The freelancers guide to finding your niche

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

It’s no secret that the freelance scene is getting crowded, and we get why. A lifestyle of working from home, being your own boss and just doing what you love sounds like a dream. Last week we talked to our Graphic Designer Jeffrey Goodett about how he managed to stand out from the crowd, and as promised we’re sharing a few tips on how you can find your own niche as a freelancer.

So, what exactly do we mean with niche? You’ve got writers and you’ve got medical writers, developers and developers who also have a unique eye for design, UX designers who are networking pros and graphic designers who are also kick-ass animators. Your niche as a freelancer is anything that makes you stand out. Your niche can be rooted in a new skill, specialization or knowledge of a specific field, but it can also be found in certain personality traits.

Freelancing requires personal branding (more on that later) and in order to do that you have to figure out, just as you would for a new startup business, what makes you stand out. You want people to know concretely what they can get out of you. The more you specify your skills, the more professional and knowledgeable you will appear to clients. This is not to say you can’t get by being able to do multiple things, but it can help you get ahead of the game.

The Tips & tricks to finding your Niche:

1. Get a sense of the field

There’s no way to know how you stand out if you don’t know what you’re standing out from. LinkedIn is a godsend when it comes to seeing what other freelancers in your field are doing. Have a look at their portfolio and their bio, this can say a lot about the kinds of ways you can stand out and might inspire you as well to find your own unique superpower. Getting a sense of the field also means learning about trends and what companies are looking for. Find freelance requests or job openings on different platforms, Facebook groups and LinkedIn to create a better understanding of what is sought-after.

2. Brainstorm your troubles away

Sometimes pen and paper can go a long way. Without overthinking, brainstorm about what makes you unique. Look for work specific traits but also what defines your personality. Are you super outgoing, analytical or dreamy – think about how that can help to make you unique. Then explore your interests, what inspires you and what gets you out of bed in the morning. Say you love to travel or are obsessed with obscure art-house movies, how can that help you make your mark?

3. Follow the motto: no guts no glory

Getting out of your comfort zone can lead to exciting new opportunities. Take yourself to new places, try new things and meet new people. Don’t sit around hoping that things will fall into place, because even if that might happen sometimes – there’s a good chance it won’t.

Don’t be afraid to fully go for something you’ve always wanted to do like starting a blog, making a short movie or organizing an event. You don’t have to share this with everyone and it doesn’t have to have thousands of people checking it out, as long as you’ve explored new territories. It might get picked up, it’s always good for your portfolio and fantastic to develop your unique self: so there is literally no reason not to go for it!

4. Soak up all the knowledge you can find

Get yourself a few books, listen to podcasts, watch tutorials and read articles that have to do with whatever field you’re in. In the age of internet, the amount of information is simply endless, so bask in the glory of all that is available to you. Getting to know more about your craft, the stories of others and the tips they have for you can inspire you to find your own niche.


As Good as it gets: Jeffrey Goodett on finding his niche

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

As a freelancer, you’ll quickly realize that you’re not alone. Whether you’re coding, writing or designing awesome things, there will be at least ten others that can offer something similar – and that’s just counting that hipster café you sometimes use as a workspace. Besides hustling, and working on client relationships, standing out will be key to your success.

Our go-to guy for all things graphic design, Jeffrey Goodett knows all about standing out. Having earned the motto ‘In Good We Trust’ he has a repertoire of visual freshness, an eye for detail and extensive branding expertise. But most importantly: he has found and taught himself his own special graphic superpower. We talk to Jeff to find out more about how he found his niche and how it strengthened his position as a freelancer.

From visual whizz-kid to full-time freelancer

Jeffrey’s journey into graphic design started when he was in his late teens. Before we were liking things on Facebook or getting lost on Instagram, there was a platform in Holland called Partypeeps2000. Jeff tells us, “It was all about who had the coolest pictures, so people started to experiment with visual effects on photos. I started trying things out, adding things like dragons, lightning bolts and lions – and before I knew it, I was getting request after request.” This got picked up by a few people, and soon he got invited by the local community center to follow a workshop at the graphic design agency Machine. He says, “I truly found my passion here and 14 years later you can still see how much they have influenced my work and style.” A month later, charged with newfound knowledge, he started his course at the graphic design school.

What followed were many years of taking on exciting projects but graphic design became his side-gig rather than the real deal. Two years ago, he met David and Stephen from Ngrane and started working for them. “They were just the push I needed and offered me a place to work in WeWork – I quit my day job when more and more projects started rolling in,” he says.

Getting ahead of the game

When asking him about the level of competition he said, “Sure there’s competition, but in the past, this felt much stronger for me. Now that I’m more seasoned I feel like I’ve gotten ahead of the game.” Turns out that in this level of the game, everyone is doing their own thing, something Jeff truly admires. “For me, it’s less about competition and more about companionship and keeping the craft alive.” He gives the example of a friend Erjee, who also did an internship at Machine and works in a more analogue way, using tangible materials like objects and food to write with, he says “That really keeps me going, seeing others owning their own signature moves.”

