Earning

'Shark Tank'-winning CEO: How to 'significantly increase your chances of earning more income' at work

"If you have a particular niche, you have more earning potential."

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If you're looking to make more money, focus your efforts. "Finding a niche or a specialization in any industry can significantly increase your chances of earning more income," says Dr. Shaan Patel. "The more specialized you are, typically there are going to be fewer and fewer people with your specialization or niche, and that results in higher demand."

It goes back to basic economics, says Patel, a self-made millionaire who won an investment from Mark Cuban on ABC's "Shark Tank" in 2016. "The law of supply and demand typically favors those that are more specialized. If you have a particular niche, you have more earning potential."

Finding a niche has been key to Patel's personal success as the CEO of Prep Expert, an online tutoring company. "We generate a lot more revenue through SAT prep or ACT prep, which is very specialized, compared to high school math tutoring, which is very general," he says. That's because there are a lot of math tutors out there, but not as many SAT or ACT test preparation tutors.

Self-made millionaire Grant Sabatier, author of "Financial Freedom" and co-founder of BankBonus.com, agrees: "It's important to start as a generalist and then niche down when you actually see the market opportunity," he says.

Here's how Patel and Sabatier recognized the importance of finding a niche to increase their earnings, and how you can start looking for your niche, too.

'Start as a generalist,' then look for 'market opportunity'

Before you "niche down," or focus your efforts on a particular audience or specialty, build up the broader skills you need to succeed in your industry, says Sabatier. Becoming good at a lot of things as a first step can help you spot a potentially lucrative niche, and means you retain the more widely applicable skills needed if you later have to pivot.

"The general advice that you should always niche down is actually not great advice because oftentimes, if you niche down, if the demand for whatever you've niched down into changes, then you're stuck," he says.

Sabatier, who started his career in digital marketing, speaks from experience. At first, Sabatier was running Google ad campaigns for a variety of clients from the Chicago Cubs to pizza chains.

"I was able to learn a lot about a lot very quickly because of that, but then eventually I recognized that if I was going to keep doing that, I was going to be competing with everyone else who was a generalist," Sabatier says. Plus, every time he took on a new client, Sabatier would have to learn all of the ins and outs of the company, from their business to who their customers were.

Sabatier realized he had knowledge that could help him niche down. Prior to his job in digital marketing, Sabatier held a job at The Chronicle of Higher Education, where he learned a lot about the needs of students and universities. "So that's when I decided to focus on working with universities and business schools specifically," he says.

Finding a specialization resulted in increased demand for Sabatier as a worker. "Pretty quickly I knew more about digital marketing for business schools than pretty much anyone in the world, and so then a lot of the top business schools wanted to work with me," he says. "Ultimately, that allowed me to be a lot more successful."

Make sure you're passionate about your niche

Advice to find a niche doesn't just apply to entrepreneurs, Patel says. If you work at a large corporation and you want to earn more money, developing specialized skills and knowledge can help increase your value as an employee.

Let's say you work for a company that doesn't have a social media team and you become proficient at using social media as a marketing tool. You can become that go-to person for your company's social media needs, carving out a unique set of skills that makes you invaluable.

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Before you commit to finding a niche, you have to know that industry inside and out. "I think one of the reasons I have done so well as an entrepreneur in the test prep space is because I spent hundred of hours studying for the SAT, which gave me a really good deep knowledge and experience, and then I spent over 1,000 hours writing material about it," Patel says.

If you're going to spend that much time learning a new specialized skill, you have to make sure you're passionate about it, both Sabatier and Patel say.

Using education, side hustles to develop a career niche

"There are really two paths to finding your niche," Patel says: "through experience or through education."

Getting a degree is one way to gain education, but often it's not essential. "There's a new route which is becoming more popular, and that is finding a niche through educating yourself online, because there's never been so much access to free education and free information," he says.

The other path is experience, and "experience is almost more valuable than education," Patel says. "Using side hustles to start entrepreneurial ventures or make side income is also a great way to gain experience in a different industry, or a different niche that may not be potentially your day job," he says.

The key is to continue to learn new things and look for market opportunities, Sabatier says: "It's really hard to outcompete a curious person in any career."

Especially if you're feeling stuck at your job, looking for a niche can help you find a career you're more passionate about, Patel says. "Whether it's through a side hustle, or through reading books, gain experience and education outside of your day job to find your niche in something that you really are passionate about, so that hopefully you'll be able to transition into that new industry or role," he says.

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