You’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of differentiating yourself within the financial planning world and with that often comes the suggestion of focusing on a niche set of clients. But how niche can you get? How niche do you have to get? While every business is different, we spoke with two advisors with ultra-specific and unique niches to learn how they established their practices and what advice they have for others. Ryan Bannister, of 1Up Financial Advisors, works with content creators, such as those streaming video games on Twitch, and Colton Etherton, a.k.a “The Tattoo Artist Advisor”, of Out of Office Planning, supports—you guessed it—tattoo artists.
Which comes first …the niche or the business?
Interestingly enough, one advisor we spoke to started with the proverbial chicken, and one with the egg. Ryan had finance knowledge from a previous career working in both public accounting and corporate finance when he started streaming himself playing video games on Twitch. As he became more ingrained in the Twitch community, other streamers would ask questions and for advice about their own finances. He quickly recognized a gap: “That exposed me to the fact that this industry of content creators was lacking professionals who want to help them and who understand how they make money.”
Colton started his own financial planning practice catering to a wider niche. “Before, I was marketing toward millennials, and it’s like, ‘okay, are they W-2, are they self-employed, do they have stock options, do they have a family’—there are so many variables and you’re jumping from thing to thing.” He had a “lightbulb moment” when speaking with a prospect who was a tattoo artist and started over with the name “The Tattoo Artist Advisor”.
What are the benefits and challenges of working with a specific niche?
The main benefit for both Ryan and Colton is that it’s fun to work with members of the communities they’ve chosen. Focusing on a niche also means your clients will likely have a similar set of circumstances so you can better scale your business.
Ryan has seen success specializing with content creators because it is outside of the scope of understanding of many other advisors. “Most of my clients have told me that they tried to go down the street to ‘Joe Advisor’ and were turned away because the advisor said, ‘I don’t understand what you do and how this makes money, so I’m not the best person for you,’” Ryan shared. Because Ryan has experience working with this niche, he is able to understand the challenges of being a content creator much more than other advisors. “It’s a very seasonal and unpredictable income, because a lot of it rides on the generosity of your viewers.” Bank statements may show random, inconsistent one-liners from PayPal so proof of income may be difficult when it comes to applying for mortgages. It may also be important to put clients’ homes into a trust for safety precautions if they have achieved a certain amount of notoriety.
But Ryan also points out that some challenges of content creators are similar to other self-employed people or those who may own a small business. And in that way, they may be similar to the challenges Colton’s clients face—clients who mostly set out on a creative journey to draw and tattoo, not to run a business and manage all the responsibilities involved with that. Tattoo artists can be booked out months in advance so future income can be estimated, but cancellations definitely happen so the importance of an emergency fund, for example, must be understood. Down the road, artists may not be able to work full time due to the physical demands, so preparing for a lower income as clients age is vital.
How do you market to such a specific niche?
Colton and Ryan both have excellent marketing ideas to cater to their specific niches. Once Colton decided to focus on tattoo artists, he completely redid his website and Instagram page. “Most of my marketing is on Instagram because that’s where tattoo artists live as well. I got a new page, The Tattoo Artist Advisor, redid my logo, branding, and all that, and just started posting and being active in the tattoo community. When I started going into this niche, I didn’t have a background in it. I wasn’t an artist. I had a couple tattoos at that point, but that was it. I just dove in and wanted to see if it could work.” Colton also hosts a podcast Tattoo Wealth on which he interviews artists to learn their stories and discusses financial topics for shop owners and tattooists.
Cruising Ryan’s website, you’ll read video game language being incorporated into financial planning terms: “If your money feels like the final boss you spend hours trying to beat, we're your strategy guide” and “Let’s put your money on EASY MODE together.” Since Ryan’s prospective clients are online all the time, he focused a lot on his digital marketing efforts to reach the whole country, not just his area of Raleigh, North Carolina. But he recognized that building an online presence can take time, so he supplemented YouTube and LinkedIn efforts by directly reaching out to creators he admired and seeing if they needed anything from a financial advisor, which is when his business started to take off.
Can you have clients outside of the niche you’ve defined?
Colton and Ryan each acknowledged that just because you’ve defined a niche doesn’t mean you have to drop clients who fall outside of that niche or turn prospects away. Colton already had clients when he narrowed his sights and wanted to keep them on, but has also taken on new clients outside of the tattoo industry—as long as it has felt like the right fit.
Ryan also noted the importance of fit, whether the prospect is within the defined niche or not: “Someone had told me before I started this business, ‘a client is a friend before they become a client’, so I’ve taken that to heart and I’d like to think I’m on a friendly basis with all my clients…If it clicks, I’m fine with taking on someone outside of the niche, but sometimes it’s better—for both sides—to say, ‘I think there are other advisors that are experts in what you’re looking for in areas that I’m not.’”
Do you think you can have too narrow a niche?
When asked, Colton answered, “I think that depends on what kind of firm you want to build. People initially said my niche might be a little too narrow, but if you’re looking to build a lifestyle practice and you only need a certain number of clients depending on your fee, then I think you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a niche that doesn’t have at least that.”
Ryan shared, “My niche is content creators, which is still a really big group of people, when you think about how many YouTube channels, Twitch channels, and then all of the other social media networks.” He noted that “it also comes down to your personal needs…can you go that far into a niche and still have a profitable business and meet your own goals?”
What advice do you have for advisors attempting to choose their own niche?
Ryan recommended not getting stuck on one strategy. “If something isn’t working or you come across something that you think could work better, give it a shot.” He explained that if he hadn’t directly reached out to content creators, he might not be in the place he is now. But he also acknowledged that going deep into a niche may not be for everyone. “I think what it comes down to is what’s fulfilling for you and what fits into your personal values.”
Along with the advice to "just try it", Colton recommended choosing a group of people you are interested in working with. “Do something that actually excites you and make sure the people have problems you can help with…For me, I love talking with tattoo artists and understanding how they got to where they are, how they picked their style, their whole process. I find it fascinating. If I didn’t have that, just coming at them from the money side, it wouldn’t be fun and I’d probably burn out at some point.”