Finding your edge

Part of getting to that top level of most-wanted freelancers, is finding and working on your niche. As Jeffrey explains, this isn’t always easy, “I simply enjoyed making beautiful things but more and more companies started to expect a second layer to my skills. For other designers that layer was mostly to do with the technical side of things, like designing a website but also being able to build it. That technical side just wasn’t for me and that made me feel lost, like I couldn’t keep up.” As some sort of fate, Jeff stumbled upon something brand new, something that really turned things around for him. He tells us, “I was working on a video together with a friend/partner in crime and we decided that adding graphics to it would really finish it off. Since I was the graphic designer and he the filmmaker I was basically told to figure it out even though I didn’t have the slightest clue how. Looking back it’s funny how these things just happen.” That was the start for Jeff into what he calls a “snowball effect” to finding his new skill.

When asked about how he taught himself this new skill he says, “I started off with a sincere interest which is key to get the ball rolling. That motivated me to spend my free time looking up tutorials, reading up on the topic and just practicing – instead of spending all night on Netflix.” He explains that in the digital age of information, the amount of information is almost endless. In addition, Jeff uses the resources he has around him, friends and peers that can explain things to him.

Do what you love, do it well

As a freelancer selling your own brand becomes just as much part of the job as the actual work you deliver. Therefore, it is key that you figure out what it is that makes you unique. “People should know exactly what they can get out of you, whether it is a particular style, knowledge of a specific field or a special skill you’ve got up your sleeves,” says Jeffrey. Besides that, he says it’s important to find something that’s relevant and in-demand, in his case video is a booming media for brands online.

Finding your own unique edge can feel a little daunting. But don’t feel discouraged, there are plenty of ways to stand out – whether you’re a social butterfly, skilled with something unique or have in-depth knowledge of a particular field. Stay updated for our post next week on how to find that edge.

As a final tip for now; remember that things take time, don’t expect to stumble upon a newfound skill and learn it in a day. It takes practice, experience and guts to take things a step further. But most importantly as Jeff puts it, “find something you love, something you’re passionate about because that’s what will truly keep you going.”


The dawn of a new day: how David is leading Ngrane's rebranding

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

From subdued to vibrant, from sturdy professionalism to a unique persona: we talk to David about how he’s freshening up the Ngrane branding.

As they say, old ways don’t open new doors and Ngrane has never been the type of digital agency to get stuck behind a closed door. After a long process of evolving and adapting to the changes of the industry, it was time to freshen up the branding. As a co-founder of the agency and all-round creative force, David van Delden was more than ready for the task. In the midst of this rebranding process, we talked to him about the path they are taking and why, as he told us, “There were so many changes happening within Ngrane and in the industry, it was time to go back to the drawing board and reveal our new identity to the outside world.”

 

How it Began

When Stephen and David started Ngrane, things were a little different. The tech industry, their playing field, was more white collar than white sneakers. David tells us “10 years ago I started to brainstorm with Stephen about building our own digital agency, we looked up to the big tech players of that time. They looked serious, they looked sleek and they’re branding reflected their monotone suits. Our logo was a direct reflection of the inner and outer workings of the industry: sturdy, professional and efficient.”

“The seeds for a modern and creative work mentality were already planted, but the branding was not yet in full bloom.”

 

Disruption in the tech industry

The tech industry had been shaken up by brands like Google and Facebook, but it was only at the second generation of start-ups like Uber and WeWork that Ngrane started to really turn things around. “The seeds for a modern and creative work mentality were already planted, but the branding was not yet in full bloom,” says David. The whole culture shifted towards a ‘love what you do’ mentality with the perks of freedom and flexibility as its main driving force. That mentality was embedded into every aspect of the tech culture, “What was once all about being professional now became all about personality; app instructions sound like friends, service is more personal than in stores and Chatbots are more alive than ever.”

 

From corporate to co-working

Ngrane, along with the industry, went from corporate to co-working. David tells us that “The personality, the service, the deep rooted connection were already there but now we’re finding ways to bring more light to our strong features. The rebranding needed to reflect that sense of community and passion.”

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

“The rebranding needed to reflect that sense of community and passion.”

The Rebranding

No detail is left behind in this process, from typography to accent colours; everything needed a little freshening up. Together with Ngrane’s in-house Graphic Designer Jeffrey Goodett, David has been working on updating the Brand Identity. Giving it a new spin that is friendlier, more inclusive and crisp, without losing the slick sturdiness of the branding that came before it.

For starters the colours have become more lively, giving off a friendlier and less masculine appeal. Along with liveliness comes a diverse palette, which reflects back into the diversity of the people behind Ngrane. “Our colours used to be very minimal, we changed this around completely. To stand out from the tech crowd and add a little feminine friendliness we opted for a pinkish red as our main colour. This welcoming and warm red is combined with a bolder and brighter blue, for a unique result. This same signature red gives our logo a whole new dimension and energy, which is why we chose to keep the shape the same.”

Along with new colours the two branding pro’s chose to opt for more illustrations rather than photography. “A photo leaves no room for imagination, an illustration can reach more people by being open to interpretation. We are a diverse and imaginative agency and that is key in our new communication,” he says.

The evolution of Ngrane’s logo. Drag left/right and see for yourself.

“We are a diverse and imaginative agency and that is key to our new communication.”

Rebranding is a natural part of any business but it’s not always the easiest. It takes time, a lot of thought and nitpicking, like choosing between two almost identical colours. Rebranding is more than just choosing colours though, every aspect and every detail is equally important. “We’re breathing new life into every aspect of our agency, from a more energised tone of voice to a kick-ass website and stronger social media presence. It’s not one or the other its a process that evolves as a whole,” says David. As we watch this whole coming together we’re excited to see the result of a revamped Ngrane identity. Until then, no rest for the ‘rebranders’.