5 Steps to Nail Your Niche & Create Thought-Provoking Content You'll Be Known For

article writing blogging coaching consulting content content creation copywriting entrepreneurship mission-driven business niche online edcuation small business solopreneurship thought leadership writing Jun 16, 2024

 But first, a reminder on why we share content in the first place. What’s your why?

Mine is: We are social creatures who learn collectively. I am a dedicated life-long learner AND teacher. I feel most purposeful when I am contributing to collective learning & progress. Anything I write, speak, or share is with this intention: to illuminate, inspire, instruct, and help others on their journey. 

What’s your why? Connect with it for a minute. Jot it down. Clarify it. Know it. (Cuz if you don’t, it shows.) 

The five steps I’m sharing with you were my process for moving through my dissertation research... and one I’ve honed throughout my life as a scholar, teacher, writer, and speaker.

Steps 2-5 might be familiar to you. But I think we don’t talk enough about step 1. Let’s break it down. 

 

STEP 1: KNOW YOUR CORE VALUES

If you take away ONE THING from my essay today, I hope it’s this: Anchor everything that you do in a clear understanding of your core values. Everything you say, teach, consume, and promote should be in alignment with your core values.

So before you even attempt to create content or publish your thoughts, map out your core values. 

What are core values? The principles/ themes/ qualities that are the most important to you. What motivates your work? What are you fighting for? What do you know the world needs more of

Your core values aren’t your areas of expertise or interest, but they should intersect with them in a way that makes sense. 

For example, some of my core values are: sustainability, humanity, equity, community, belonging, safety, healing, and justice.  

What does this look like? Even though I’m not an environmental scientist (area of expertise), and I don’t make environmental protection (area of interest) a main topic of my current content, it wouldn’t take too much digging on my pages to see that my work aligns with this value and that I’m recognizable for caring about the earth and all her inhabitants. 

Start by jotting down a list of 5-7 core values. Ask yourself: What do I stand for? What is most important to me? What do I want to dedicate my life to make sure there is more of for myself and my communities? Then examine if your core values are in alignment to everything else that you do, including your work & the offers you provide. If they are, then move on to steps 2-5! 

 

STEP 2: LEARN THE TERRAIN

As a researcher, I love this step. But be careful you don’t get too lost here. Setting a time-frame can be helpful. (I am going to spend the next 2-3 months learning as much as I can in this field.)

In this phase, give yourself permission to not create too much. (You can create as long as you feel solid that what you’re creating is in your wheelhouse and aligns with what you really know about yourself.)

Focus on familiarizing or updating yourself with the landscape of information that exists in your field (letting your core values guide where you go). 

Following creators in our niche on social media is an obvious starting point. But, for me, social media can get really overwhelming really fast and the copycat situation is more outta hand than ever. 

So if I’m on Instagram, I’m looking for thought-out educational posts, often in the form of carousels or content with longer form text (like this one from Regina Anaejionu  which earned my follow to her page and then a follow back from her when she read my carousels on my page. That’s called intellectual networking, y’all. Let’s get into this practice together!). From IG, I’ll dive into the riches of these creators’ information, usually living inside of their email newsletters, blogs, articles, and books.  

Maybe because I'm a researcher, but I often like to find coaches & creators by doing web searches and reading articles & blogs that come up when I start asking more specific questions. That’s how I discovered Tim Brownson, who has built & maintained his fully-booked coaching business for the past couple of decades by consistently writing to his blog, email list, and Facebook group, masterfully demonstrating a commitment to his voice, values, & personality while serving his community. Audible introduced me to Rachel Rodgers with her mission to make historically-excluded people millionaires and I’ve continued to follow and take notes from her after listening to her audiobooks. My point? Look beyond Instagram. The good stuff is out there.  

While you’re learning the terrain, get inspired, validate ideas in your head (if others are talking about anything similar, it’s a good indication that the public is getting primed to have these conversations at a larger scale), and answer questions/ adjust assumptions you had about your topic. 

For example, someone might have already flat out tried to teach what you’re interested in and discovered that it didn’t work or no one was interested. Or research might show that your ideas aren’t in line with emerging trends or facts. 

As you read, watch, and listen, keep a working folder on your devices to bookmark and house your downloads for the creators and pieces that most inspire you and inform your direction forward. 

Which I’ll break down in the next step. Cuz one thing we’re NOT doing… is copying. 

 

STEP 3: IDENTIFY THE GAP (YOUR NICHE)

Let’s first acknowledge that there’s nothing truly new under the sun. The phenomenon of collective consciousness means that an idea that you felt was super original to you, can pop up in the writing of a creator halfway across the world from you. I know that crestfallen feeling thinking you had something really unique, then seeing it trending a couple months later on the interwebs. 

So let’s just settle into acceptance and thank our ancestors for whatever flows of consciousness light up our hearts and minds. It’s ok to not be completely original.

