*I ran across some beautiful pictures of Whitney Houston today and decided to try something…See if you can’t find all the Whitney Houston references in this post and leave them in the comments…there are 14…good luck!
Just as I was trying to wind down for the holidays, I found myself having one of those days where it seemed like every marketing director in the Western hemisphere wanted to talk work. One in particular had a project that would mean thousands in income over the next couple of months (so I definitely wanted to hear what he was saying). He needed somebody who knew his industry and his problem and needed them fast. We had a quick talk about the types of clients I had worked with and my background and he signed the contract by the end of the day.
We’re focused on skill development this month at BlackFreelance, and I want to tell you, that if you aren’t zeroed in on the type of freelancing you sell best, it’s incredibly costly (in terms of your time, effort, and will) to get better. Many new freelancers (myself included) try to do way too much when we first get going…we want to do web design, and make sushi, and code, and provide childcare, and graphic design…or maybe we even want to just write, but try do it in any and every industry out there.
It might be more interesting or even natural for you to work that way, but it’s close to impossible to be a jack of all trades and build your best freelance career. Not only does it keep you running in circles, but it also
- Makes it challenging for you to know how and where to market yourself
- Makes it next to impossible for you to sell yourself as better than your competition
- Makes it difficult for you to know where to improve
- Leaves you fighting for lower-paying clients who probably don’t really know what they want.
It even impacts your repeat business. You want your clients to start thinking about you when they have a specific problem, and not think that they can run to any freelancer out there.
Good Clients Want Specialization
Like I mentioned before, this month is about getting better at what you do as a freelancer, and part of the reason you want to improve is that it gives you access to better, higher-paying clients (who are generally easier to work with.)
Good freelance clients look to you for deep knowledge…that might be of a subject, of an industry, even of a particular online environment. That builds trust, which is the foundation of a long-term client relationship (the Holy Grail of freelance work.)
You never know what little things you say will let them know that you’re well-educated in your industry, and that’s the best reason to make a habit of setting up news alerts around your keywords and checking up on them regularly.
Don’t think you have to know it all though…Your clients will always love you for being able to answer their questions, but they will respect you for being able to point them to (or team up with) other specialists if you can’t. (This is why a strong freelancer network is so important. You’ll never stand alone out there if you have good relationships with other quality freelancers.)
If You Can’t Let Go
OK…so I know some of us love dipping our toes in lots of different subjects, so if you feel like you absolutely have to use multiple skills, here are a few suggestions on how you might be able to do that while balancing a specialization that clients will respond to.
- Go deep, then go wide: So you want to write, do graphic design, and social media marketing? This might actually be an advantage in highly technical fields or where there are high levels of potential liability or confidentiality where small mistakes can mean big problems, and clients need someone trustworthy who also knows their industry (or has specific certifications or education).
- Emphasize one skill and offer the rest on the side: Just because you do offer multiple services doesn’t mean you have to put them all out there from the jump. Choose one that will get you the most clients, focus your online presence, marketing, and education around that, and let your additional skills stand as icing on your freelance cake.
- Make sure everything you do fits organically: If you want to go broad, try to make sure your skills are complimentary. Writing fits well with social media and content strategy skills in the age of content-driven marketing. Graphic design can fit well with web design and photography.
Even if you do take one of these routes, specialize in some way …it’ll be worth it.
How To Find Your Groove
So how will you know which skills you should drop and where you should focus your freelancing efforts? You probably already have some clues. You likely get compliments on one type of work more than another, or have had more success getting clients in a certain area. Take those little nudges as hints from your client market that those are areas you need to emphasize, and if you still need help, check out these 5 simple questions to get your vision even more clear.
It may be a bit scary to go deeper, but you don’t know your own strength. Step by step, you’ll see what works for you and what doesn’t. Just remember to never give up.
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