Typically, the smaller a business is, the more important it is to specialise, and you can’t get much smaller than solo. For a soloist, specialist positioning is a powerful target marketing and business management tool.
1. Specialist positioning enables you to build a reputation as the “go-to” person in your field
This means you are the first person someone thinks of when they strike the problem you can solve. They don’t even have to know you personally. I’ve been flying solo for seven years as a specialist proposal strategist and writer. Looking back at 2007’s dozen or so new customers almost all of the leads came from people who knew of my reputation in this area. Only two of them actually had first-hand experience of my work.
2. Specialists command a premium
Customers hire experts; people who can do things that they can’t. As a soloist and a gun for hire, you’re both more likely to be hired, and to be hired at a premium rate, if you are an expert in your field. My friend Bridgette Engeler Newbury specialises in brand names. She has created names for some of Australia’s most recognised products and services, including AustralianSuper, Energex and The Qantas Club.
Brand naming is both a science and an art and brand names mean big money — Coca-Cola’s is valued at more than $20 billion — so this is a field that is crying out for expertise. Design firms and private companies alike seek out Bridgette because they recognise the value of her expertise.
3. Specialising helps you manage business risk
As a soloist, being an expert helps you to create repeatable business processes and build your own quality control system. Tasks such as quoting, writing proposals and setting up work plans become so much easier when you have done them many times before.
Familiarity with types of work and types of customers also helps you to understand and manage the risks in what you do. When you learn from past experiences, you’re far less likely to be left with a bad debt or a loss-making job.
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4. Specialist positioning helps you turn down work that isn’t right for you
Being a specialist means you will often turn work away or pass it on to others because it isn’t your area of expertise. I often hear soloists say they will do anything provided a client will pay their hourly rate. This generalist approach might help put food on the table in the short term, but it’s not going to help you to build a sustainable business that you’ll be happy to continue to run.
We devalue ourselves if we take on work in which we find no joy; work that is stressful because we don’t really know how to do it; or work that doesn’t help us to learn and grow. Specialising means you are constantly investing in your own professional development and the long-term health of your business.
Are you a specialist reaping the benefits? Or still a generalist and loving it? Let’s hear what you have to say.