June 17, 2023

Skill vs Market Specialization

If you’re like most generalist professionals (e.g., software developers, designers, photographers, illustrators, copywriters, etc.), you have spent your career honing your skills and mastering your craft, but precious little time understanding the value that your work creates for your clients.

So, when you decide to make the switch from generalist to specialist, it’s much easier to envision niching down on your favorite skill than to niche down on a target market.

In other words...

You know what your favorite skill is, but you have no idea what kind of clients place the highest value on the outcomes you provide, so specializing in a skill is the only clear path.


You can certainly specialize in a very specific skill (e.g., MySQL database performance optimization) and position yourself as the go-to guy or gal for MySQL performance problems. I refer to this as a “horizontal specialization.”

A horizontal specialization will allow you to command higher rates once clients reach out to you, but it does very little to attract clients in the first place.


Because it forces your potential buyers to magically recognize that your specialized skill is the solution to their expensive problems.

Unless your buyers are your peers, it is highly unlikely that they will connect the dots.

Here’s the thing...

A horizontal specialization can increase your profits but probably won’t help you attract more leads.

So if you have plenty of leads, then by all means, double down on your horizontal.