Seth Godin: How to Scale in Your Niche

Whether you’re a start-up or you’ve been in the game for years, one thing that you must do if you want to reach true success is to embrace your niche. Focusing your efforts on marketing around the smallest viable audience is a key strategy that Seth Godin, author of Seth’s Blog, has advised fellow entrepreneurs to do for quite some time.

But, how can you scale in your niche?

What are some practical ways you can do this effectively without putting your livelihood on the line?

Seth Godin joined me for an incredibly interesting conversation that dives into this topic further. We also explore burnout, which many of you know is a topic very close to my heart, and why playing safe is risky.

What causes burnout?

Burnout is an emotional state whereby you feel so overwhelmed, stressed, and drained, that you are unable to meet the demands being asked of you. It’s a very difficult thing to go through because it can leave you feeling physically and mentally exhausted.

Emotional turmoil due to burnout also tends to emerge as physical symptoms. Some of these include reduced creativity, exhaustion, headaches, stomach aches, and many more. You may also struggle to maintain your original performance level as burnout eats away at your cognitive thinking processes.

As Seth pointed out, “What causes burnout is not effort. What causes burnout is stress.”

Stress is the result of wanting, or feeling like you have to, do two things at the same time. You may not want to do those things, but you feel the pressure that you must. At the same time, your self-confidence dips and you’re not even sure that you can do those things well or on time.

How to navigate your way through burnout

The first step to overcome burnout or evade it completely is to avoid any profession where everyone is burned out. If you’re talking to people a certain profession and all of them mention how they feel tired all the time, stressed out, and down about their jobs, stay clear of that profession. It’s probably not for you.

You will not burn out doing something that you enjoy. Seth has written for his blog every day for years. He has written 7000 posts, which would give many people a headache just thinking about. However, because Seth enjoys it and he’s passionate about what he does, he has never experienced stress because of his blog.

Here’s what Seth has to say about this:

I gave myself permission a long time ago to stop doing it when it’s not what I want to do, and that very permission turns into something I get to do instead of something I have to do.”

What stress looks like for freelancers Vs entrepreneurs

A lot of people who run small businesses misinterpret their stress because they do not understand the distinction between freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Seth clarified the confusion by reinforcing how both sides get paid. Freelancers get paid when they work. They can’t necessarily scale that because it’s solely based on them. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, must do work that causes other people to do the actual thing that’s getting paid for.

The problem comes when you’re a freelancer who wants to scale.

So, you might decide it’s time to become an entrepreneur. Great. There’s just one little thing to take into consideration…cash is tight. When a project comes along, you hire the best person for the job who also happens to be the cheapest. You hire yourself…over and over again.

The cycle continues like this and you’re stressed because you’re struggling to scale, and you’ve become both a freelancer and an entrepreneur at the same time. It’s difficult, it’s not fun, and it’s stressful.

How can a freelancer scale?

If you’re constantly hiring yourself to do every project that comes your way, you will never be able to scale. You only have so many hours in the day and so, you need to move up.

According to Seth, the only way a freelancer can scale is by getting better clients.

If you start trying to hire junior versions of you, you’re going to get stressed out of your mind.”

“Every minute you’re not doing it because you’re managing someone who’s not quite as good, not quite as brave, not quite as hardworking as you, you’re subtracting from your art and your beauty. Stop doing that.”

The solution is to get smaller. Niche down and recruit higher-paid people. People who are just as good as you, just as hardworking, and just as passionate about the job, clients, and scaling the business.

Why playing safe is risky

For whatever reason, the idea of focusing on a niche scares a lot of people. To truly understand the power of niching down, you need to understand why playing safe is so risky.

Seth challenges you to think about who your business or creative heroes are. We’ve all got someone we look up to and aspire to be like in some way or another. Seth argues that those people will fall into one of two categories.

The first category is the lucky ones. Maybe they were in the right place at the right time and somebody happened to “pick” them. But, most of your business and creative heroes are specific. They are not vague or general. They have a niche and you will never be able to follow in their footsteps by being generic. It’s just never going to work.

Playing safe is risky, which is why you need to be specific. You need to stand for something and that something may not matter to everyone, but it will matter to you and the specific audience you are providing value for.

Marketing to your smallest viable market

Scaling within your chosen niche starts by marketing to your smallest viable market. Recruiters, for example, often don’t realize that they are marketers. They are marketing to two groups of people:

Clients need to trust you to recruit the best possible people for the job. This group of people must believe you because they’re the ones who will tell their boss why they hired you in the first place, so you’ve got to bring it.

The second group of people that recruiters need to market to are not the unemployed, but the happily employed. Why? Well, as Seth Godin points out, “those are the people that are most worth recruiting.”

These are marketing choices. Remember that marketing is not advertising. You need to think about things like what are you building? Who are you building it for? And, what change are you hoping to make?

Seth shared some practical tips to help you understand and focus on your smallest viable market.

The first step is to think about 20, 40, or 100 people (by name) that your business is for. If you’re struggling to be specific, you’re in trouble because you’re just going to go back to being a generalist.

If you can say ‘specifically, it’s for people like this’, then you can make something that will overwhelm them with goodness. And then you’ve solved an interesting problem and they will tell others.”

But if you are afraid of the critics, if you are trying to fit in for everybody, if you are hustling, then you won’t do that and you won’t find the confidence to actually do good marketing.”

To do good marketing, you’ve got to make marketing an intentional act.

So, are you ready to scale in your niche? If so, you know what you need to do!

To read Seth Godin’s famous blog, which is packed with thousands of incredible blog posts, head over to: https://seths.blog 

Akimbo is a series of fantastic workshops designed to change your life for the better, no matter your niche or expertise. To find out more, go to: https://akimbo.com  

Show Notes for YouTube / Podcast Host 

Whether you’re a start-up or you’ve been in the game for years, one thing that you must do if you want to reach true success is to embrace your niche.

Focusing your efforts on marketing around the smallest possible viable market is a key strategy that Seth Godin, author of Seth’s Blog, has advised fellow entrepreneurs to do for quite some time.

In this episode, Seth Godin joins me for an incredibly interesting conversation that dives into this topic further. We also explore burnout, which many of you know is a topic very close to my heart, and why playing safe is risky.

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