Freelance fish

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Philip Morgan helps implementors become advisors. He is also the author of The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms. He writes about specialization, positioning, lead generation, and expertise on his blog.  

The whole interview is worth listening to. You’ll get some interesting bits on:

  • The framework for making the decision on specialisation
  • Difference between positioning and specialisation
  • Systemizing lead generation
  • Trust velocity of different lead generation strategies
  • Balancing consistency with agility while specializing​
  • Transitioning to specialized services as a new freelancer


The framework for specialisation. There's 3 ways you can decide how to specialise

  1. Leverage the Head-Start you've already racked up - Lowest risk and not suitable for absolute beginners. When you've already been employed and have a certain amount of experience with a skillset, you can use that experience as a way to specialise in a niche while freelancing.
  2. I am interested in serving this group of people. I dont care if I dont have a head start, my interest in serving them will take me there. This is an emotional important option, its about who you’d love to serve
  3. Do something entrepreneurial. What you want to do as a craftsperson is unimportant, if I dont have a skill I'll rent it, and if I dont like the people I serve, I don't care. Its the business opportunity they represent that is really exciting.

The 5 ways to position yourself

  1. Market vertical - Agri, software, Construction
  2. Audience vertical - Freelancers, Entrepreneurs
  3. Horizontal - Business problem -  employee morale, productivity
  4. Horizontal - Platform specialisation, like react or ruby developer. Big things you can hook into. Shopify is a platform. Though these are more risky and limited
  5. Customise a unique service - instead of designing a product from the clients perspective, use customer research to develop the product

Philip has a written a post that covers all of the above in detail here.

When you specialise, and have a niche you serve, you also increase the relevance when you reach out to people. This means fewer people you reach out to will ignore you.

Different lead generation mechanisms with trust velocity

Experimenting with automated lead generation tactics early on helps

  • Using Linkedin automation tools carefully, respectfully and politely can systematise certain aspects of this.
  • More risky lead gen mechanism is something like a podcast. Instead of having deep expertise you'll have to depend on personality. Think that they like me. Effectively you'd be growing vs getting clients directly. May not be super effective but makes me take risk
  • Be consistent and build a brand but you also have to be open to experiment early in this process.

Balancing consistency and agility

When you specialise you make a decision. It's not necessarily permanent and that decision can be changed. You might find one that really works well for you and then you run with it. But this may take a few experiments to find.

But to gain a following in any space you need to be consistent, show up everyday and deliver value. So there needs to be a fine balance between consistency and agility when you are trying to find the niche you want to specialise in.

How do you transition to specialised services?

Most people can get a lot of help from coworkers, friends and family early on when they just start out. The people who care about us will always try help us early in the career. This tailwind runs out in a year or two though.

If you're a beginner, dip a toe by creating a specialised service. See how it feels because that’ll lead to deeper and more complete forms of specialising.