of the line.
Don’t be put off by the barriers. Other people have found their way Round or Over them. Clearly there must be something worth fighting for.
Sometimes the best advice is ‘Follow your passion’. Sometimes it’s ‘Focus on profit’.
The crucial advice is what will make your business succeed. Having passion for what you do isn’t what makes a business successful. If nobody wants what you’re selling, no matter how passionate you are about it your business will fail.The other extreme is working at something that doesn’t interest you just because it’s profitable. That won’t make a sustainable business.
If you don’t have a passion for business then maybe that’s a cue to find a partner who can inject the drive every business needs. Find someone with a passion to help people – you can call it ‘serving people’ or ‘solving problems for people’. That’s the focus that keeps a business profitable.Ultimately, I’ve found that success combines passion with market reality, for me they don’t work on their own and they really do work well together. How does that sound for you?