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“Niche Down” Is Terrible Advice (For Smart People)

The Koe Letter

June 24, 2023

Length: 4000 words

Read time: 15 minutes


When I first started out in business, I had no idea what I was doing.

I thought it was obvious, especially freelancing:

If I have a skill, people need that skill, so they will hire me.

I was ignorant to the fact that anybody could learn that skill (and the online freelancing arena was starting to become flooded with single-skill commodities like web design).

That was the first problem I had to solve.

To cut to the chase, I bought courses on:

  • Freelancing
  • Facebook ads
  • e-Commerce brand building
  • Copywriting
  • Sales and client acquisition
  • At least 15 web development courses that are irrelevant, but noteworthy

I didn’t see much success when I tried to build the business they were teaching in those courses (that’s on me, not them)…

But I noticed a few patterns between them all.

One was very apparent:

I had to get very specific with who I was targeting.

I had to niche down.

I had to identify a starving market (like health).

Break that down into sub-markets (like bodybuilding).

Narrow in on a niche market (like minimalist training).

Research the people within that market and collect data on them. That way, I could hit their pain points and speak to them directly.

It all made so much sense!

This was it.

I knew I had to find a specific person and tailor my skill set to them in the form of a product or service.

This was the secret I was missing!

Just niche down bro! That’s all there is to it!

This is still the most common advice that you will hear in the online space.

And it still sparks the most confusion, overwhelm, and anxiety in beginners.

They feel like if they don’t have the most profitable niche from the start, they will fail.

So they spend their time:

  • Flopping from niche to niche
  • Learning skills for that niche (not a bad thing)
  • End up with no money or leverage to show for it (a bad thing)

I like to challenge common beliefs (in more than just business) because most of the time they are accepted as law without question.

They get some – but not the best – results so people flock to them, hide behind them, and lash out at anyone who says there is a better way.

Business education is much like politics or religion and people would be better off if they could become aware of the dangers that come with ideology.

The business world has changed drastically with the rise of social media.

There is a significant difference between a business model that relies on cold outbound outreach rather than building an audience that warms up and become customers with time.

Most of the things you will learn on the internet are outdated and are not the best way of doing business in the new economy.

This letter is going to be long.

We will dive into a metaphysical explanation of reality.

This is important, but if you want to skip to the practical steps, we talk about:

  • Treating the evolution of your brand as an actualization hierarchy (so you don’t have to niche down)
  • How to build each level of your brand from beginner to advanced
  • Practical things to build at each level – so you know what to do right now

In the last section, You Are The Infinite Niche.

The Mindset Shift That Led To You Reading This Letter

I don’t know how or why, but I was scrolling Twitter.

I had just re-downloaded it after it was deleted from my phone for 8 years.

A tweet caught my eye.

It was a guy both selling web design services and dishing out self-development advice at the same time.

I was conditioned into the mind that I had to cold call, cold email, and run ads in order to see any form of business success.

After years of trial and error, I never saw the kind of success that I wanted to see. I could have stuck it out, but I never would have made it as one person.

When I saw people posting content (around things that I knew I could talk about as well) and landing clients from it… things started to click.

With cold email and DMs:

  • Nobody knew who I was
  • There wasn’t any prior trust
  • I didn’t have a way of showing my authority or results from the start – I had to prove myself
  • As one person, it’s a lot of manual work if you want the messages to be personal
  • Every pitch I sent either led to a customer or nothing at all. I wasn’t building leverage along the way.

With social media content, warm outreach (to your audience), and promotions:

  • I create a reputation over time
  • I build trust with span and depth (short-form and long-form content)
  • I can build trust in my audience without having to explain myself to them
  • I can generate interest in my products without trying
  • Nothing goes to waste. All content either contributes to data (failures) or growth (successes)
  • As I grow larger, I can evolve my brand into something I enjoy doing. I gain, rather than lose, freedom with time.

So, I started writing content on Twitter to land clients for my marketing services.

Another problem:

People feel like they can only talk about one topic related to what they sell.

They don’t realize that:

1) You are interested in the topic related to what you sell, obviously.

2) You also follow 200-500 other people with other interests that are “completely different.”

How can you believe that you have to stick to one interest when you are following people that talk about 10-20 different interests?

It’s not that people won’t be interested in your other interests.

It’s that you don’t know how to make your interests interesting to other people.

People feel like if they go to broad, rather than niche, they will dilute themselves to the point of not making any money.

I called bullshit on this early.

Every single big YouTuber, podcaster, or other pseudo-celebrity is broad. Go look at Iman Ghadzi or Hamza.

They focus on beginner-level education on top-of-funnel social media.

They focus on intermediate to advanced in their low-ticket to high-ticket products and services.

They are somewhat holistic in the things they talk about. They understand that business or self-improvement demands that health and lifestyle be talked about.

They are far ahead of the curve because they understand human nature.

Think of it like this:

Most brands are a building within a community in the world of social media.

I want my brand to be a community in the world of social media. My newsletters, lead magnets, and products are the buildings, or digital real estate.

But, you clearly have to establish a building first, then expand.

Human nature is the can of worms we will attempt to open now.

Stages Of Development, Natural Hierarchies, & How They Reflect In The Creator Economy

Let’s begin by understanding hierarchies and developmental stages.

Hierarchies are the foundation of existence.

Yes… even those that think hierarchies are bad are still ranking hierarchies as bad, which is a hierarchy within itself.

The fabric of reality is composed of units of mind.

This is a concept that is foundational in my new book The Art Of Focus (updates coming soon).

Others have coined this term as “holons” or “units of thought” as Alan Watts likes to put it.

I prefer units of mind because of the philosophy of mentalism – or that All is Mind.

During animal life, or before the emergence of human consciousness, there was no mind to label, interpret, and create language so that everyone could be on the same page.

We had to make sense of reality.

These “units” of mind are everything.

Every single thing you can label or perceive.

There are a few distinct characteristics to them:

1) Units of mind are hierarchical and intimately connected with the rest of the world.

Like an atom to cell to molecule.

Or a letter to sentence to paragraph to book.

Or content to product to brand to community to social media.

Or short-form content to medium-form to long-form.

Beyond that, any of those units are vertically or horizontally connected to everything by a proximal relationship.

Like how short-form content on the topic of bodybuilding connects to the gym to your nutrition to your kitchen to the fork in your hand to the micro-ecosystem in your gut.

2) Units of mind are whole parts. Both a whole in themself and a part of something greater.

A whole of a personal brand is nothing without its parts, and most people neglect the need for each part in order to evolve.

Dominator hierarchies – the ones that give “hierarchies” a bad reputation and make people want to “dismantle” the patriarchy – are classified when a unit within the hierarchy attempts to dominate.

Like how a cancer cell will replicate in the body… until it kills the host, or hierarchy, by destroying a lower level that allows the whole of the hierarchy to exist.

The cancer cell must be healed and reintegrated into the hierarchy for it to continue healthy growth.

3) With that, units of mind emerge, transcend, and include.

By nature, fewer creators will reach the highest level of the hierarchy. There can only be so many creators with millions of followers.

But, the amount of creators with 100,000 followers – which is more than enough to make more money than you can fathom – is growing by the day.

As the creator economy continues to evolve, new levels of the hierarchies that compose it will emerge as new wholes that transcend its parts.

We must also take into account that you do not need a digital product business or a following to earn an income.

People can refer you to gigs, you can create a physical product, or you can land big opportunities.

But the underlying principles remain if you want to make this a possibility for yourself: brand, content, value (or offer), and marketing (or promotion).

You cannot receive from the creator economy if you do not contribute.

You are a whole in a part of your network, which is a part of a community, which is a part of the creator economy, which is a part of the internet and beyond.

You must exchange value if you want to survive.

Understanding Your Personal Evolution

Everything goes through developmental stages.

Even your personal brand.

I’ve written about this in-depth in The One Person Business roadmap.

Without overcomplicating this and writing a book on stages of ego development and spiral dynamics, let’s simplify this with two examples:

1) Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

At each stage of the creator journey, you will have to prioritize different things.

Beginners won’t have validated ideas.

They won’t have a developed brand (or personal) philosophy because you can only find that through years of writing and reflection.

They also won’t have the leverage necessary to focus on what brings exponential results (newsletter, YouTube, digital products, etc).

The point is, you will have to cultivate social media as a skill just like everyone else. You will have to prioritize your learning and action around whatever level of the game you are in.

2) Pre-rational, Rational, & Post-Rational

This developmental progression is best illustrated by the notorious bell-curve meme:

When people first start to develop themselves in any area of life, they latch on to specific teachings and principles of related ideologies.

If they don’t continue to evolve, they can get trapped in that phase.

Like how religious people become “bible thumpers” and regurgitate everything they’ve learned without questioning or understanding.

Then, they reach the intermediate or rational stage.

This is where people start to question and rebel against the beginner stage.

In the spiritual domain of development, this is where atheists come into play.

In the creator domain of development, this is where people get bitter at the game (I’ve been seeing this a lot on Twitter lately. The market is going through a cycle of calling people out and complaining about how the game is unfair).

“Everyone is a copycat.”

“Coaches selling to coaches are running a pyramid scheme.” (Lack of understanding of hierarchies).

“High ticket sales is the best business model because everyone else is basic and not as smart as me. It’s also my way of survival so I’m deeply tied to it or else I feel threatened”

Again, this can get dangerous.

Lastly, you evolve to the advanced or post-rational stage.

