October 14, 2021

How to specialise as a freelancer

Written by Martin Baxter

This blog is the second in our series on freelancer goals – where we take a closer look at strategic, longer-term goals that freelancers have and think about how to make them a reality. Last month, we looked at how you can grow your work if expanding your freelance business is one of your targets. This week, we look at scaling in a different way – deepening your expertise, experience and knowledge in one particular area – so that you become a specialist. Read on for more insight into why you should consider specialising…and how to go about it.

Why specialise?

Have you ever heard the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none?” Freelancing can be a bit like that, especially when you’re just starting out. You’re desperate for work in any form so you say “yes” to everything, dabbling in a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

That’s fine – and if it pays the bills then, who cares, right?

However, there may come a time in your freelancing career when you want to become a little bit more of a specialist. Specialising means becoming an expert in your field. This makes you more attractive to clients in that sector – meaning you’ll be more sought after and can charge more for your services for people and businesses looking for that high-level expertise and deep knowledge. If you’re struggling to stand out in your freelance craft, then specialising can give you a unique selling point, helping to advertise your services and supporting your branding. It can also help you attract a particular type of client. For example, you might really enjoy working in the charity sector because you get to work with passionate and caring people on important causes.

Of course, sometimes you might just want to specialise because you have a particular interest or enthusiasm for that type of work. Perhaps you have a background in a subject – having studied it at university or gained work experience in that area? Or perhaps you’ve found you enjoy certain types of job more than others and you’d like to take on more of these jobs and less of others? Here are our top tips for getting more of the types of job you want!

Update your portfolio

If you decide to go ahead and specialise in a particular area, then make sure you update your website and portfolio to reflect this. Instead of a “photographer”, describe yourself as a “product photographer” or “portrait photographer”. Instead of a “blogger”, highlight instead that you’re a “travel blogger” or “finance blogger”. If you’re a web developer, you might change your header to “web dev for the tech industry” or “web development for small biz”.

When putting together your portfolio or selecting projects or pieces of work to showcase on your website, try to highlight those that fit your chosen area of specialisation, to show off what you can do for clients in these sectors. This will help clients visualise what your services can offer them and strengthen the association between your brand and your chosen sector. Of course, as you move into specialisation, it might be necessary to take on other jobs outside this area in order to keep work coming in. You can still move your website and branding to the area you want to focus on and, as you do this, the enquiries from suitable clients should begin to increase.

Select a specialism carefully

You may already know the area that you wish to specialise in but it is worth making sure you’ve thought strategically about your choice. Some areas of work – fashion, beauty, travel, films, music, games – are already very saturated with freelancers and it is more difficult, though not impossible, to get work in these areas. That’s not to put you off from trying, but rather to encourage you to remain realistic about what you can achieve. If fashion photography or beauty blogging is your dream, go for it! But, if you are on the fence, it can be worth thinking about lesser-known niches where expertise is needed. Education, finance, health and social care (including mental health), e-commerce, property and customer service are all growth areas at the moment.

Education and training

If you’ve already got a background in the sector you want to specialise in – through education, experience, or training – now is the time to shout about it. Make sure your qualifications (official or earned through experience) are displayed prominently on your website and shout about them on your socials. If you need a bit more experience or want to update your skills in an area, you could investigate if there are any training courses or qualifications you could take. Keep your clients and audience updated as you go on your training journey so they can see the new skills and knowledge you can offer. Joining an industry or sector body, or association, can be a good way to build knowledge, network within a particular area, and they will also offer training opportunities to their members.

Target clients specifically

If you’re looking to get more work in a particular sector, the first place to look might be your current clients. If you’re already working for one or two clients in this area, ask them if they need any extra support with anything and try to take on more work with them. You could also ask them for testimonials about your work that you can then use to show that you are trusted within that industry. If you tell them about your specialisation, they might also recommend you to other businesses that they collaborate with. This will help you grow a client base in your chosen sector.

If you don’t yet have any clients in your chosen area, then you can still do this type of targeted approach by identifying relevant businesses or organisations and contacting them directly. For example, if you decide you want to offer web design services for education, you could look up schools, colleges and tutors in your local area and get in touch with them to see if they need any help with their web presence.

Stay in touch with the field and set up networks

Part of being an expert in any field is keeping up with trends, news and issues that are currently affecting people working in that area or using those services. Follow industry news; joining a professional body can help with this. Seek out other experts in this area and make contact with them, either via email or through LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. You can learn by following them, as they share their experiences, and they may be willing to support or mentor you if you reach out  – particularly if you’re from a background that is currently under-represented in that industry. Build your social media feeds with people from this industry so you can stay in touch with them and contribute to the latest debates.

Whatever trade you decide to master, an essential tool in the freelancer’s kit is business insurance. If you’re approaching new clients or trying to advertise your services, being able to show that you hold appropriate professional indemnity and public liability insurance demonstrates that you are a safe, sensible pair of hands and you’ve put in place measures to protect yourself and your clients if things go wrong. You can get yourself a quote in less than 30 seconds on the Dinghy website. Freelancer insurance from Dinghy is flexible, low-cost and low-hassle.

About Martin Baxter

Read more blog posts by Martin Baxter


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