Being a specialist has its own perks, but so does being a generalist.
You have been freelancing for a while now.
You’ve established a decent income and a stable clientele. You’re adept at acquiring new clients, and your plate is already full of work.
Then, you hit a roadblock. Expanding your client base no longer translates to a higher income.
“Jack of all trades, master of none”
This is relevant to freelancing, especially when starting. Initially, you may accept any work that comes your way, trying your hand at a little of this and that.
When you’re new to freelancing, to understand your strengths and work skills, it’s important to try your hand at new niches. The early stages of your career offer the prime opportunity to experiment.
That’s perfectly fine, and if it pays the bills, who cares, right?
As you progress, you may want to specialize at some point in your freelance career.
What does specializing mean for a freelancer?
Specialization entails becoming an expert in your field, making you more appealing to industry clients.
- You’ll be in higher demand,
- Can charge more for your services,
- Provide high-level expertise
- Deliver in-depth knowledge for those seeking it.
Specializing gives you a unique selling point, making it easier to market your services and establish your brand. It can help you attract specific clients, such as those who share your passion for a particular cause.
How to pick your specialization as a freelancer?
Ask yourself the following —
- Do you have a background in a subject or gained experience in a particular area?
- Have you discovered you enjoy some types of work more than others and would like to take on more of those jobs?
There’s no right and wrong answer to choosing your niche or niche. And yes, you can select more than one, but shoot for only 1–3 specialties through services or niches/sub-niche of your target segment.
Here are the 3 steps to aid your process if you are planning to niche down:
- Find out what you’re good at
- Determine what you LOVE to do
- Consider lucrative revenue streams.
B2B SaaS is a huge market.
E-commerce, HR, and marketing are the B2B SaaS domain niches. You can deep dive to find the sub-niches and specialize in the same.
The benefits of specialization as a freelancer
Freelancers who have been doing this for a while will tell you you’ll earn more money if you get specific. This might seem counterintuitive, but in hindsight, you may ask, “How can a niche market pay me more?
To become an expert in that field, you must gain expertise and become a better subject matter expert. Industry-specific clients look for freelancers with previous experience in a particular space.
Since the digital sphere is highly competitive, being known for one thing will catapult you to the top of the mind for potential clients.
The best part about freelancing is you get to choose your projects and work on what makes you happy. But you can close more clients than you would by branding yourself as a freelance writer specializing in a particular niche or type of content.
Now, let’s look at the generalist approach to freelancing.
What is the generalist approach?
As a generalist, you possess diverse interests and can accommodate a variety of clients. Multiple client tasks can be handled easily with your wide range of skills and knowledge.
Expertise in multiple fields can be more valuable than expertise in just one.
A broad understanding of various topics can prove more beneficial than having a deep understanding of only one. When working with clients from different industries, this is particularly important.
It would be easier for clients to get the services they need from a single professional than to seek out multiple specialists.
Now, we can see the Benefits and Disadvantages of being a generalist.
Benefits of being a generalist as a freelancer
- Generalists have a broad perspective and can grasp the overall picture.
- They maintain a sense of curiosity.
- Generalists have a broader appeal to a larger audience.
Generalists are particularly relatable, as they can communicate with clients on their level and understand their needs from a broader perspective.
Disadvantages of being a generalist as a freelancer
The few potential downsides to being a generalist are —
- Demonstrating your worth as a freelancer needs time
- Increased job insecurity (You can be easily replaced by anyone with rudimentary ChatGPT knowledge)
- There’s a possibility of encountering a lack of direction as you progress further in your freelancing journey.
Being a generalist vs a specialist as a freelancer
At the start of your career, it seems logical to work as a generalist.
After all, if you can do everything a client needs, why wouldn’t they use you for everything?
Are you familiar with the expression- “Jack of all trades, but master of none?”
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all talent. The problem with branding as a generalist is you give the clients a chance to easily replace you. Your limited resources limit the types of marketing you can spend time on.
Why would high-paying clients sign up if you don’t specialize in anything that sets you apart from the competition?
While you attract clients, it could be your initially lower prices that hook their attention. But competing on price alone isn’t sustainable in the long run. You risk high client turnover, but you compromise on the quality of work and reputation.
Which route should you pick as a beginner?
Before going all-in and advertising yourself as a one-stop shop, take a step back and prioritize. You need to pick up a set of complementary specialties to focus on building your portfolio.
It can be challenging to determine your specialty. Rather than doing it yourself to learn skills you don’t enjoy, follow the path of least resistance and use your successful projects as a guide on what work to take up next.
”You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Be water, my friend” — Bruce Lee
Take a call and continuously reinvent yourself to stay on top of the client’s needs and the state of the marketing world.
How to strike a balance between being a specialist and a generalist as a freelancer
To gain a better understanding of your needs and preferences, consider the following questions:
- Are you more interested in acquiring a wide range of knowledge across various fields, or do you prefer to focus on in-depth research on a particular topic?
- Do you switch career paths frequently, preferring to take your time to discover your interests and find a niche?
- Have you already decided on a specific career trajectory?
- What kind of work inspires and motivates you?
- Does it require you to develop diverse skills or require specialized subject-matter expertise?
To increase your rates, you must shift your mindset from competing at price to knowing the value of your work.
By offering your expertise, years of experience, and ability to contribute to a positive outcome, you go beyond providing clients with a set number of hours. Your clients will be more inclined to believe your work is worth their time and money once you recognize its value.
Before we part…
From June 6–9, 2023, I’m hosting Freelance Superheroes — a 4-day live training program that will help you
✔️Figure out your niche and learn how to write valuable content
✔️Learn to do industry research to find your ideal client
✔️Refine your cold outreach strategy to maximize your response rate
✔️Create offers that prospects will find hard to refuse
✔️Land clients who pay you for writing about exactly what you love
If this sounds like something you’d benefit from, save your spot today.
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