In this stage, you rediscover the principles and can approach them from a place of experience.

Like how most developed spiritual people agree and embody the principles in the bible (and every other pattern across all belief systems that point to truth because they are not limited by cultural understanding), but they see the futility in preaching it as the one and only ideology (or else you burn in hell!)

In the creator economy, we can note a few things.

Many intermediates despise simple platitudes or cliches. They enter a bitter phase where they try to rebel against the nature of business.

(Which is good, but like a replicating cancer cell, you must take your discoveries and be reintegrated into the hierarchy to advance to the next stage – or else you destroy your business like I’ve seen time and time again).

Advanced creators see them as a pillar in their growth, but from the perspective of experience and authority, or else the simple quote-like content doesn’t have impact.

With that long background, we can now come to “creating your niche” from a place of metaphysical understanding.

You Are The Infinite Niche

I’ve discussed how “you are the most profitable niche” a few times in the past, notably in this letter.

So this letter doesn’t end up at 5000 words (it still might):

  • Your brand vision is your vision for the future, this is what you are leading your followers toward.
  • Your brand identity is your story. Where you came from and how you transformed.
  • Your content illustrates this by educating on the skills and interests you learned to get to where you are.
  • Your thoughts, opinions, and worldview are how you position your content in a unique way.
  • Your products are the systems you’ve created to help those behind you.

Let’s build on this idea by going deeper.

Hopefully, this provides clarity:

Don’t Niche Down – View Your Brand As An Actualization Hierarchy

You are complex.

Well, at least that should be your aim.

The Universe evolves toward complexity, as does your sense of self as you learn, implement, and understand.

The complexity of your character is determined by the goals or challenges you’ve pushed through.

Each goal you achieve requires a certain skill level and perspective to match.

Once you achieve that goal, a new path unlocks so that you can work towards the next.

The higher your skill level (across multiple domains), the higher your complexity of self.

As you increase in complexity, you can solve deeper, more meaningful problems in your life and the lives of others.

And if you are the niche, your brand should grow in similar complexity as your skills and interests evolve in the pursuit of your goals.

As you learn and acquire skills, it is your duty to build real-world projects that get results for other people.

That is both how you create a profitable product in business and fulfill your spiritual duty.

With every level of development you reach, you will build a tangible product to reflect that. This is how you educate your followers and build authority.

After I solved a productivity problem in my life, I created a Power Planner which is now a lead magnet of mine.

After I got results with web design and freelancing, I created a course for each (this only furthered my understanding of those things, teaching is how you learn more).

After I acquired a skill stack, I created a brand consulting offer to start helping others.

Now, what many people miss when it comes to niching down is this:

They don’t realize that any newsletter, lead magnet, product, or service you create IS AN AUDIENCE.

You are building an audience off platform.

The problem:

Most people are afraid to create and publish anything.

They don’t realize that long-form content, products, and services are the backbone of your entire brand.

I don’t want to sound egotistical, but this example illustrates it well.

“Dan, how do you keep such high engagement when all of my Twitter clients are going to zero?”

Hmmm I wonder why… because I don’t treat my brand as something that can be built by someone else. Or something that can be systemized into the ground with templated content.

Because I’ve cultivated depth in my content, have thousands of students, and hundreds of thousands of people that have read my newsletter and downloaded my free products.

People read my content from a place of understanding who I am and my philosophy.

I’ve been talking about this for years but people glance over it because short-form content and shallow products is the easy route.

My brand is my vessel for my life’s work.

My brand is a brand, not a niche audience.

It is a city within social media. A community of millions of people.

My Power Planner has a 70,000 downloader niche audience around productivity. This is digital real estate I am occupying.

My newsletter has a 120,000 subscriber niche audience around depth, philosophy, and business.

My products have a 15,000+ student niche audience around writing, branding, and business.

When you niche down your brand, I see people maybe get to 100,000 total followers after 3 years.

My Power Planner is more of a niche audience than that, and it has 70,000 people there.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

This is how you remove the boundaries around who you are and build whatever the f*ck you want (with time).

Everyone Starts On Level One

Now, of course, you won’t be able to just build all of these things in the blink of an eye.

These are stages of development we are talking about here.

You have to set your mind on building the first level of your pyramid.

Once that project emerges, transcend to the next level and include the prior.

Most people never evolve because they stop building.

And because they stop building, they stop learning.

You don’t learn if you don’t have something to apply what you learn to, it’s just mental masturbation at that point.

Lesson:

If you don’t build digital real estate under your brand, you will be trapped in that shallow level of development.

You will continue competing against those at that level.

For most people, that means writing content, landing clients, and getting stuck in the feast or famine service business cycle.

The Smart Progression For Authority & Growth

Here’s what I would recommend as a beginner progression.

This is what I would do if I could go back and optimize what I build.

