January 30, 2020

Specialization Diagram UPDATE

Sent by Jonathan Stark on January 30th, 2020

Alert readers may have detected a hint of dissatisfaction in my message yesterday about the use of the word specialization (subject: Specialization Diagram).

I’ve never been 100% happy using the term to describe someone who, well… specializes in helping a particular target market.

Even though I consider it reasonable for someone to say something like, “I am a web developer who specializes in helping animal shelters place more rescues in loving homes,” I know from experience that using the word “specialize” in this way often confuses people.

This experience has always left me wondering, “Is there a clearer term that I could use?”

Erik to the rescue!

Fortunately, my internet buddy and fellow Freelancer Show alum Erik Dietrich sent in a response that resolved my dilemma perfectly (shared with permission):

Hey Jonathan, Hope things are well with you. FWIW, I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from my readers/viewers on this topic and I’ve found it helpful in talking to them to distinguish between specialty and niche. I give them a dead-simple rule of thumb that seems applicable in your email here: “If it’s about you, it’s a specialty, and if it’s about helping someone, it’s a niche.” And the advice I’ve been giving to people who are, effectively, asking “what should I pick to do as a free agent and how should I position it” is “stop thinking about you -- nobody but you cares what party tricks you know. Brainstorm niches -- who you help and how -- and then narrow that down based on what you’re good at and what you like to do (your specialty). When you’re trying to figure a niche and you find yourself saying ’I’ or ’me,’ slap your own hand with a ruler and stop it. Think about you only in the context of whether you’re the right person to help with the people’s problems you’ve identified.” YMMV, but this seems to resonate and clarify for folks that I talk to. Erik

So there you have it!

Henceforth I shall endeavor to use the term “niche” in place of a market specialization.

This is my favorite kind of resolution because it’s head-slappingly obvious in retrospect.

“Niching down” is a term I use all the time when talking about specializing in a particular, well… niche market.

Now I just need to decide how to pronounce niche ;-)