Finding your niche. Define your niche. Know your niche.
Niche is hands down the official buzzword of the blogosphere. What’s it mean? Essentially, the number one piece of blogging advice given at conferences, classes, and all over Pinterest boils down to this: find a specifically defined and branded area of the internet where you can establish yourself as an expert, and then stay in your lane. If you blog about recipes? Don’t post about home decor. If you’re a graphic designer? Don’t talk about your parenting. Pick an area of expertise, and then streamline your posts to stay within your sphere so that you have a clearly defined audience and an established brand.
So what’s my niche here at The Joy Parade?
I don’t have one.
When I started this blog, I hired an amazing designer who specialized in branding. I created a Pinterest board while working with her to brainstorm what I wanted my branding to communicate. Sure, some of that work is about color palettes and graphics and such, but much of it is defining how you want to make people feel. It’s imagining what your readers will experience when they go to your website, scroll through your Instagram, or otherwise engage with your brand online.
If you’ve ever clicked on the Meet Stephanie page, you may have seen this verse: “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” The verse serves as a manifesto of sorts for my purpose behind the Joy Parade. It’s a place where I get to share myself with my readers in an authentic way, letting each and every one of you into my story to see what God is teaching me and how He’s showing Himself to our little family. It’s an extension of who I am – spilled out to take form in these words and images, and sent lovingly outward to travel the web and onto the screens of whoever God would have them for.
The person God created me to be – she doesn’t have a niche. She’s a mother. She’s an author. She’s a singer. She’s a lyme disease warrior. She loves photography. She’s an autism advocate. She’s a wife. She’s passionate about community. She loves to cook. She sings. She’s a friend. She’s a child of God. She isn’t define by what she does, who she knows, or what she creates. She exists outside of a niche because she was made in the image of a multifaceted God who is too complex to be defined. She’s a direct reflection of a God who is beyond boundaries, rules, or labels.
Niches are finite, and we are reflections of a God who is infinite.
For bloggers, authors, and speakers, this embracing of the niche has created a disturbing set of trends in our community. By defining ourselves within our respective niches, we unleashed a wave of unintended consequences. Bloggers in similar niches began to amalgamate more and more. They followed the same people, read the same books, attended the same conferences, pinned the same things on Pinterest, adopted the same mantras… Without even noticing, we created echo chambers around ourselves and our brands, leaving a space that was hostile to diversity and detrimental to the very creativity that we set out to celebrate. The same names appear again and again on the various conference speaker line ups. The same books show up over and over again on Instagram, cleverly staged with a morning coffee or an open journal. Creatives find themselves being asked to point to who their work most resembles so that the industry knows exactly what niche to place them in.
It’s become less about showcasing our creative differences, and more about assimilating to our tribes.
We don’t need to continue this trend. Each and every one of us has a depth and complexity that directly reflects the immeasurable God who created us in His multifaceted image. Fellow Creatives: step boldly into a nicheless world and embrace the freedom that comes without the labels. Why should we be asked to define in advance who our target audience should be rather than simply allowing God to bring the right eyes to our work? Why should we strive to be “the next” anyone, when God has created each one us so uniquely? How much of God’s great glory are we missing by editing our stories and whittling away at our differences until we’re all showing the same tiny facet of who He is, to the exclusion of all the others? If God can’t be defined in a niche, why should we as His image bearers, as walking reflection of His person here on earth, try to contain and define ourselves under such one dimensional labels?
Buck the trend.
Ignore the advice.
Leave the Niche.