Mastering specialisation: How to laser-focus your freelance offering for success
In the world of freelancing and independent consulting, one of the foremost pillars of success is catering to a specialised, or niche market with your services or expertise. A frequently made mistake when people are transitioning from standard business practices to freelancing or consulting independently is while choosing to focus on an area of experience where they have a great deal of existing knowledge, they choose too broad a generalisation for their target audience. Choosing a highly specialised niche or industry vertical, however, greatly increases the opportunity to grow quickly, close more business, and build a strong reputation within your chosen field.
When independent or freelance consultants initially approach the concept of focusing their business, many take an “umbrella” approach, choosing to simply move laterally from their current position (for example, CEO of a successful company, human resources manager, etc.) to an independent consultant within that same field. This move does make sense, however, it’s often ill-advised.
When the focus is too broad, time and money spent on marketing can end up getting you nowhere. When the audience is extremely specific and targeted through specialisation and narrowing of offerings, however, you’ll extend your reach and increase the chances of growing your business organically and quickly.
Translating your previous life experience, whether it be years having worked in human resources, accounting, marketing, or some other branch of business or industry- is a good foundation for determining the area of specialisation you will focus your independent consulting or freelancing business on. However, to truly achieve success, your best bet is to further narrow your field and focus your offering by selecting a specific industry vertical to segment your target audience into an even smaller subgroup.
Every business has a target audience that they focus on and primarily market to. Within these target markets or audiences are further subgroups, or niches, which will allow you to more acutely fine-tune your offerings- making them an ideal match for those with specific wants, needs, and preferences that match your specific skills, experience, and knowledge base.
Follow these steps to define your specialisation:
Choose your best fit niche
When selecting which industry vertical or specialised market to focus your business on, you’ll want to take a few things into consideration. How much experience and success do you have within that particular niche? Are you comfortable manoeuvring through the terms, concepts, focuses, jargon, and subcategories of your chosen specialisation? Is there room for growth? Niches and specialisation are how you’ll successfully build your business and grow your client base, but you also want to leave room in your business plan for future growth and expansion.
Know your target market
An additional factor to consider while in the process of focusing your offering is that specialisation works best when you have a thorough understanding of your target audience. Knowing everything there is to know about the market they do business in and its challenges and quirks, unique and compelling marketing strategies or technological advancements within that market, and so on- means you’ll appeal directly to your ideal clients.
Knowing how to confidently communicate with clients and demonstrate expertise on topics that they will be focused on themselves, as well as the ability to anticipate and meet their needs, is vital. If you’re thinking of moving into a niche or field but aren’t sure if paring down your offerings to that audience is right for you, spend some time doing deep research. There may be more than one area that fits as a potential niche for your business, but deep knowledge and understanding is a need for successful implementation.
Leverage your specific expertise
Maximizing the clarity of your message through specification to meet the needs of a specialised audience takes thought and attention to detail. Clarify your message so that it targets the particular needs, interests, and motivations of your desired clients through editing and re-editing your pitch. When engaging with potential clients and pitching your services, it’s important to draw attention to your unique skills and specialised niche, and leverage that specialisation to your greatest advantage.
Freelancing and independent consulting success is reliant on building your book of clients. Referrals and leveraging your network is one way to do that, but you’re likely to garner more business through a perfected pitch- one which highlights your extremely specialised skill set. Were you in insurance? Rather than appealing to insurance professionals or companies in general, focus instead on your experiences related to the specialised aspect of insurance that you have the deepest background in. Perhaps it’s title insurance, health insurance programs, vehicle fleets, etc.
The more focused, the better
There is an incredibly broad range of financial verticals, should you happen to be a freelancer or consultant who is looking to move into independence within that industry. The more focused and specialised your offering, the better. The financial analysis could be further broken down into bankability, liquidity, return on investment, and so on. A finance management specialisation could be further specialised into a focus on financial controls, compliance, or objectives. These examples should give you a basic idea of how you can further break down your area of expertise in order to make your offerings, pitches, and target audiences extremely focused.
Remember, you’re the expert: Sell yourself!
Ultimately, the key to specialisation is pitching yourself as an expert on an extremely narrow field of genuine expertise- an area in which you can offer your potential clients some unique knowledge and experience that makes you the logical choice to take on their business, whether as a consultant or other freelancer. Look through your portfolio of experience, your background, and your history. What kinds of projects have you worked on most often, and what specific branches of your industry do you have the deepest and most extensive understanding and insight into? This is the best candidate for your focused offering.