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Can no niche be your niche?
The subtle art of putting yourself in no box
When consulting for thought leadership, the first thing I tell my clients is to choose a niche. Typically, this process begins with answering the question: “Who are you?” Oftentimes, the idea of putting oneself out there, whether through a website or social media posts bring them to coaches or therapists.
Last week, my friend, who works as an architect, shared her struggle with writing a three-passage bio and ultimately hiring an editor for assistance. The process began with a deep interview to identify her goals, what tone she wants to convey, and what her story is.
That seemingly simple exercise then brought her unexpected requests for therapy. The problem, as she put it, was that she was transitioning from architecture to interior design, and the two niches are vastly different. Which seemed complete to me - she pivots from architecture to interior design with her architectural background. “It’s not like my all-over-the-place bio”, I told her. “I write about crypto for one magazine, mental health for another one, and some personal essays for the rest”.
She argued that my common ground was ‘being a writer’, regardless of subject matter, which made it more compete than hers. Taking an outside look at how people perceive you is often helpful. And by the way, such perception is what sustains your personal brand, whether you intend to cultivate one or not.
I’ve been grappling with this ‘fit into a box’ for a long time. “If I only focused on crypto, I’d have millions of views now”, I often think to myself. “If I only focused on mental health, my project would have secured investment already”, my mind tells me.
Yet, it never worked out. My writing always had to align with my interests. During Covid, we interviewed Michelin-starred chefs based in Paris, who were unable to operate their restaurants, and decided to redirect their forces into cooking for healthcare workers. I gained a following from French chefs, who I assume would then be disappointed, as I never posted any interviews chefs again. Similarly, we interviewed the founders of Berlin clubs, the techno capital, about their survival mode during Covid, and then small businesses in New York. Vivid Minds has reflected lives all over countries and continents background.
My background as a journalist also makes me equally interested in both bums and billionaires. One day I would post a story about dining at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, and the next, would be exploring chebureki, $3 Russian turnovers filled with ground meat found in deep deep Queens, New York.
The truth is, I’ve always been attracted to similar people, with a wide range of interests and attached curiosity, and I’ve seen such people subscribing to VM.
The topics I write about are varied, and I might not possess the talent (sign) to make them so eloquent that readers read them simply because of my unparalleled voice. (You should also be aware that English is my second language, and I only moved to the US at 26).
Nevertheless, I feel there are people who appreciate the variety. It's probably fewer than I could have if I focused on a specific niche, but there are also those who don't conform into boxes and feel the same way.
Those readers are looking to discover unexpected topics; something that might tickle their fancy, not necessarily within the US (although I’ve found that my international stories are more of interest to immigrants than Americans).
My tagline for Vivid Minds was “for people who overcome challenges and move forward”. I shared this with the former editor of Fortune magazine, who helped me as a media coach, but she felt it was too vague. Don't we overcome challenges every day? She recommended that I found my product fit.
I’ve helped dozens of people to find theirs and pave it into their stories, but I struggled doing it for myself. I then thought - OK, maybe there are people who don’t need that. At least, at that specific moment, until another time.
I now think of myself as a person with no niche. Curiosity and self-discovery are driving my passion in different directions, being the most important unifier. This approach might not work for everyone, but it does work for me.