Nothing ever stays the same. If you think about how fast technology has changed our environment over the last 20 years, you’ll realize how imperative it is to stay educated in your niche. While your niche can remain your forte for years to come, what it looks like today will barely resemble what it will look like in just a few years. Think about it; no one is producing VHS tapes anymore, but no one has stopped watching movies. Our tools change not our passions.
Attend Industry Events
Whether online or offline, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are in your industry and your audience. The more you can learn from others, the more you’ll be able to stay ahead of the learning curve regarding your niche. By surrounding yourself with movers and shakers, you won’t be caught off guard when people want WordPress websites instead of HTML static sites. Instead you’ll see what’s coming around the bend.
Follow the Right People
On one hand you want to follow your audience so you know what they’re up to, but you should also follow your competition and the leaders in your niche. Even if you’re a leader yourself, being involved with other leaders can help you stay ahead of the learning curve because you’ll be able to keep your ear to the ground. Try spreading out your associations because people tend to get caught up in a clique without realizing it.
Whether accredited or unaccredited, certification can often impress your audience. Research the accrediting authority to ensure that whoever is doing the accrediting is well known and respected in your niche before taking part. Also know whether that matters to your audience. When it comes to certain software, the software developers themselves may offer certification and if they do, that’s an important certification to pursue.
Perform Regular Keyword Research
Even if you’re not a writer, or a search engine optimization (SEO) expert, conducting regular keyword research can expose you to new industry terms and information that you might not otherwise be exposed to. Consider at least a yearly if not quarterly study of the keywords that are popular within your niche to stay ahead of your competition.
Even if your specialty is highly technical, you can read a lot of books in your area to stay educated. Check out free books on Kindle to help you find important books being written today about your niche. Even historical books can help you understand your niche better in terms of where it’s going and where it’s been.
Take a Course
Many colleges and universities offer courses online today that you may not have seen in the past. A really good college that is low priced, accredited and non-profit is Southern New Hampshire University. In many cases the tuition is lower than local universities and colleges.
Link to Southern New Hampshire University – http://www.snhu.edu/
Teach Others What You Know
Sometimes the best way to stay ahead and educated on your niche is to teach. When you teach something you tend to study harder. It will force you to know what is going on within the industry in a more organized and productive manner. Teaching also solidifies the information within your mind better. That’s why history professors seem to remember everything. It’s not that they have photographic memories; they just tell the stories repeatedly and it finally sticks.
Track Industry Trends
Using Google Alerts and searching the internet, you can stay up to date on industry trends. You can also find trade publications, magazines, and newsletters that will help you understand what is happening in your niche. For instance, in the USA there is Small Business Majority which is a group that can help members understand how tax laws, health care laws, and other issues affect how they do business.
Link to Small Business Majority – http://www.smallbusinessmajority.org/
Continuing education, whether formal or informal, is the key that will keep you ahead of the rest. As long as you stay educated in your niche, you will have a long career and successful business working with the people you love and doing what you love.