1) Determine The 2-3 Topics That Lead To Your Vision

Identify what you want in life, the thing that you are leading your followers toward.

Your skills and interests are how you, uniquely, will get there.

Like how someone that wants to be free can start an e-commerce business, while the other can practice budgeting techniques, while the other becomes a digital nomad from side hustles.

I’ve broken this in-depth in my how to write social media content letter.

2) Practice Top Of Funnel Writing & Growth

Your number one priority is consistent brand growth on social media.

The “easiest” ones to grow big on are Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other short-form platforms. You are in more control of your growth.

You want to build a base audience where you can fuel your digital real estate, products, and services over time.

As your audience grows, your leverage to build and talk about whatever you want does with it.

  • Buy best-selling books on your topics and devour them.
  • Follow social media accounts that talk about those topics and emulate them from the lens of a creator, not consumer.
  • Pay attention to what writing, ideas, and structures perform the best.

That is how you practice writing.

Yours will suck at first.

Get it out of the way while nobody is watching.

3) Start A Newsletter As A Vessel To Build Projects

I always recommend starting a newsletter.

You don’t have to start writing it on a consistent basis.

You can build a subscriber base until you are ready to be consistent.

People procrastinate building a newsletter because it is a long-term game. You don’t see immediate results.

The benefits of starting a newsletter are:

  • You can practice developing depth behind your ideas. This leads to original thought and struggle with writing. You get better faster.
  • You can use it as a place to write modules or sections of your lead magnet or products. No, it doesn’t matter if you send it out free at first.
  • You show that you are providing value off platform as a beginner, which helps with perceived authority (“selling” something helps your brand, not selling something hurts it).

Whenever you create something in the next steps, use your newsletter to write the first iteration of the sections.

4) Create A Lead Magnet As Your First “Niche”

I’ve built and tested 8-10 lead magnets.

From how to create a basic website to the basics of marketing to the power planner to my idea generation system.

People with a “niche” brand have to consistently talk about the one topic they are niched down into.

Let’s take video editing as an example (this applies to every other interest. Health, nutrition, marketing skills, philosophy, anything.)

If I create a lead magnet on the basics of video editing, do I have to always worry about writing about only that?

Or can I write whatever I want and just plug my lead magnet?

Especially when my lead magnet has my best thoughts and articulation of the subject matter.

And, I build my newsletter along the way.

Examples of lead magnet ideas:

  • Checklists to get results (like a web design checklist)
  • Notion templates for systems (like writing or habit formation)
  • Beginner-level ebook that goes over the fundamentals to get people up to speed with more advanced stuff you talk about.
  • Video tutorials or screen recordings of the same beginner fundamentals.

Create a lead magnet to establish authority in the topic you want to monetize, or at least think you want to monetize. You can always create another one.

Over time, you will build a niche audience of downloaders.

5) Sell A Minimum Viable Service Offer To Gain Experience

You need a “next step” for lead magnet downloaders.

Hopefully, something you can monetize.

For beginners, I recommend a minimum viable offer.

That means a single-skill freelance service (like web design) or a single interest coaching service (like productivity or health).

I’ve discussed this before in it’s own letter (The Best Online Business Model).

Charge $500-$1000 until you understand what will get true results.

Systemize it.

Charge more.

Replace your income with 3-4 clients a month and go full-time.

6) De-niche, Evolve, Transcend, Include

At this point, you have developed authority in one niche.

You should spend some time getting results in this area while testing different interests in your content.

To deepen your authority and open up room to explore new interests, you should complete your brand actualization pyramid.

  • Turn your freelance or consulting service into a cohort-based course. Get results at this level.
  • Productize that cohort into a digital product. Get results at this level.
  • Repeat the process of lead magnet, service, cohort, and product until you have a holistic synthesis of content, products, and services.

If you want to talk about certain interests, you need foundational content (like a lead magnet or newsletter) in place to get people up to speed.

If you aren’t getting engagement when talking about a new interest, it’s because you haven’t developed depth under it.

You need to get your audience on the same page of understanding.

Holistic Synthesis Of Skills & Interests

With time and effort, let’s say 1-2 years, you can really begin to do whatever you want.

The world needs more holistic synthesizers because reality is not compartmentalized like the current school system.

You may not see it now, but you are creating society.

Your job is to note patterns between interests and industries.

Bridge them together in your creations.

Become a modern polymath.

A digital renaissance man.

Explore reality through your interests.

Distribute your discoveries through content.

Make a living doing what you love by creating something worth charging for.

Flow with the direction of the Universe and bask in the enjoyment that comes with it.

And, enjoy the rest of your weekend.

– Dan Koe

Who Is Dan Koe?

I am a writer & brand advisor for 7-8 figure creators, influencers, and social media brands. I am obsessed with dissecting human potential, lifestyle design, and one-person businesses.

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