The other day I had a conversation with a freelance designer I had just met. I asked him what kind of work he does.
“Oh, I do print, web, and graphic design for all different kinds of clients,” he said. “Some are large, some are small. I do pretty much everything.”
Another person to toss onto my mental scrap pile of designers who I’ll never refer anyone to.
Ok, so I know that sounds harsh. You might be wincing just reading that. But it’s true!
Here are three reasons I likely won’t be sending anyone his way:
- I won’t remember him. There’s nothing special or memorable about someone who does everything for everyone.
- I don’t believe him. It’s very unlikely that he is equally good at designing logos, websites, brochures, and signage for every conceivable type of business or event. I bet that he really excels at a couple things and has more experience within a certain type of industry. But as a client, how would I know if my project falls into his “best work” category?
- I have no real reason to recommend him. If a friend is looking for a logo designer, how would I even recommend this guy? “Hey, there’s this dude I talked to and he was nice, and I guess he does logos, but I don’t really know if that’s his strong suit, so… never mind.” (This is very different than saying, “Oh, I know someone who’s perfect for you!”)
Now compare this to a different type of entrepreneur. One who has narrowed in on their ideal offerings, clients, and projects. For example...
A photographer who specializes in adventure weddings.
Or a graphic designer who only works with non-profits of a certain size.
Or a business consultant who helps old magazine companies adapt to the digital age.
These are all examples of clients of mine who have done the hard work to really commit to their best work. Their niches are memorable, show purpose, and inspire trust… instead of a hazy sense of confusion or doubt. They are positioned to be easily remembered and confidently recommended.
Ok, so I know what you’re thinking. If you’re someone who’s currently a generalist, you probably have a lot of really great reasons for doing so.
Like, you don’t want to get bored by doing the same types of projects for the same types of people all the time.
Or, you don’t want to turn away money so it feels safer to just take everything that comes your way.
Or, you’re new to your work (or to doing it independently) and are still building your portfolio and figuring out which projects you like best.
Well, as far as I’m concerned, the only legitimate reason to be a generalist is that last one. In pretty much any other case, you’re going to have better clients, higher revenue, more satisfaction in your work, and less burn-out by narrowing your niche. What's not to like?
Need help finding that niche? This is my favorite thing to do! (You could say it's my specialty!) My Brand Clarity package is an excellent way to hash it out together.