Part I: What to Release

I’ve had a long, bumpy journey on the road to finding my true niche as a professional. From years of inauthentic (and unappealing) corporate work, to becoming a psychotherapist and coach yearning to find my true “sweet spot,” my path has been fraught with blocks and fears about “naming and claiming” who I am as a professional in this world. Finally, I can say I’ve discovered exactly what I love to do and for whom, at least for the present.

In overcoming many challenges in finding my true niche, I am now focused on helping others do the same. Throughout these many years, I’ve observed what it takes shine in your chosen area – how to be one of the best in your selected niche, and be confident enough to market yourself powerfully and rise above the competition.

What do you need, as a coach, consultant, or other helping professional, to name and claim your niche?

Here are some essential steps, in the form of what you need to release, and what must be embraced, to move forward:

Part I - What to Release:

Take the time to uncover if you have any of the following traits or behaviors that are holding you back, then let them go:

1) Traces of narcissicism - Thinking you’re the best without doing the necessary work
Being the best requires effort and commitment. For instance, if you want to write a book about helping people, you must understand what the great contributors who came before you had to say. It’s vital to learn what you do and bring to the conversation that’s different from the rest. To be the best, be open to receiving training, engaging in study, and receiving critique from people you respect. Also, you need others to assist you on your path – you can’t do it alone. The key here is to get your ego out of the equation and use a beginner’s mind to learn how to be the best.

2) Insecurity - Jealousy of your competitors
I’ve met so many helping professionals who are insecure, jealous, and highly competitive with others in their field. Let me say here – if you’re wracked with insecurity, you’re not the best at your work - period. You’re afraid of something (perhaps your own power, or a feeling of incompetence, or experiencing the infamous “impostor” syndrome), and that fear keeps you from growing, applying yourself, and connecting fully with others. If you feel jealousy and insecurity about your work, you’re not alone. Find a helper (therapist, coach, teacher, etc.) who can assist you in identifying what you’re most afraid of, and work through it successfully. It’s just fear that’s behind your jealousy – and fear can be neutralized if you allow yourself to feel it, and move beyond it.

3) Scarcity mentality – Worrying that there’s not enough money or business
It’s a waste of precious time to stop yourself from doing what you want because you think the field is glutted. Once you identify your true sweet spot, gain deep expertise in how to serve this niche
effectively (perhaps differently from what you first envisioned), and differentiate yourself from others, there will be plenty of work for you. Whatever you believe will come true, so identify your beliefs around your work, and shift away from the negative ones. If you believe you will succeed and commit yourself to it, the chances are you will. If you think you’ll never make money doing what you love, you’ll create your reality to match your beliefs.

4) Remaining closed to your emotions
Your emotions are your truest and best guidance system – listen to them. Watch yourself for the next month – which of your clients do you love to work with, which bore you to tears. Which areas of your work light you up? How do you do what you do uniquely? Which formats do you love playing in – teleseminars, workshops, one-on-one, large groups, etc. -- and which make you feel shaky and uncomfortable. After you’ve observed in yourself what you love and what drains you (and what makes you great), make a plan to move forward toward what you love. Or, if you’re compelled to pursue something but remain afraid of it, get over that fear, and try it out anyway. But all along the way, learn from your emotions.

5) Being unteachable
Be open, and learn, learn, learn. Find several mentors whom you trust, and ask for assistance. Read about people who have made it big in the field you love, and follow their lead (if it feels right). Avoid being overly attached to yourself, to your ego, to how you think this must unfold, and to your own timeline. As far as you can, let go of the “how’s” and the “when’s” and be very true to yourself, following what you love every day with openness and flexibility.

Part II:

The following are steps that need to be addressed to claim your true niche, and serve it well.

Say Yes to!

1) Determining exactly whom you wish to serve
It’s critical to know exactly whom you wish to serve in your practice or business. Who is your “ideal” client – the individual or group you love to serve and for whom your products and services are a perfect it. If you are unsure about the profile of your ideal client, observe yourself in your work for the next month. Watch closely – which clients or customers do you feel absolutely great interacting with, and which clients make it feel like a struggle. Begin to flesh out all the parameters of an ideal client for you – income, demographic, values, needs, pain points, interests, where you can find them, etc. The clients/customers you love to serve and who make you feel great and successful doing it, are those you are meant to serve.

2) Identifying how you want to serve them
Once you know whom you wish to serve, determine the avenues that are best for you. Is it developing and selling products or programs, or providing one-one-one or group consulting? Is it giving presentations or workshops, or advising or teaching in other ways. If you are drawn to trying a new approach such as presenting workshops, but have fear around it, face your fear and move

forward despite it. Develop a workshop on a topic that you are a true expert in, and offer it locally (present it free of charge at a library or other community venue if you need to in the beginning, to gain
the expertise you need to feel like a pro delivering it). Know how you want to contribute in the world (through goods, services, information, resources, etc), and get on a powerful path to doing that.

3) Knowing what your special talents and gifts are in this niche – how are you different, better than the competition?
There are thousands of gifted and talented individuals out there who are providing similar services and products to your own. The key to rising above the competition is to know clearly what your unique talents are. How are you different in what you do and provide? How are you better and what stands you apart? If you don’t the answer to this yet, there’s a process to discovering it involving exploration, discovery, and assessment. First, ask five colleagues and clients/customers whom you know well and trust to give you candid feedback about what you do as a professional. Ask them: 1) What’s great about the work I do? 2) What could be improved, and 3) How do you think it’s different from my competitors? Listen to the feedback and integrate what feels right.

Next, watch yourself for the next month – ask yourself, “What am I doing in how I deliver my products and services that is different from all the rest?” As my colleague and terrific branding expert Robert Friedman of Fearless Branding explains, “We have to know what emotional gift we bring to our clients – what do we give them emotionally when the use our services or products? For me, it’s breakthrough – what is it for you?

4) Getting over your fears about coming forward in this area
I work with many superior healing practitioners, coaches and consultants, as well as corporate executives and other professionals who are truly gifted in one particular area, and long to pursue it, but are downright afraid. What are most people afraid of? Both failure and success. In terms of failure, it’s very common to fear failure at the thing you most deeply long for, because in your mind, if you fail at this, your dreams will be truly shattered. But from my perspective, you must face this fear head on, and walk through it, in order to live a life of passion, power, and purpose. Yes, you might fail at first, but if it’s meant to be, you’ll find your way, and do it supremely well.

And why do we fear success? Because in our hearts, we know that success in this area will take us on a hero’s journey that will require of us some great stretching and growing that will challenging. Either way, you can let your fear stop you, or propel you forward – it’s up to you.

5) Remaining teachable at all times– continue to expand your skills (don’t be narcissistic)
All along the way, it is vital to remain teachable and flexible. Set out with a solid business and marketing plan, but be ready to adjust your plan, goals, and your skills, as need be. Attach to your vision of being a highly successful professional, but not to the exact “how’s” and “when’s” – your ego’s timeline of how it needs to unfold often misses the mark because you’re not in complete control of all that transpires – there are other factors at play. (For more about the importance of remaining teachable in business, see Success Magazine’s recent article.)

6) Developing your brand – communicate powerfully how you are special, and why folks should hire you
Having a unique and powerful brand is critical. As Robert Friedman of Fearless Branding explains, here’s the formula: Great brands are differentiated in three essential ways:

Functional: This means you have to DO something different than your competitors. What is that for you?

Emotional: Start with what you do that’s different. Then, think about what that really means for your clients – the emotional benefit. Speak to your customers’ hearts and guts – not just their heads.

Aesthetic: The way to communicate your value is to create unmistakable language and images that reinforce your core idea. Think of “Tiffany Blue” unmistakable, right? Your brand can be that distinctive.

It takes work to get this level of clarity, but it pays off when your potential client quickly understands the real value they’ll get from you.

(For more information, visit

7) Partnering with other like-minded folks who can help broaden your skills, capabilities and reach
Don’t try to build your business alone and in a vacuum. Growing practice or business takes alliance, affiliation, support, and community. If you are concerned about partnering, look deeply at the reasons – often unfounded fear is at the heart of your wish to isolate. Or, a bit of narcissism may have crept in, telling you that you’re better than all the rest and don’t need anyone else. It’s simply not true. We all need a little help from our friends. Let that narcissism go, and open your heart and mind to finding like-minded partners who share a common ground but also have great complementary skills and talents that round out your own. Partnering helps expand your horizons, broaden your reach and your ability to help your clients and customers. Partnering is also fun! It often brings ease into your life and work as well, because in the end – you realize you don’t have to do it all yourself.

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I hope these tips help you on your way to a more powerful expression of your unique talents as a professional, consultant, and entrepreneur.

Breakthrough is around the corner for you. No more resisting…just start believing that it can be a fulfilling, empowered process and you can achieve great success and joy in your work. Like all meaningful things in life, building your business requires faith, commitment, energy, talent, and an unwavering belief in yourself. Go for it!

Author's Bio: 

Kathy Caprino, MA, is a work-life expert and author of Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose (Berrett-Koehler, Nov. 08). A national champion for professional women in crisis, Caprino is a trained psychotherapist, specialized career and life coach, and sought-after writer and speaker on women’s issues. She is founder and president of Ellia Communications, Inc. and a former corporate VP, who today openly shares her own story of breakdown—and breakthrough.