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Mastering specialisation: How to laser-focus your freelance offering for success

By Johann van Niekerk

Mastering specialisation: How to laser-focus your freelance offering for success

Transitioning to freelancing or consulting often involves the mistake of targeting a wide audience, despite having deep knowledge in a specific field. Most of the time, focussing on a niche not only accelerates growth and increases the chances of business success, but it also helps in building a strong reputation.

Many new freelancers or consultants start with a broad approach based on their previous job roles, like for example HR or Finance manager. This is logical and can make sense for contract roles, however, when the focus is too broad, time and money spent on marketing can end up getting you nowhere.

When the audience instead is very specific and targeted, you’ll actually extend your reach and increase the chances of growing your business organically and quickly.

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.

Here is a suggestion on how 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 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

In narrowing down your services, it’s crucial to specialise with a deep understanding of your target audience’s industry, including its unique challenges, trends, and technological updates.

This knowledge ensures your offerings are directly tailored to meet the needs of your ideal clients.

Mastering confident communication with clients and showcasing expertise in their areas of interest, along with predicting and fulfilling their requirements, is essential. If you’re considering specialising but doubt whether narrowing your focus is the right move, dedicate time to thorough research. Your business might align with multiple potential niches, yet having profound knowledge and understanding is crucial for effective execution.

Leverage your specific expertise

To resonate with a specific audience, it’s crucial to fine-tune your message to address the unique needs, interests, and motivations of your target clients.

This involves repeatedly refining your pitch to emphasise your distinct skills and niche area. Success in freelancing and consulting heavily depends on expanding your client base, which can be achieved not only through referrals and networking but also by presenting a well-crafted pitch. This pitch should spotlight your highly specialised skill set.

The more focused, the better

In the world of independent consulting and contracting, the principle of specialisation is akin to a surgeon wielding a scalpel: precise, targeted, and effective.

Consider, for instance, digital marketing. This field, vast and varied, offers numerous avenues for specialisation. Rather than positioning oneself as a general digital marketing consultant, a more focused approach could be to specialise in a specific area, like search engine optimisation (SEO) for small businesses.

However, delving even deeper, one might choose to specialise in local SEO for independent retail stores. This nuanced specialisation addresses a very specific need—helping local retailers improve their online visibility and attract more foot traffic. In this finely tuned niche, your expertise becomes highly sought after because it directly caters to a distinct segment of the market with unique challenges and goals.

Such a microscopic focus on your offering allows you to craft highly specialised pitches and service offerings. It ensures that your marketing efforts are sharply targeted, resonating with a specific audience who are in dire need of your exact skill set. This level of specialisation not only elevates your value in the eyes of potential clients, but also sets you apart in a crowded marketplace, establishing you as a go-to expert in local SEO for retail businesses.

There’s always the balance between going very narrow, and the number of potential clients. But by choosing to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big ocean, you leverage your deep understanding of a niche market, thereby enhancing the appeal and efficacy of your freelance or consulting services.

Conclusion – Remember, you’re the expert, sell yourself!

Ultimately, the key to specialisation is pitching yourself as an expert in a very specific domain where you have 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.

Look through your portfolio of experience, your background, and your history. What kinds of projects have you worked on most often, and what specific niches of your industry do you have the deepest and most extensive understanding and insight into? This is the best candidate for your focused offering.

About the author

Johann van Niekerk is Co-founder & CEO of Outsized, responsible also for the day-to-day operations of the South African entity. Johann is a qualified actuary and worked as a product development specialist at Metropolitan Life. He later headed the Business Development function at reinsurer RGA, later Marketing as well as being the General Manager at RGA Ventures – the corporate venturing arm. Before joining Outsized, Johann was the General Manager of RGAx, RGA’s innovation accelerator.