Identifying Your Niche - Know Your Market for Language Professionals

Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash 
Who are you to your clients?

This week, I was listening to Episode 56 of Troublesome Terps—I am a little behind on my podcastsand the topic of how we represent ourselves and the effect that has on how our clients see us was brought up. Having recently touched on the topic of choosing our own clients, it felt fitting to continue the Know Your Market blog series for language professionals by touching on a very important topic: identifying your niche.

What is a niche?

"Honestly, it's whichever one of you can most easily
imagine doing every day for the rest of your life."
Hanna Brooks Olsen, "Specialize or Diversify?"

In relation to our profession specifically, our niche would be the specialties, modes, modalities, business practices, and combinations thereof that we are best suited for. Which begs the question: What makes us better suited for one over another? 

Although I agree with Hanna in that our niche should be something we can most easily imagine ourselves doing every day, we should also consider our strengths, experience, and the qualifications/credentials we hold or are willing to acquire. For example, if we love politics and diplomacy and we could see ourselves as diplomatic interpreters, but if we have not passed the State Department interpreting exam and we lack the required consecutive and simultaneous interpreting skills, this is probably not a niche that we will be successful in. However, it could be, if we choose to invest the time, money, and energy into filling the gaps and acquiring the necessary credentials and skills.

Did you notice that I included business practices above? We could do what many other language professionals do but our niche could be that working with us makes our client's job easier. More on that later in this blog.

Is there a market?

"Having a passion for a particular niche isn't enough (I wish it were!).
You also want to make sure there's a need for it; otherwise your
work will stay a hobby, never growing into a lucrative business."
John Rampton, "A 5-Step Formula To Find Your Niche"

Equally as important to whether we have what it takes, is whether a sizeable market (or demand) exists for what we have to offer.

The key word is need. If there are more translators specializing in patent law for U.S. English <> Traditional Chinese than those needed, then there is no real need. However, if most of the existing translators are approaching retirement age—if that even exists in our profession—and we are translation students about to start an undergraduate program, we should consider the future needs of the specialty we are choosing. If we can foresee a future need in the market that coincides with when we will be ready to launch our career, it may be the right niche.

In his article, John Rampton suggest a couple of ways to garner some insight related to the need in a particular area, which I did not find as useful for my particular areas of interest but could be for others. I have found searching through interpreter or translator directories by location and specialty, as well as connecting with other professionals in our field at events, to be the best way to evaluate the need for my prospective niche.

How to narrow it down?

In order to narrow down our niche, we have to have a clear understanding of who our ideal client is. Once we know who we want to work for, and why, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Why does my ideal client need language services? Understand their main driver or motivation for securing language services.

    For example, in the U.S., any entity that receives federal money is lawfully required to provide equitable access to their services. This statute is a key motivator for administrators to continue receiving federal money and to avoid the consequences of failing to comply. These entities may be particularly interested in working with language professionals who understand the requirements and how those requirements are enforced. Perhaps, compliance ready and 'easy' services would be beneficial to these clients who may feel burdened by the requirement. 
  • What makes their language needs unique? This is key to narrowing down a niche. We should think about what languages, what specialties, and what services are needed and why.

    When I started my profession, I was a Tagalog Linguist in the military, I soon realized that my ideal clients did not usually have a need for Tagalog, at least not for the services I am most qualified for. I decided to devote more energy to developing my linguistic skills in my other working languages and allowed Tagalog to settle as a C language.

  • How do they set themselves apart? Understanding your ideal client's value proposition will be instrumental in narrowing down your niche to something that is best suited for them specifically.

    One of my first direct translation clients was a company that provided preventative care services. They made health fun for the patients which in turn saved their health insurance providers' money. They needed a translator that would be willing to invest as much time as their marketing team did into making their informational materials fun and culturally appropriate to motivate patients to make healthy choices.   

It is important to realize that even after going through this exercise, we may be tempted to be everything to everyone. However, if this blog appealed to you, it is because you are ready to stand out and carve a path in your career journey that allows you to truly specialize and work for who you want to work for.

"It might feel scary to get hyper-specific, but the opposite is
even scarier: 
appealing to everyone won't set you apart."
Team bossbabe. "Launch Lessons"

I invite my fellow language professionals to join me in setting ourselves apart and leading our field through our niche.

Have you found your niche? Have you encountered challenges in trying to find your niche? Is all of this 'easier [written] than done?' Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 


“Niche.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,
Rampton, John. “A 5-Step Formula To Find Your Niche.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Nov. 2017,

Brooks Olsen, Hanna. “Specialize or Diversify? Why Picking Your ‘Thing’ Is Worth It.” 10 July 2018, Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

Team bossbabe. “Launch Lessons: The Reason You Can’t Find Your Niche + Attract Ideal Paying Clients.” bossbabe,to%20those%20who%20need%20it. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.