What is Niche Skilling?
It’s a phrase I just made up that refers to specializing in a software niche or software package that is not as commonly known. Niche skilling is a great way to out earn other programmers. It’s a great career strategy also to position yourself as an expert in high demand.
Ideally, you would pick a niche that the client companies have dedicated a lot of resources to, can’t easily extract themselves from, and is critical to their business.
Some examples are phone software, ERP packages, Human Resources packages, cloud components, etc. This is opposed to how most programmers specialize, which is to pick frameworks and languages like Python, Java, C#, etc.
The difference is when you niche skill, you are competing with a very small pool of available professionals. When you specialize in a language like Java for example, you are competing with literally hundreds of thousands of other programmers.
Yes, there are more jobs available for the generic skills, but due to the general nature and the pool of available programmers, the competition is going to be fiercer, and the pay is going to be lower.
If you are in a high demand niche skill, the pool of available programmers will be smaller, thus the competition for your services will be great. ERP packages are great for this. Oracle, JDEdwards, SAP. These packages play a huge roll in company back office applications, and they invest millions in them. They require specialized knowledge to configure exactly to the company specifications.
Most consultants and programmers I’ve seen for these applications make much more than regular staff programmers. Sometimes 3 times more. And there is more flexibility in billing options, for example you can go in as an independent contractor if you have the right skillset.
Some of the downsides if niche skilling are that you may need to travel if you live in a small city or rural area. But this may no longer be as true now that most programmers are working remote.
Also, the software package you specialize in may go out of business, but I have not seen that happen much. I’ve seen packages get absorbed by bigger companies, like Peoplesoft and Siebel got bought out by Oracle.
I have some packages that I worked for that went out of business 10 years ago, and they are still needing programmers for them, like Quintus, and even they got bought out by Avaya.