Have you been feeling like your market is too saturated? Are you afraid you’ll never stand out? Let’s talk about it. I’m Emma Natter and I help creatives strategically lead with their hearts so they can build profitable businesses.
One of the biggest challenges people face when they’re first starting their businesses is thinking their market is too saturated, and not knowing how they’ll stand out. So here’s what often happens, and leave a comment if this sounds similar to you. You get an idea for a business you are so excited about.
Maybe– you’ve been doodling artistic letters and words during school classes your entire life, and eventually a few people tell you you should calligraph wedding invitation envelopes because your handwriting is SO beautiful. They show you a few people on Instagram who have stunning calligraphy work and they’re making real money DOING THIS. And all of the sudden, you’ve got this stirring in your heart that maybe this could be real for you. So you start to do your research, and find that there’s a whole calligraphy world you never knew about. Soon, every time you scroll through Instagram, you’re seeing square after square of gorgeous calligraphy. At first you’re inspired, but as the weeks and months drag on, you start to lose your nerve.
Why? Because you’re realizing that something you thought was unique about you, isn’t unique at all. In fact, there are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people online who are just as good or better than you. You start to feel discouraged by how amazing they are. That all of your ideas have already been taken. That you’re too late. That you’ll never be original. What sounded like a fun, creative idea to dive into actually looks more like trying to swim in a crowded sea of people where your voice is totally lost.
That’s something you can change.
Let’s stick with the calligraphy example for now. As you start to watch and learn more about how to make a living with your calligraphy, you realize that the big hole for you, is your business knowledge. So you start to follow people who teach business. You learn this term: “saturated market,” which means that there are too many people trying to make money doing what you want to do. You start to get ads for their programs, and most of them are saying the same thing. And you HAVE to avoid this.
What they mean, is for you to post about your favorite food, your dogs, your family members, and focus your marketing strategy on making friends with your customers.
Now, to be fair, I understand why they’re teaching this. Niching based on your personality will build trust with your audience. They will know you and like you and hire you because of it.
That’s now becoming saturated too. Instagram is full of people talking about random stuff that people may or may not care about…and sometimes instead of helping the sale, it just makes people confused as to why a calligrapher is talking about how much they love picnics, the Bachelor, or hats.
You end up spending your time worrying about whether people like you, rather than creating an incredibly valuable product or service. You’re spending time perfecting your grid, curating your entire home and children’s clothes to be on brand. You can never tear yourself away from Instagram. And you forget why you got into this anyway…so you could get paid to do beautiful work.
If you spend all of your time curating a personality that people fall in love with, you’ll find that you’re on a path toward selling your personality, not your work. Now, being an influencer is great for some people! But if you’re here, that means that you want to turn your expensive hobby into a profitable business, not become an influencer. Plus, people are wanting to pay people who are really good at what they do: experts, specialists, talented people like YOU, people who can make amazing things happen, not just someone who seems nice and charming online.
Here’s what you need to do instead. Don’t niche based on your personality. Niche based on your aesthetic. Why? Because the reason you got into having a creative business was so that you could spend your days making money and having a good influence all while creating stuff that fulfills YOU.
If people hire you because of your specific voice, i.e. your aesthetic, you will be able to do that. If you niche based on your personality, you’ll always feel like people don’t “get” how amazing your work is. And you’ll feel like you’re selling them things that don’t align with your creative heart.
Now you may be thinking, “of COURSE I would love to be able to niche by my aesthetic, Emma, but isn’t that the hard part?” And to be honest, this isn’t as hard as it sounds.
What do I mean by this? I mean that your aesthetic aligns with your heart. Why do you need to do this? Because if it’s not authentic to you, you’ll never be convincing. You won’t feel like yourself, and you’ll come off timid when you need to be confident.
So how do you be authentic? You must draw from your Heart Story, which is the foundational method I use in all of my coaching to align your heart with your business. A Heart Story is a specific, personal memory that contains the essence of your purpose.
The power of the Heart Story lies in both inspiring you with something you can truly build upon, as well as helping you focus on just ONE direction, rather than trying to do EVERYTHING you love. When you choose your Heart Story, you will have clarity and direction in the decisions you make in your business, marketing, aesthetic, products, and creativity.
What do I mean by distinctive? Basically I just mean that you look different from everyone else. Why is being distinctive so important to niching by your aesthetic? Being distinctive will FORCE people to notice you. As my friend Julie Paisley likes to say, a Fruit Loop in a sea of Cheerios.
So how can you create a distinctive aesthetic? You have to make intentional choices about when you’ll be SIMILAR to the pack, and where you’ll be DIFFERENT. Each choice is important. You cannot go opposite in every way, or people won’t be able to recognize what you do.
