With over 35% of the global workforce taking on at least one freelance project a year, it’s no surprise that competition exists in the freelance world. How do you separate yourself from others to land your first, second, and fifth clients?

One of the most popular questions I hear from those interested in freelancing is around specializing. Is it necessary to find a niche or specialize in order to be successful as a freelancer?

The short answer: It’s not necessary, but it does help.

The long answer: Finding a specialty provides a multitude of benefits to you, the freelancer. This blog post will cover some of those benefits.

You become a subject matter expert.

Clients are looking for someone who they can trust to get the job done. Whether you’re a freelance writer, developer, social media marketer, or clown, clients are putting trust in you to see results from their projects. By specializing in a given niche, you’re getting more and more experience in one area of specialty. With more experience, you become more of an expert in your area.

I chose to specialize in ecommerce back in 2014, and narrowed my focus even further to building Shopify stores for merchants. The web is vast, and by deciding to focus 100% of my efforts on Shopify, I was able to build a brand for myself as a go-to Shopify expert. That expertise led to more work, which is why a full six years later I haven’t had to touch another web platform.

You can charge more for your work.

Another great benefit of specializing means you can charge more for your work. As you gain experience in a particular niche, you can increase your rates because there’s less competition out there to do the same quality of work. Whether you’re billing hourly or by the project, or perhaps you’ve mastered value-based pricing (good job!), you can continue to charge more, making more money in less time. While my hourly rate started at $50/hr back in 2014, I’m now charging as much as $300/hr for the same work. There’s no cap to your rates; there will always be clients willing to pay your higher rates for a more premium service.

You’ll become more efficient at the work you do.

Practice makes perfect, and the more you practice, the more efficient you’ll become. Whether that means taking on more work in the same amount of time (e.g. being able to take on two projects in the same time you were taking on one) or taking on the same amount of work but working fewer hours per week (maybe you’re happy with your current income level and wish to work fewer hours per week), you get the added benefit of choosing how much work you’ll perform with your time.

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If you decide to focus on a niche, that does mean you will have to begin turning away work if the project doesn’t fit your specialty. Saying no to money can be difficult, but remember that you only have so much time in a day or in a week, and you want to work on the projects that make you enjoy the work you’re doing.

Now, it’s important to note that you can absolutely be successful as a freelancer if you don’t specialize. If you like to keep your options open for different types of projects, that's completely fine. What’s most important is making sure you are clear on your website about what types of projects you take on.

At the end of the day, it’s your choice. You could give specializing a shot, and if you find yourself too limited by available projects, you can widen up your service offering. Or you can start with a broader approach and then narrow your focus as you figure out what types of clients you like working with. That’s the beauty of freelancing - you call the shots.

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