Thursday, February 9, 2012

Specialist or generalist: what’s your route to success?

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to take stock of your business, and plan your direction for the coming year.  Some freelancers work toward building up a name for themselves within a niche; others intentionally avoid focusing too much in one area.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each approach.

The Specialist: Establishing Yourself in One Market Area

You might have been a financial guru in the past, and naturally kept that route when you opened your freelance business. Or maybe you started out covering many markets, but your best client was in real estate, and you found yourself getting established in that area. However it happens, building a name for yourself as a specialist has its benefits, including:
  • You’ll build knowledge of the vocabulary, trends, and who’s who in the market, enabling you to jump in faster, and potentially complete jobs quicker and easier.
  • Customers in similar markets will get wind of your work and contact you.
  • With a specific target audience in mind, you can slant your marketing efforts and materials appropriately.
  • You can establish yourself as an expert through speaking engagements, teaching, writing articles, or hosting a blog.
  • Your proven track record can help you negotiate higher compensation.
But along with the good comes the bad.  Reasons not to get too comfy might include:
  • A slump in your chosen market can send you into a dry spell.
  • Known as a specialist in one area, you may find it difficult seeking a job out of that circle.
  • You may become bored or experience burn out.

The Generalist: Keeping Your Finger in a Variety of Markets

Remaining a generalist is a chosen path for many freelancers, and with good reason: wider options bring more opportunity. Advantages of keeping abreast of a handful of differing markets include:
  • No need to panic if one of your markets goes dry; you can compensate by pursuing another area.
  • You’ll learn new things routinely and work with a variety of people.
  • Varying audiences will have different personalities, enabling you to use different styles and remain creative.
  • You can avoid markets that you don’t want to work with.
And the cons:
  • Just like the Chinese restaurant that also serves pizza, customers might question where you excel.
  • You may face overhead issues maintaining various versions of a resume or web site.
  • You may become frustrated dealing with the ramp-up time of a new project, particularly if facing a tight deadline. Source: