This is a question I see from time to time in VA forums from new VAs struggling to work out what they should be offering and how to attract clients. Personally, sometimes I think the focus on ‘niches’ gets in the way of people starting up their businesses and here are my thoughts.
Can I tell you I never had a niche when I started over 23 years ago? I just did whatever was needed, typing, data entry, minutes of meetings, bookkeeping, phone answering. Whatever I could do. It was three years before a niche came to me. Yes, it came to me.
A lady contacted me to find out if I would be interested in running the Secretariat for their not-for-profit organisation as the person doing it was leaving them. They’d heard about me from someone else. I went for an interview with the committee and they took me on board.
I was doing something like 10-15 hours a week for them. That was the start of something new for me but utilised all the things I had been doing – typing, taking minutes of meetings, data entry and managing membership databases, promoting events via email and so on. Today that also includes maintaining websites, social media and broadcast emails through Mailchimp. I no longer work with that group but was with them for 3 years and have since worked with several NFP groups in the past 20 years. I have 20 years’ experience as a Secretariat operator! Who would have thought that when I started? Not me! The NFPs have been in the medical industry (pedorthists and palliative care), o/seas business councils (South Africa and Malaysia), an organisation dedicated to arborists, another I provide social media support to a group for independent contractors in our country, and so on. Some I provide 15 hours a month service, and others less. In fact, before I started my business full time, I was operating the office for the Institute of Professional Secretaries Australia (IPSA) not even guessing that is what I would end up providing as a professional service operator.
I know people promote ‘get a niche, get a niche’ but sometimes you just have to start with what you know. And that’s what I did. Today I have a couple of niches – NFPs and also Professional Speakers/Business Coaches because they all need the same type of service offering.
A niche can be a set of services OR can be a particular industry. For me it’s about industries that need what I have been doing all along. What is it you know best and can offer as a service? There may just be an industry out there waiting for you.