However, to be successful in 2024 as a coach, creator, and thought-leader, we CAN’T be seen as a copycat. How do we pull off this paradox?

We lean into our core values in step 1 and the micro gaps we identified in step 2. Usually the gaps emerge as fresh cross-sections where our voice can help bridge a gap. 

For example, my work aligns with Regina’s in an almost uncanny way. Knowing her work inspires mine and shows me possibilities from a veteran online educator to me, an emerging one. What I WON’T be doing is jacking her signature phrases & topics like “IP Era” or “IG as Modern Sharecropping”. So even though she and I resemble each other at the intersection of academics, entrepreneurship, & social justice, Regina’s brand is recognizable by her contribution to viewing online education as the creation of Intellectual Property and by her identity as a Black woman. My intersection includes my identity as a Hakka-Irish trans-national person and my approach to bringing my academic background to modern heart-led entrepreneurship is shaped by the modality of spoken word & story-telling. I also lean on my pillar of being trauma-informed as both a survivor & a healer to further define my gap in the terrain.  

Side note: are you starting to see why doing your story work is so important to this process? Your identity is the main thing that no one else can copy you on. So I’ll leave this as a logical micro-promotion for my upcoming story coaching program launching this Fall. (Beta pricing open now, message me if you want that discount. Or start by downloading the free workbook.)

Once you see the gap that is shaped just for you, contoured by your core values in step 1, your core story (your identity & lived experiences), and the under-saturated areas you identified in your field as you explore the terrain in step 2, then your niche becomes a cozy home with a garden for you to decorate, landscape, and add your magical touch. 

Congratulations, you're a thought-generating home-owner once you’ve found your gap!

 

STEP 4: GENERATE & TEST YOUR MESSAGING

Before you commit to long-form or more extensive content publication, it’s time to first test your ideas and messages. 

For each of the following formats, you should: 1)  Throw out some of your ideas and messages and 2) take stock of what the responses are (including questions, interest level, objections, recommendations, and indicators that what you’re saying helped solve a problem or open up a new perspective.) 

Here’s a few ways to hold the conversation:  

  • Have 1:1 “interviews” or causal conversations with people who are in your field/ are interested in your field. DM them. Invite them to a zoom chat. Bring it up casually when you’re around each other. Pick their brains, consensually, of course.
  • Get into the comment sections of the creators in your field you’ve bookmarked already. Respond thoughtfully to the content they published. Ask and answer other people’s questions.
  • Join a community or membership and develop a thought-thread over a few days or weeks within the same group. Dig deeper and clarify further than you can in a more public forum.
  • Post emerging, semi-validated ideas & messages to your social media. With how quickly our posts get pushed out of sight and with the ability to delete or archive something that ends up flopping or not aligning to the rest of your core messaging, posting on socials isn’t as high-stakes as you probably feel like it is. And it’s a great opportunity to test our messages through engagement. (Don’t worry too much about likes! Comments, saves, and DM’s are gold for our ideation process!)
  • Do podcast interviews. This is a riskier, higher-visibility/permanence format so I bring my messages here once they are validated in several other settings and I want to test my delivery before spending the time and energy in putting them into long-form writing & publication. Make sure that you feel confident in your speaking and you’ve built internal systems of safety & self-validation before you share anything that could leave you feeling too vulnerable or trigger imposter syndrome or vulnerability hangovers. (Another area we navigate with support in my coaching programs.) 

When you hold onto this mindset of testing and the thought-generation process, you’ll also give yourself a lot more compassion and grace. Perfectionists, this is for us!

Remember we are a work in progress and so is our body of thought-leadership. We can strike a balance of intentional, strategic, yet ever-evolving contributions to the intellectual community, without resorting to haphazardly throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. 

 

STEP 5: PUBLISH LONG-FORM CONTENT IN YOUR NICHE!

Commit to the long-form and publish from inside your gap of expertise for a while. In other words, once you clarified your core values, identified your niche, and tested your messages, run with it. Leave your mark. 

Do many interviews where you explore your core topics. Break it into many forms of content on your platforms. Teach masterclasses on it. Pitch those articles or self-publish on your blog. 

Become known for what you know & what you talk about!

Write that TedX talk! Outline that book & plan your publishing timeline! You, too, can be a thought-leader in your field. All it takes is seeing the process through.  

When you have readers or listeners in your inbox seeking you out for your ideas and contributions to their emerging understandings of themselves and the world around them, you’ll know you’re on your way. Frame those first few emails & messages. 

This is what all the vulnerability, self-discovery, research, testing, community-building, and putting yourself out there is for: You’ve impacted someone else’s hearts & minds and helped them see the next few steps to take on their journey. This is why we do this.  

I hope this helps! Try out these 5 steps for nailing your niche and generating thought-provoking content. Let me know how it goes. I can’t wait to see where it takes you!

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