The Easy Way to Get Bigger, Better Clients

the right specialty helps freelancersIf you have a bad leak and water is pouring onto your floor, you’re going to call a plumber, not a handyman. The plumber is an expert in solving your problem, because plumbing is his/her specialty. The handyman isn’t.

When clients hire a freelancer, they want an expert too. And they’re willing to pay well for a freelancer with the right speciality.

Get the Clients You Deserve

That’s why specializing is the fastest, easiest way to get bigger, better clients in good times and in bad. In a recession, freelancers with in-demand specialties will stand out in a sea of freelancers.

Specializing also helps you get the clients you deserve with less work and in less time. By specializing, you’ll learn more about your clients (your target markets). You’ll know who your prospective clients (prospects) are, where to find them, what they need, and how you can meet those needs. You’ll be able to show clients that you understand their needs and have the expertise to help them.

Choose the Right Specialty(ies)

Choosing a specialty, or niche, and moving toward it takes time for most freelancers. Your specialty(ies) can—and usually should—change as you get more experience and learn more about the market for your services. Start more broadly and narrow down your specialty over time.

You can start with two or three specialties, and may even keep two or three specialties throughout your freelance career. In a recession, it’s great to have two or three specialties. If one of your specialties takes a nosedive, you still have other clients and freelance work in other specialties.

A moneymaking specialty offers lots of opportunities for freelancers like you, even in a recession, and makes it easy for you to find and reach prospective clients.

Finding your moneymaking specialty(ies) does take time and effort, but the work you put in now will help you get great clients throughout your freelance career.

Decide How to Specialize

The most common ways to specialize are by industry, by project, or by a combination of industry and project. For most freelancers, industry specialization is best, especially if you’re fairly new to freelancing or have been freelancing for a while but aren’t as successful as you’d like to be. Industry specialization is a broader way to specialize. And it lets you choose industries with lots of opportunities and high-paying clients, even in a recession. You can do work outside your specialty(ies) too.

Industry Specialization

Industry specialization means focusing on an industry, part of an industry, and/or target markets within an industry.

Example based on my specialty:

  • Industry specialty: Medical/healthcare
  • Parts of the industry where I focus: Healthcare services and consumer/patient education
  • Target markets: Hospitals/health systems, large medical practices, disease-focused health organizations, healthcare communications agencies, and patient education organizations.

Project Specialization

Project specialization is based on services. This is very broad, so it’s harder to figure out what type of clients to target. For most freelancers, project specialization is the worst choice during a recession. Examples are writing white papers and case studies, editing books, or web design.

Combined Industry and Project Specialization

The narrowest specialization combines industry and project specialization. Examples are editing for authors of books and web design for the financial services industry.

Combined industry and project specialization let you focus on specific types of clients and services. There’s less competition because your specialization is so narrow. This type of specialty generally works best if you’re an experienced freelancer and you know your target markets really well.

But unless you’re already working in a recession-proof industry(ies) and providing services that are still in high demand, this narrow focus will limit your opportunities.

Choose a Money-Making Specialty

Whatever type of specialty(ies) you choose, go for the money. Focus on industries, target markets, specific clients, and projects (services) that offer high pay and lots of opportunities—even in a recession.

The best clients are usually large businesses, especially businesses that sell products or services to other businesses (B2B) rather than to consumers (B2C). There are other types of high- paying clients too.

During the COVID-19 recession, some industries will grow and others will shrink. Some industries could go either way. After studying what experts in investments and innovation are saying, and reading advice from other experts who work with freelancers, here are the likely winners and losers during this recession.

Winning Industries

  • DIY home improvement
  • E-commerce, including for health products
  • E-learning, including homeschooling
  • Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Logistics and delivery
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Self-help
  • Taxes
  • Technology, including for remote work
  • Tele-health

Within industries, some parts of the industry or target market will do better than others. For example, healthcare is usually recession proof. But the COVID-19 recession is different. The coronavirus pandemic put an unheard-of level of stress on hospitals/health systems. They were operating in a crisis mode for months, caring only for patients with COVID-19 and other patients with life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

States mandated that hospitals/health systems couldn’t do elective surgery or provide many other services. This sharply reduced revenues. A focus on crisis communications combined with lower revenues led to these clients stopping many projects involving freelancers. Outside of primary care, states essentially shut down most other medical practices. These practices also saw steep reductions in revenue. It will take time for hospitals/health systems and medical practices to get back to business as usual.

But tele-health emerged as a big winner in the COVID-19 recession. Other companies that come up with ways to improve healthcare virtually will also be big winners.

Losing Industries

If you’re working in any of these industries, start expanding or change your specialty(ies) now:

  • Airlines
  • Cruise companies
  • Investment banking
  • Tourism in general
  • Traditional retail
  • Oil and gas
  • Professional sports and entertainment.

Other Industries

If your industries aren’t on the list of winners or losers, they could go either way in the COVID-19 recession. Consider your options and start expanding to some winning industries soon.

In-Demand Services

Along with choosing industries or target markets with high demand, focus on core services that clients still need and are willing to pay for. Content marketing, for example, continues to boom, while writing (or editing) for magazines and newspapers continues to plummet.

Other core services include other types of web-based content and any service that helps clients sell their core products and services. Many clients are eliminating or doing fewer print projects now. Printing and mailing a newsletter, for example, costs a lot more than doing e-newsletters. So e-newsletters and web content are core services.

Even clients who are cutting costs still need to market their core services and products. Figure out the core services within specific industries or target markets, and even for individual clients. Then focus on services you already provide or could provide that match client needs.


Assess Your Current Specialty

Read What You Need to Know About Your Freelance Specialty(ies) to learn how to assess your specialty and if necessary, how to expand or change your specialty.


Become a Fearless Freelancer

Fearless Freelancer bookThis post is based on my book The Fearless Freelancer: How to Thrive in a Recession

Steady, high-paying clients who need your help are still out there. The Fearless Freelancer will show you where they are and how to get them.

Choosing your money-making specialty is 1 of 10 steps that will help you thrive in the COVID-19 recession.

My book gives you an easy-to-follow, proven process for doing this—from a freelancer who’s thrived during two recessions and now, during the COVID-19 recession.

The print and e-book are book available now on Amazon.

Recession-Proof Your Freelance Business

Learn more about The Fearless Freelancer:
How to Thrive in the Recession
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