If you decide to specialize, does that mean you don’t take any other work (even when you need it)?
Recently, Carrie Dils of Office Hours shared one of my blog posts and videos about specializing (thank you, Carrie!). An awesome commenter replied with a tweet that I found really interesting.
She makes a great point. Part of my dilemma is that I struggle to find work, so I am tempted to take anything. The other part is that I like learning new things. Bottom line, though, is that I am very inefficient. Great food for thought.
— Fritz Barnes (@FritzBarnes) December 27, 2017
It was Fritz Barnes, and he said:
Part of my dilemma is that I struggle to find work, so I am tempted to take anything.
I get it. I want to debunk the myth today that specializing your web or freelance business on a certain niche means you can’t ever take any other work.
In fact, in my business right now, I’m viewing specializing as a marketing strategy, not an all-encompassing business plan.
Here’s what I mean: instead of declaring my specialty in wedding SEO services and saying “This is the only work that we’re taking from here on out,” I decided to view my specialty as my marketing focus.
I am putting almost all of my marketing and sales effort into promoting our specialized services. My time in content creation, content promotion, social outreach, and outbound sales is now completely focused on SEO and the wedding industry.
But that doesn’t mean that if other opportunities come in naturally for my web agency, I am going to turn them down.
If the work is within my team’s skillset and a good fit for us, I am likely going to pursue it. I have two dedicated contractors on my team who expect hours, and we all have mouths to feed. We need to take generalist work we enjoy while I focus on ramping up our opportunities in our niche.
I am really viewing specializing in my business as a gradual move. Previously, 100% of our work was generalist web, graphic, and brand design. I’d love to soon ramp up to 10% of our work being wedding industry SEO projects, and over time, I’d like to grow that percentage to 30%, 50%, 70%, and on.
Ultimately, yes, I’d like for 95% of our work to be in the profitable specialized service we focus on. I imagine a day where we’re at full capacity, booked months in advance, with a very full pipeline just for our specialty. I’ll be comfortable turning down other work with a “This project isn’t in our wheelhouse, but here is someone who might be a better fit.”
Without a doubt, we’ll still have a few side projects or “for fun” work to keep us sharp and learning new things. But we’ll be able to choose those based on what lights us up, not because we need the income. That’s the dream, and I know we’ll get there.
For now, don’t think that just because you need any work means you can’t focus on marketing yourself to a niche. It won’t hurt to think about what kind of clients you want and aim your content and marketing efforts to them. You can still take other work as it comes, and I’ll bet you’re more likely to get prospects you really want.