Narrowing down the types of projects + clients you take on is a great way to define your brand, and the vision behind it. Do you focus on branding, web design, publication design, photography, UI and stationery? A lot of small studios offer all of these services, which I think can actually hurt your business. As a graphic designer, I feel equipped to handle various aspects of design, however I don’t want to be a generalist. I enjoy the diversity of projects, yet I don’t think it is very fair to clients to say I offer a service that I am not as experienced in as someone else I could refer/collaborate with.
Though it may seem like a backwards move to limit your services + offerings, here are a few reasons why I highly recommend this approach!
Establish yourself as an expert
Think of it this way: Who would you trust more to fix a foundation problem on your house? A general handy-man, or a contractor who specialized in repairing house foundations? I would for sure trust someone who specializes in foundations — I want to avoid having to hire someone else to clean up the general handyman’s mess!
This may be a silly example, but it proves the point that being an expert instinctually builds more trust in your service. Because of this trust, your client or customer respects you from the beginning and has a strong value in your work, and looks for your guidance and opinion. You create a healthy relationship with the client from the onset, and you begin to focus + build a service that you are passionate about.
Offer services you are passionate about
Once you decide to niche your services, you will begin to attract the right types of clients, who you actually enjoy working with! Seriously, this is the best part of niching your services. I can’t tell you what a HUGE difference it makes when you work with clients that feel like friends. They are eager for your feedback, and love your creative vision! A breath of fresh air, compared to my previous experiences!
You also begin to work on projects that you are passionate about. For me, that is holistic branding. I love diving in deep with my clients, and understanding the goals behind their branding, and then creating a brand identity that reflects that vision. It is seriously a blessing to be involved in something so personal + powerful for another small business! I could go on and on… which is a true sign that branding is where my passion lies! I’ve learned I don’t enjoy creating one-off brochures, flyers, or direct mail. It’s just not something I am passionate about, and I don’t want that lack of passion to reflect in my work — so I avoid taking on those projects.
Here’s a secret: If you aren’t financially ready to say “no” to every potential client outside of your niche, that is okay. You can keep working with clients that don’t meet your niche, as long as you don’t publish that work on your site. Once you publish that type of work, you will begin to attract clients that are looking for similar work. Though that may seem appealing in the short-term, it is actually what you want to avoid! Remember: you don’t like that type of work anyways! Only use it as you transition and overlap to niching your services (and don’t be too vocal about it).
One of the greatest benefits of focusing niching your services/offerings is that people begin to associate you with that service. For example: If I were to ask for a recommendation for a lettering artist, do you have someone in particular that comes to mind? I know I do! I have a handful of letterers that I could recommend at the drop of a hat. That association is tremendously powerful.
Say one of these lettering artists instead offered web design, publication design, and UI services. Do you think they would have still made that powerful association to lettering specifically? I doubt it. Though they might still be great at lettering, they presented themselves as diluted across too many services.
As consumers, we crave specificity in the market. If I am in the marketplace for something particular, I love researching the depths of the internet to find the perfect match! I often times hop on Twitter or Facebook for suggestions. Social media is where that expertise word association really thrives. With a limited number of characters, people respond with their recommendation for my specific need. As an entrepreneur, I want to see my name mentioned when people are searching for a specific service I offer.
Readers/potential customers should be able to briefly sum up what your specialty is. I love how Brigette created nicknames for each of the designers included in her recent blog post about favorite keyboard shortcuts (spacebar — command+; — and v for me!). I was named the “branding buff”, which I LOVE how quirky it is… but also how easily she was able to pinpoint my area of focus.
It is in our nature to put people into boxes. Rather than fighting that truth, just embrace it and define what box they put you into. Through niching your services, you provide an immediate association with your audience, that allows them to put you in your desired “box”. If you aren’t intentional about your niche, your association will not only be diluted, it will be passively influenced by the projects you take on. Take action instead, and have intention behind your brand!
What niche are you in, or do you see yourself transitioning into? I would love to hear your thoughts on being a generalist vs. a specialist in the comments!
If you haven’t already, you can download my brand vision workbook in the newsletter box below, to help you get to the heart of your brand. Hopefully it will provide a bit of clarity on how to niche your services!
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