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.”


Is Freelancing for me

Yep, we know, freelancing ain’t always a breeze and perhaps the hardest part is taking the leap. When you ask yourself the question; is this for me? There is only one answer: yes. Just considering all the unique personalities at Ngrane, there is not one perfect mold each of us fit into. Some of us are assertive while others prefer laying low. We’ve got natural Zen masters and all-over-the place types. Some of us are early-bird’s other prefer 9pm beginnings. You get the point.

All that aside, each of us make it work, in our own way. That’s the real magic of freelancing, you define how you get to work so inherently it’s for anyone. Nonetheless there are a few things each of us comes across in our freelance ventures and certain things we all benefit from.

“Yes, I’d like to carve my own path.”

Most career paths are a singular road with one final destination. A freelance path however is one you carve yourself, one that meanders around, crisscrosses and has more than just one finish line. It’s a real head-on way of getting to know your craft. Instead of working for one company and learning from their singular way of doing things, you’re switching companies on a weekly basis and getting to know different approaches. Besides that, creative solutions are mostly up to you and what better way to learn that when you’ve solved something yourself? You’ll be finding your own sources and a network to help you out in no time

Take Jeffrey Goodett, our visual designer, he wanted to extend his graphic design skills into animation, finding a more specific niche within his trade. “I spent my extra time on learning from different online tutorials, found other animators to help explain things to me and just kept practicing and practicing. Slowly I took on animating projects and if I say so myself, i’ve gotten seriously good!”

“Yes, send over those epiphanies.”

Bumping into daily epiphanies, whether grand or small, is not unlikely in a freelancer’s life. When you’re working with and for different people, while doing a myriad of things, you’ll start to figure out your own skill set. Freelancing is the best way to learn what you’re capable of. To surprise yourself. To bring newfound skills to light. Moreover, it’s a brilliant way of finding your own rhythm. For example, you learn how or when you’re most productive or find your own unique ways of managing projects.

Freelancing is more than ‘Do What You Love’, but also about finding out what exactly that is. In each of our trades there’s many different things we can be doing, what is it you want to find your niche in? That is something you actually have the room to explore.

“Yes, I’m all for meeting new people.”

Freelancing is seen as a lonely endeavor. Sitting behind your laptop in the nearest café or typing away in yesterday’s gym clothes. The truth is, that’s just not the case. Working with different clients means meeting new people, much more than when you’re stuck to one job or one department. It also somewhat forces you to network and although it has a selfish un-personal reputation, it can actually be very social. Freelancers get to benefit from all the charms of co-working spaces like WeWork (represent!) and leave it up to a product of millennial culture to be a real hub for friendships – after-work karaoke anyone?

“Yes, freedom & independence is my jam.”

Wake up at 12pm? Go for yoga after lunch? Go to Bali for three weeks and work remotely? Sounds like a dream, right? Nope, that is just the reality of freelance life. Sure, we have clients that expect certain things, scary deadlines or certain days we have at clients’ offices. But in general freelancing means we get to make our own decisions and to create the way of life we personally desire. Wearing your comfy pants at home isn’t so bad either.

Jefferson tell us his experience, “For me it’s the freedom and independence I get as freelancer. I like the ability to work from anywhere in the world. I definitely took advantage of that this year by working briefly in Malaga, Berlin and Curaçao. Believe me, it’s not always a bed of roses, but if you organize your time and projects well it can be pretty satisfying.”

So, still not sure if this is for you? At Ngrane we’re real freelance enthusiasts, but we’re also just very honest. So, don’t be afraid to give us a call or come by and we’d love to chat!

Call Jongky – he’s the most talkative of us.

+31 6 1422 2952


The tools and tricks we use for top-notch teamwork

We aren’t all born time managing geniuses or Zen masters of productivity but we become them with the help of the tools around us. Exactly the same goes for working as a team; seamless teamwork does not happen overnight. It requires the right know-how and tools. As a digital agency that works with different freelancers, remote and at the office, we have tried and tested different tools to ingrain (see what we did there) a positive workflow into our team.

It’s one thing to do it together, it’s another to do it well.

What

We don’t slack on slack. We get things done (even if it’s a competition on who has the funniest GIF). Slack is like a super-powered version of a messenger app that can be used across multiple devices and platforms. It lets us chat one-on-one to our peers but also in groups across different channels. Yes, including a more relaxed channel, because GIF’s are basically modern-day bonding.

Why

Asking for feedback on UX? Questions about the latest blog post? Deciding on what time Happy Hour should start? Slack has us covered. Slack truly brings our team together, allowing us to split projects or themes in different channels, with only the appropriate members. What’s more, it easily connects with our other favorite apps, adding integrated context to our conversations and creating one passage of information instead of five, or ten. You can also upload files seamlessly, so in essence everything is in one place – possibly the best part.

Everything before Slack is like a blur of inconvenience. I’d had to work my way through a maze of emails, WhatsApp groups, Imessages and never really end up finding what I was looking for.

Annabel van Eijk

What

Pure high-fidelity goodness: Invision is a presentation tool that lets you seamlessly create interactive mockups for your design ideas. When your genius idea is all mocked up and ready to go, you can share it with your teams and/or clients.

Why

We’re creative people, if we may say so ourselves, and this app is clearly made with our kind in mind. It looks damn good for starters and makes our ideas look just as good as we dreamt them up. It’s also super easy to use and can really bring your ideas to life. You’ve got a comment on that slider? No problem, you can have the discussion right in the app instead of starting another trail of dreadful emails/WhatsApp messages/unwanted phone calls. All that saving time means we’ve got hours left on our hands to actually work on implementing the feedback in our projects, instead of just receiving it.

As a designer, I’m all about the visuals. Invision is perfect because it lets me visualize each phase of the project and split boards up in different units: making the process a breeze to follow.

Jeffrey Goodett

What

Trello is like the Beyonce of to-do lists or the Pinterest of planning. Glamorous yet approachable; it is a visual way to manage your projects effectively and become a boss in being organized. It uses a cloud-based software that lets you dissect your projects into different boards with multiple people.

Why

To-do lists are tedious and uninspiring by nature, unless you’re one of those bullet journaling sharpie-loving types. We like things digital and this app lets you move around boards as though they are old-school sticky notes with all the online convenience; digitally shareable, searchable and come with handy reminders. In just one quick glance you can see who’s working on what, what has been finished and when something is in process.

Trello works perfect with today’s agile methodology. The only thing I need to know is what are we doing the coming 2 weeks, what is in progress, what is ready to be reviewed and what is done. That’s it.

David van Delden

A whiteboard and marker

Ah, those good old days. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to switch off anything that buzzes or receives emails and get back into brainstorming. All you need is your team, anything big to write on and a marker. All those digital tools are super-efficient but it’s good to balance it out with some human-to-human contact. Yep, actual talking instead of typing.

Our stand-ups are also unmissable for effective teamwork, in which actual standing is a must. In 15 minutes, we all say what we’re doing that week and what we have done. No discussing, just the pure bliss of clarity.

A deeper emotional connection simply can’t be sparked through apps, no matter how great they are. That’s why I find it important, no crucial, to switch off our phones and come together in ‘real life’. It builds trust and gives spirit to collaboration, using all our senses to communicate. It’s not about time management, it’s about energy management.

Stephen Garcia