Establishing a Niche – Do you have one?

When you start a business it can be difficult trying to work out who your target audience is.  It’s a question I ask myself every day, something I have to remind myself of when posting on social media and even writing this blog.  If I aim my updates and blog posts at the wrong audience it’s unlikely I will attract the clients I want to my business.

That’s where establishing a niche comes in, and it doesn’t have to be difficult to work out what your niche is.  I am going to use my own niche as an example.  If you are struggling to come up with a niche, you need to ask yourself some questions – what am I good at? what sort of clients am I hoping to attract?  do I have a unique skill I could sell?

Example

A virtual assistant can do almost anything, you hire a virtual assistant to help you with tasks in your business you either don’t have time to do yourself, or tasks you find difficult or time consuming.  The list of tasks a virtual assistant can help you with is endless, so I won’t list them all here.  Common tasks could be bookkeeping, writing letters, checking your emails, answering the phone, formatting documents, organising events, doing research for you etc…

Make yourself stand out…

When you are looking for a virtual assistant you want to make sure who you hire is great at what they do, and capable of taking on the tasks you need them for.  This is where searching for a virtual assistant with a niche comes in.  You need to make a list of the tasks you want your virtual assistant to do, and then I would suggest going to some of the useful directories of virtual assistants such as BeMyVA, IVAA, Virtual AssistantVilleVirtual Assistant Forums or even LinkedIn (you can use this for any skills, not necessarily virtual assistants).  For all of these sites you are able to search using keywords, which will bring up various people specialising in the skills you  need.

Using myself as an example, my niche is eBook formatting and social media management.  These are the tasks I am good at, yes I provide other services, but I think I excel at these two main tasks.  If you search for eBook formatting on LinkedIn, I rank quite highly in the results.  Knowing what my niche is means I can target the right audience, for example authors, writers and small businesses who require help with their social media accounts.

Do you have a niche?

It’s not only virtual assistants who need to establish a niche, if you run a business which provides many different services it’s worthwhile finding two or three which you can aim at a particular audience.  You’ll soon notice that enquiries start to come in for your niche, and once you have clients you can talk to them about your other services they may not have thought about.

I have found there are a lot of blog posts about establishing your blogging niche, but not many about your business niche.   I was hoping to include a few blog references here, but I couldn’t find any good ones.  If you know of some, please let me know so I can include them in future blog posts.

Pros and Cons of Time Zones in Business

What time zone are you in?

It’s only since starting my business that I have even considered time zones.  My very first client has offices around the world, I format CV’s for them and quite often I receive emails over night from places such as Texas and Canada. For a few weeks it wasn’t a problem, the work started off slowly so I was doing them as they came in.  But a few weeks in and I had a lot of CV’s to format and I found I needed to prioritise them in order to get them back to the consultants within their deadlines.

I downloaded a world clock app on my iPhone which meant I could easily see what time it was in Texas or Canada for example, so at 9am when I had an inbox full of CV’s it meant I could work on the London or Scotland ones first and then do the others later in the afternoon.  I now have categories set-up in Outlook so when a new email comes in it’s automatically assigned a colour so I know which country it’s come from.  It works really well and makes my Outlook look colourful too.

Being a virtual assistant means you can work for pretty much anyone in the world.  There are not many restrictions, although there are some things you need to take into consideration when working with someone in a different time zone, both for you and the client.

Pros

  • You can concentrate on work during your day (say 9am – 5pm) and not necessarily be disturbed by emails or phone calls from people in a time zone 7 or 8 hours behind or ahead of you.
  • The client’s work is completed while they sleep and will be in their inbox at 9am on the next working day which no doubt will make them very happy.
  • It is easier to prioritise your work when you work for clients in different time zones, you can concentrate on your different clients work at certain times of the day.
  • Depending on what your role is you might even get an invite to the client’s country for a meeting or conference, travel opportunities are always exciting.

Cons

  • An urgent request from a client in a different time zone might not be picked up by you immediately.  An example of this happened to me this week, it was Friday evening and I had finished work for the weekend.  A CV came in from Canada at 11pm my time (GMT+1) which meant I received it the next day, a Saturday, a non working day for me – it will have to wait until Monday morning unfortunately.
  • A client may have to rely on email only instead of making use of phone calls, as your working hours don’t coincide with theirs.

Can you think of any more pros and cons of working with clients in different time zones to you?

As for me, I only have one client in a different time zone at the moment but I hope I’ll eventually get some more. I’ve struck up some good working relationships in the time I’ve been working with this client, I even have some great testimonials from some of them.

You might also be interested in some of the other blog posts I have written recently, Freelancer? How Do You Manage Your Time? and 20 Reasons for Hiring a Virtual Assistant.

If you’re in a different time zone and would like to work with a virtual assistant, have your work completed when you’re sleeping, then get in touch, it would be great to hear from you.

Self Publishing your eBook the DIY Way!

So you have written a book, you might have had it published as a paperback but now want to tap into the eBook market.  Well it doesn’t have to cost the earth, in fact I formatted my late Grandfather’s book by following the guidelines on Amazon KDP and Smashwords.  Of course the first time it took me many hours to get it just how I wanted it, but now most formatting jobs take me between 1 and 3 hours depending on the length of the book.

If you want to go the DIY route, these are the key points you need to follow:

1. I recommend going to Smashwords first and foremost and downloading their Style Guide – it’s very easy to find as it is at the number 1 spot on the Most Downloads section.

2. Read this guide from cover to cover and make notes on the key points you need to achieve for your eBook to be accepted onto the Smashwords catalogue.

3. Work on formatting your eBook… the first thing you should do before anything else is to clear all formatting from the document so you can start with a clean text document.  You can do this by copy and pasting the document into Notepad and then copying it back into Word (or whatever word processing software you want to use).

4. Follow the guide, it’s as simple as that!

5.  Set-up your account on Smashwords and upload your formatted eBook, if there are any problems with the file they will inform you so you can go back and correct them.

6. Once Smashwords have approved your eBook and it’s ready for distribution, use your formatted file and upload it to Amazon Kindle.  I found the formatting suggestions for Kindle a lot more complex than Smashwords, but my finished eBook looked more professional following Smashwords Style Guide.

There are some really useful tips on the Smashwords website, this document in particular – How to Publish and Distribute Ebooks with Smashwords.  I like the fact that Smashwords distributes your eBook to many different retailers, these are Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Amazon and Diesel.

It does take time to get your eBook into the system, through formatting, setting up your accounts and then promoting.  Alternatively you can get someone else to do all this leg work for you.  eBook formatting is one of my specialist services and it doesn’t cost a lot, so if you’ve just written a book and would like a quick and cheap way of getting it published to the masses drop me an email so we can get started.

If you’d like to publish your book in a paperback version, then take a look at my previous blog post How to Self Publish your Book on a Budget.  For some marketing tips please see this great blog post by Stephanie Chandler Strategies for Promoting Ebooks.