I have lots of conversations with freelancers who admit they’re afraid to specialize. They think it will limit their opportunities—but the truth is, they’re misunderstanding what it means to specialize.
I’ll use the example of marketing.
You can be a general “marketer,” or you can be a marketing automation specialist who helps businesses streamline their lead capture & nurturing.
Which one sounds more likely to get hired? It’s definitely the latter, the specialist, because businesses who need what she does are going to find her right away. She’s one of a much smaller number of marketers who specialize in this. The other one, the general “marketer,” is a commodity—there are ten thousand others just like him.
But what about if our marketing automation specialist also happens to get a lead for some content strategy? If she knows how to deliver on this, can she close this client too?
Specializing does not mean saying “no” to gigs that come your way that don’t match your specialty. It doesn’t force you to accept only opportunities which conform exactly to your speciality. It’s your business—you’re allowed to accept to other types of work if you desire.
A specialty is merely a stronger signal in one, less-crowded area. Specializing is planting a brightly colored flag in an empty meadow. Not specializing is planting a flag amongst countless other flags. The client sees an abundance of options, and you are left competing with countless others.
Specializing makes you a better practitioner, of course—and it also removes the need to compare yourself altogether. You become the obvious choice because you’re one of only a few experts on that specialty. Specialty reverses the power dynamic from being “the marketing girl who does our blog posts” (a commodity) to being a trusted advisor to whom clients turn for guidance.
Herein lies the big lesson: marginally smaller client pool, but far easier sales cycle.