April 4, 2013

To Specialize or Not to Specialize?

To Specialize or Not to Specialize as a Freelancer? Pros and Cons.

Should you specialize as a freelancer? From a strictly business and marketing perspective, this is a no-brainer. If you’re looking to get ahead of the competition and make more money, your best bet is to specialize in a specific niche.

Why? Freelance creatives that specialize become experts in their area, and clients like experts – especially high-end, high-paying clients.

There are reasons not to specialize, but they are of a more personal, emotional, or maybe motivational nature.

And know this, even If you start out as a generalist sooner or later you will probably specialize anyway – the marketplace will tell you your niche.

[box] “The best way to fast track your career is to specialize in something – become an icon designer, UI/UX expert or typographer – people will quickly recognize that’s what you do and seek you out.”

Meg Robichaud, graphic designer[/box]

Pros of a Specialist

  • A specialist faces less competition.
  • A specialist is easier found by clients. His expertise makes him stand out from the industry's jack-of-all-trades.
  • Specialists find ideal clients easier since specialists know exactly what kind of clients they are looking for. As a specialist, you will know what trade associations and other off- and online groups to join, which conferences and MeetUps to attend, how to search Google and LinkedIn for prospects, etc.
  • A specialist builds word-of-mouth quicker. Word-of-mouth works better when you are a specialist. You are someone worth talking about.
  • A specialist inspires more trust by having a proven track record, and by being able to easily demonstrate his or her expertise.
  • A specialist advances his skills faster by focusing on his learning.
  • A specialist can jump in faster. For daily work, a specialist can more or less forget about researching and experimenting.
  • A specialist turns around jobs quicker and easier for the benefit of himself and the client.
  • A specialist’s marketing is more effective. You can distribute and pitch your materials accurately.
  • Lower marketing costs. Since you are targeting a smaller part of the market there will be fewer clients to find, approach, and keep in touch with. You don't need several versions of marketing material each directed towards different target groups.
  • A specialist uses his personal network more effectively. As a specialist, you can ask your networking partners for a very specific type of leads. It makes their job of matching people they know to you much easier.
  • A specialist has a high win ratio, which in turn leads to less need for pitching and prospecting.
  • A higher probability of repeat business.
  • Better pay. When a client trusts your expertise he or she is normally willing to pay more.

Cons of a Specialist

  • The market consists of a few clients, maybe too few.
  • A specialist is sensitive to the ups and downs in the chosen niche. A slump can send you into a dry spell.
  • Known as a specialist, you might find it difficult to break into new areas.
  • Your creativity might suffer. You might get bored since you’re always working with the same.
  • As a specialist, you might not get the big picture. A generalist might be better suited to understand the client’s business as a whole, and thus being able to tweak the delivery better.

Not figured out what to specialize in yet? Read Finding Your Niche: When Graphic Design Really Pays Off or check out these 50+ niches actually picked by established freelance creatives!

Want to dive deeper into viable creative niches? Sign up for my FREE Niche Mini-Course!

That's it, fellow freelancers! Please comment below!