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Choose a Niche

Lesson 7 from: Make Things Make Money: The Business of Illustration and Lettering

Dina Rodriguez

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Lesson Info

7. Choose a Niche

Lesson Info

Choose a Niche

I'm Puerto Rican, so I talk really fast. I know I don't look like it, but curly hair, hello. Okay, so, when you're finding your niche, you can find your niche by just asking yourself why. So you're thinking 'What do you like to do?' Okay. Why do you like it? What about it could you enjoy more? So you can divide it by three things: you have industry, your medium, and your service. So for me, hand lettering, that's a service. Now people might think that lettering is enough of a niche, but you can actually niche down further, there are people out there who just do hand lettered logos, or they do hand lettered t-shirts. Anything that has words on it you can make but you could be a designer that just does publishing. Maybe you just do book covers and lettering. You can always niche down by service and by industry. Maybe you only work with advertisers. Maybe you only work with blogs. You can always niche down. Now how do you niche down? Well, you try stuff, and if you like it you keep doing ...

it. Then if you get a client, just think of the clients that you had the most fun with, the clients that if you got paid whatever you wanted to get paid, it's something that you would do without getting paid. Something that you get really excited to work on, when you get that client in your ear you're like 'heck yeah I want to make my own Nike shoe, let's do that.' So whatever that industry, that service and that medium looks like, you obviously want to do more of it. Now when I say medium, that can be a little bit more like your style, maybe you only work in charcoal. Maybe you're a colored pencil type of gal. Maybe you only like to paint digitally in Photoshop. Or maybe your aesthetic is really clean, like the difference between, let's use two lettering artists as examples, Jessica Hische, pretty popular girl in the lettering industry, she has a very clean aesthetic. She makes everything vector and it looks like a typeface because it's just so perfect. Now Mary Kate McDevitt, she's my favorite, I've actually got a tattoo of one of her designs on me I love her so much. She has much more of a rough appeal. It looks handmade, it has that vintage quality. It's got that stamp of authenticity in everything she makes. Now a client looking to hire a lettering artist, depending on what style they're going for, would depend on which artist. So you always want to be able to speak directly to the type of person that wants to hire you. So if someone's looking for a chalk lettering artist, then what does the majority of your portfolio need to have? Chalk lettering. Now think about your own niches. Have you ever thought about creating a niche for yourself? Have you ever thought about trying to drill it down further? Now if you think in terms of medium, industry, and service, what kind of niche can you come up with? I want to hear it. Anybody can think of their own niche? Come on, think about it for a second. Are you just an average illustrator? What does that even mean? Maybe you like to focus on nature. Maybe you're more of a person, you like to do portraits. These are the kind of things you need to be known for because everyone can draw, but it's what you draw and what's the purpose behind your drawing that will get you a job. So if you haven't figured out your niche yet, you haven't been starting the right way. You need to do something that people can remember you for. Even myself, lettering I thought was this big niche, but now I'm starting to find myself that I only really want to do publishing and apparel. Those are the things that bring me the most joy, and I really like apparel because I can charge royalties. Being able to make a little bit of extra bang for your buck is always a good idea. What about people online, is anybody now thinking about what kind of niche they want to go ahead and create for themselves, and if so I'd love to hear some examples. Not yet, but if you have it, put it in that text box just below the video player and I'll read them. Oh cool. I think niche is something people don't really talk about a lot because everyone's always trying to find their style, and I think that's how you can find it, just by trying stuff and then sticking with it, and then drilling it down further. I would like to add that I find the people that come to me are usually on a spiritual path, like spiritual seekers, so I guess, thinking about how to really brand, I could kind of say the industry would then be spirituality, maybe? You can totally do that, yeah, one hundred percent. It doesn't always have to be industry specific, it can also be theme specific too. Like we were saying, what if you really just only draw oceanography stuff, where you're drawing animals and plants that are in the ocean, and the water, and people surfing. That's an entire thing, and then certain brands will be attracted to that because you also have to think in terms of key words too. What does someone have to type in Google to find you? If it's illustrator, you're not going to be on the first page, you're probably not even going to be on the hundredth page. So this is why it's so important to be able to create a niche for yourself. Now can anybody else think of a way they could niche down or have any questions on how they can find their niche? I'm always talking with my husband about creating t-shirts tag lines, people will say 'I should have wrote that down.' So I started writing them, and I said I'm going to start putting the script on t-shirts, and if I'm going to be on social media, then I'll start having those tag lines that I create on my t-shirts, still trying to find a way to create that in a quick fashion. So that when people come to my posts, they'll see me in a t-shirt with something I've written, and have said, that's pretty catchy. Definitely, and again, if you are your own target demographic, then the things you like probably other people would like, whether or not you're being sarcastic, maybe you like to have a horror them in your clothes, I like to draw a little alternative myself. It's just always trying to think of 'how can I attract people?' You don't want to just be like 'who's going to fall in love with me?' No, you have to make them fall in love with you. You have to give them a reason to contact you. You can't just be this jello mold that just does whatever, just moves in whatever shape you put it in. No, you're special, you're an individual. You are being hired to do a very specific thing. You just have to figure out what that specific thing is. Now do we have some examples from online? We do, the first one says kind of goth. Cool, I like it, kind of goth, that's what we'll type into Google. Somebody else said I'm focusing on Parkinson's disease and speech disorders which is really interesting. Super niche. Yeah, that's super concentrated. You should check out sevenly and see if you want to work with them. Children's education. That's a good one. Let's see, focusing on kid literature, Ed, that's Ed. Michelle says I letter in watercolor, but I don't know what industry. Arlette says wood sign