For example: it’s likely not going to work for a calligrapher to decide not to write in cursive. That’s a main staple of being a calligrapher. So a calligrapher will make intentional choices about where to separate from the pack. For a calligrapher’s aesthetic, she can choose specific ways that she writes those specific letters. The way she puts words together. The ink she uses and the paper she writes on. Those are some ways she might make those distinctive choices.
Let me Show you one of my favorite examples I recently learned: the 2004 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve been a fan of Jane Austen adaptations since my mom introduced us to them when I was a kid. Our favorite scenes were always the ones from the 1995 version where she visits Pemberley for the first time. If you haven’t seen it, this is the part where the estate is so beautifully situated and tended to that Elizabeth Bennett’s terrible opinion of Darcy starts to lighten up. The feature of that estate was such a success that people still visit it in England.
These scenes were so influential that there hasn’t been a Jane Austen adaptation since that hasn’t prominently featured a grand estate.
This is where the director of the 2004 adaptation decided to stay with the pack.
Watch as both carriages ride through the grounds and approach their respective Pemberley estates. The estate is revealed from behind a tree, and both Elizabeths have a strong reaction to the beauty of the place. Do you see how this is a way that the director decided to stick with the pack?
However, he also made some distinct differences, or as I like to say, drew some lines in the sand. You see, the 2004 director wanted his film to have more of a realistic feel. In the scenes at the Bennet’s home, there are farm animals near the home, crumbs on the table, and the estate just feels a little…dirty. These are intentional choices to create a specific divergence from previous Pride and Prejudice adaptations.
It’s authentic to the 2004 director as well. One way we know that is because he had members of the cast stay in the home the Bennet’s house was filmed at so that the whole move would feel a little more real. These are just a few examples of how he was able to create an aesthetic that was both authentic, and distinctive.
When you niche based on your aesthetic, you’ll start getting more referrals, sales, people will organically share what you’re doing, and you can raise your prices. You’ll start to notice people saying things like, “You would LOVE this calligrapher I follow! She totally creates exactly the kind of stuff you love.” or, “I’m obsessed with how these invitations were addressed! Who wrote them??” or, “You’re a little out of our budget, but I was just telling my fiance last night that for such a special day, I can’t imagine hiring anyone else, so we found room in our budget to hire you!”
When your creativity, heart, and business are aligned this way because you’re niching based on your aesthetic, you’ll feel creatively fulfilled. Your work will have the kind of impact you desire, and when you’re ready, you’ll have already laid the groundwork to move into new projects and you’ll have people who continue to support your work because of your aesthetic.
Marisa from Quill and Co wanted to book clients at higher rates, but she was struggling to attract a higher budget client, and she knew there was more she needed to do to stand out in a crowded market. When we started working together, I immediately cautioned her from adopting the type of design look that I knew her competitors were using. She was careful about how she stayed with the crowd, and where she diverged.
Then she launched her new brand, her new website, and her new website templates using our launch methods. This has made a HUGE difference in pricing for Marisa! Before the Aesthetic Way, she was charging $1200 for branding. Soon after her rebrand, she started charging $5k, and now less than a year later, she’s consistently booking at an average of $8k. That all started from niching with her aesthetic.
Jaime Arlene is a painter who joined The Aesthetic Way just weeks after having just decided to quit her job and become a full-time artist. She recently released a beautiful collection of landscape paintings. She told me that in the landscape painting niche, there are some leaders whose styles a lot of the masses have started to adopt…which makes everyone disappear again. But in painting her collection, Jaime has been careful to not fall into their style.
Instead, she has intentionally created her own, authentic aesthetic, always driven by her heart story. It’s led to a beautiful, cohesive collection that is distinctively hers. Even in the midst of COVID, she’s doubled her prices, launched her new collection, and had new buyers. She’s finding success because she’s niched according to her aesthetic.
So remember, it is possible to stand out in a saturated market. Don’t niche according to your personality, niche according to your aesthetic by creating a distinctive and authentic-to you aesthetic.
If you want to learn more about how to build a profitable creative business, go check out emmanatter.com where we have incredible resources to help you build the business of your dreams while creating beautiful work you love. Plus, keep your ears out for when we open our doors to The Aesthetic Way where you’ll learn exactly how to package, sell, and launch your products, services, and programs so you can get your important work out there.
Emma Natter is a business coach and writer. Her work intersects entrepreneurial strategies with the creative process so career hopefuls can find success, impact, fulfillment, and confidence in going their own way.
I’m Emma Natter, a path-to-success paver and art-trained business coach who first shattered her own career expectations by selling out of handmade styling goods from her little NYC apartment. Now as a strategist to thousands of creatives, I teach you to harness your passion so you can do the same.
EMMA NATTER 2020 | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED | SITE & BRAND CREDIT | LEGAL
A weekly newsletter delivered straight to your inbox from the EN | School of Creative Entrepreneurship to promote scholarship and creativity within the business arts.