What's a Niche and How Do I Find Mine?!

What's a Niche and How Do I Find Mine?!

If you have spent any time connecting with other mental health professionals, whether in person or via social media, you have probably heard the phrase: “the riches are in the niches.”  So what is a niche anyway?  A niche is a specialized segment of the market for a particular product or service.  All service or product providers can have a niche, but for therapists the focus relies on knowing and serving your ideal client. 

Lately I have been hearing the term “Client Avatar”.  A client avatar is a profile you create of your ideal client, which includes a number identifying characteristics as well as a personal story to help you relate to your avatar.  Let’s explore this idea of creating a client avatar and how engaging this process will help you find your niche.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Setting in group supervision my supervisor said, “if you want to be profitable while providing therapy services you will develop a niche.”  I will be transparent money has motivated me since I was a little girl.  I am a true entrepreneur at heart.  I started my first business at the young age of 14, washing windows.  Okay, so back to “niching”, I had never heard of it before and it piqued my interest.  The supervisor went on to inform the group as to what a niche is and why it is important.  When she noted that clients who need my specialized services would pay me what I ask I was hooked on this idea of developing my own niche.  I began purely from a business perspective looking for my niche, and uncovered a pursuit of my true passion.  Today I absolutely love what I do and would probably do it for free if I could still make ends meet.  While continuing to develop my niche, it has been helpful over this past year to design my “client avatar”.

My first introduction to idea of avatars was the movie Avatar.  Being able to go into another’s world and experience it without really being there was fascinating.  I started noticing online games were allowing players to make avatars.  In the game SIMS you can create an entire whole world for your avatar.

When you think of your client avatar imagine the person who appears in your office with the issues you love to treat but don’t stop there.  Develop a life for your avatar.  This will help you determine what training and skills you need to solve your avatar’s specific problems.  By following these steps, you will develop your client avatar, which in turn will help you identify and develop your niche.

1. Identify what gives you professional energy.  Think about what types of issues excite you when you read a client’s intake.  Also consider the populations you were eager to learn about in graduate school.  For example, I was drawn to trauma in children.  As I continued to work with traumatized children, I discovered attachment challenges, which lead me to refine my interest to adults with childhood trauma and attachment challenges.  This population gives me meaning in this season of my career.  Be mindful, over time your avatar might change and that is okay.

2. Connect with others.  To identify what gives you professional energy start connecting with others who work in that field.  Seek conversations about what it is like to treat the specific population, ask what books they read, what journals they subscribe to, and what group memberships they hold.  This will help you create your avatar’s world.  Look for resources like Facebook Groups.  I host a Facebook Group called Making Trauma Therapy Your Niche.  This group is designed to help others along their journey of niching in trauma treatment. 

3.  Create a story that goes with your avatar and start preparing to solve their problems. Once you have the details of your avatar create a story that you tell yourself and others when they ask you who is your ideal client.  Be as detailed as possible.  Remember having a niche means you are specialized in what you do.  The more specific you can be the more you can tailor your skills to meet the needs of your clients efficiently and effectively.  Now, you have your client avatar clearly defined identify skills you need to solve their problems.  What training and experience do you need?  Find jobs, trainings, and mentors that will help you grow your skills to meet your “avatars” needs. 

Having a client avatar with a fleshed-out profile helps you to target your training, skills, and resources to become the best at meeting that clients’ needs.  This in turn helps you develop a well-defined niche, which sets you up to market yourself in the marketplace, to potential employers and beyond.  You will find your passion.  There is no comparison to having a session and knowing you are well prepared to meet the needs of your client. 

Tell us a little about your “client avatar”.

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