When first starting out as an independent professional, you may have taken a broad approach to creating your business plan, tried to cover a wide range of services, or revised the direction of your services a few times.
However, a client that needs to outsource a project will look for the specialist that best fits the subject matter of their project. It’s therefore in your best interest to focus your efforts on excelling at a specialty. Define and communicate your area of expertise with these four tips.
How to Define Your Expertise
While it may initially feel limiting to confine yourself to a particular specialty, remember, you’re an independent professional now. That means you are flexible and can evolve into the role in which you feel most comfortable. When defining your niche, consider working through these four steps.
1. Focus on Your Client’s Needs
This step is vital because it includes identifying your target audience. What type of business could use your skills? Find a pattern in the clients you’ve worked with in the past. Are there any needs they all had in common? Your specialty lies at the intersection of the needs your clients share.
2. Quantify Your Services
Can you quantify the services you provide? For example, if you are an IT professional, do you provide instruction guides for program upkeep? Or, if you are a data analyst, are there specific types of data presentations your clients have been happiest with? Find the value your deliverables have in common, and use that to help define your business.
3. Research What Your Competition Is Doing
What do the people who do what you do call themselves? Try this exercise: find 10 independent professionals in your field that you respect and consider to be successful. What do they focus on? What services do they provide? What strengths do you share with them? You may even consider reaching out directly to some for advice.
4. Calculate Your Return on Investment (ROI)
If your business is less about deliverables and more involved in services, quantify how you’ve brought ROI to your clients. How were you specifically involved with bringing that client from where they were to where they are now? You can help to define your specialty by answering how your services add value to the client.
How to Communicate Your Value
See if this sounds familiar: a potential client asks you what you do and after you explain, they look at you blankly. It’s a problem that many independent professionals have—how to describe a complex career. While there’s no easy quick fix, there is a key mindset you can adopt when describing what you do to a potential client: what you do depends on who you are speaking to. For example, if you are attending an IT trade show, your explanation will be different than if you were at an HR summit. Both industries may use your services, but both have their own unique terminology.
In addition, it may be helpful for you to sum up your business in a slogan-like sentence that you can memorize and repeat. Put this slogan on your website and make it part of your brand. This description should be short and snappy so people can easily remember it. With some time and practice, the next time you get “the question,” you’ll be ready.
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