painting. That's a good one, sign painting is so hard. I've tried it, don't like it. Melissa says what if I don't know my niche? How do I market on social media? Do you have to pick one? I think it's more of a discovery, you're going to evolve and grow as a person. Think about what you really liked in high school. Me, I was obsessed with skulls and military crap. (laughter) So, obviously my focus would have changed as I got older and that's perfectly fine. In the beginning, obviously, you don't know what you want to niche down because you haven't tried enough stuff. So I would recommend just trying different things. How do you know what to try? Investigate. Use Instagram how everyone else does, follow people in your industry and niche, and then go ahead and start to make connections with them. Like 'hey, that person made a really cool design on a shoe, maybe I'll draw on a shoe and see if I like it.' Or 'hey, this person's doing watercolor.' Watercolor's really hard, it's pretty cheap though. It's like a couple bucks, right? Get some Crayola watercolor going and just start playing with things until you like and then you can do more of. Now, for the person who, like the watercolor example, she's posting things but she doesn't know what industry she's in, that means she hasn't tried any industries yet. So, when I think of watercolor, I think of a few different things, maybe she want to personalize, do like personal commissions. Because it's a very organic, beautiful kind of style, I can see people wanting to get posters made of a phrase and because she's using watercolor, it could be a little bit quicker of a medium, versus using like pencil, for example, where it takes like layers and layers of shading. So maybe that's something you could pursue. Or maybe you want to start making blogs. Maybe you can get into publishing a little bit by creating the featured image of your own blogs. In trying out industries, I think it's best to create something you yourself can use. Maybe if you've never tried t-shirt design, create a t-shirt for yourself. Never done anything for shoes, try shoes. Never made your own ad, why don't you try a watercolor ad promoting your business. And just see what works for you. Yeah. So, I'm not one hundred percent sure what my niche is, but the industry I'm in is kind of paper stationary, or stickers, paper planning, organization, that kind of thing, but the market is really really saturated. So, every shop that is in the market always has to find a way to stand out. What would be some ways to kind of figure out what your niche is while still being able to stand out and not trying to copy what someone else is doing? You could Frankenstein. This is where you make like a little design baby. Nowadays, nothing's original, right? Pretty much everything's, every song's been sung, ever illustration's been made, but it's the style that makes it different. So what you could do is make a Pintrest board or whatever your visual queue is for yourself and just find a bunch of things you like and then start to take your favorite elements and then make a little design baby. Then you're taking these ideas, you're taking your inspiration and creating your own idea and interpretation. Because I definitely don't think people should copy because people spend a lot of time working on their craft. Hours, you know, for me it was like right when I hit than ten thousand hour mark I would starting to see a significant difference in my style. It was right around here. You can see the difference, something about right here, really made my style where I'm like 'you know what? Okay.' I like raster, I like using Photoshop, I'm not a big vector person. So when my clients come up to me, they know I'm not going to go ahead and do those perfect bazier handles and anchor points in illustrator. You're coming to me because you want that handmade look. And if you want a handmade look, you need brush strokes, and brush strokes tend to look a little smooth when they're vectorized, and you can keep more of the integrity of the handmade in Photoshop. But, yeah, I think it's just all about trying different things until you find your thing. I am not quite sure of my niche either. I do a lot of really intricate design, a lot of pen work. Very intricate. Yeah, that's totally a style. We put them on things like lampshades, and pillows, things like that, competition books and, oh sorry. So I don't really know how to market from here. I don't know how to find my niche, I guess. I'm not sure how I would even define what it is, if I'm trying to come up on Google, for instance. Okay, well what you just said, very detailed pen and ink drawings. That's totally a niche. Now, that's a very medium specific niche, but if that's what you love the most, then that's what you should only do. It is my passion Yeah, one hundred percent. I'm a flower designer too Oh, I love that I own my own business, but this is what I do for my passion. That's the whole point, right? We're trying to make a profit from our passion not something we kind of like, something we really, really like. So again, you have your medium, so just think about what industries do I want to work in, and then how can I market better to those industries. Because you want to be able to have that one-on-one conversation with someone coming to your website. Would it go on Facebook, would it go on, it wouldn't go on LinkedIn. Yeah you could totally put visual content on LinkedIn. You can? Yeah. Now just because something's more of a visual kind of platform doesn't mean you can't also post visual things on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. That's true. Obviously visuals will always be more engaging than content, but the differences are really just I don't want to be able to have one-on-one conversations so much on Instagram, that's more of a place, or I want to have them on Twitter, or for you maybe that would be LinkedIn. So that would actually work on Twitter? Yeah, definitely. Thank you. I totally want to see you like rocking out on social media. Can you please reach out to me in a few months and I will give you a few pointers?

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Make Things Make Money Keynote
Make Things Money Money Resource Guide

Ratings and Reviews


Wow! This class was fantastic! Dina did a great job at providing relevant information that I can use right away. I was particularly impressed at how she was able to explain licensing and royalties, she really broke it down into easy to understand pieces. I think this course would be a great foundation for any artist/freelancer but I liked the focus on lettering and illustration. Creative Live must convince Dina to provide more classes!

Elizabeth Matzen

This class is full of excellent information, and Dina did a great job covering everything from building a webpage to working with clients. She has a engaging delivery style, presented the information in a succinct and well-organized manner, and the pace of the course was perfect - not too slow! I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to start or boost their creative business - great info!

Sharnika Blacker

Awesome class! Inspired and excited to improve my business with the processes and knowledge gained. Thank you Dina!!

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