How to Find Clients Within Your Speciality

Many designers have the idea in their head that marketing the widest range of services to the largest possible group is the path to high-paying, quality clients. On the surface, this seems like a good plan of action, but often times, it can have the opposite effect. It’s tempting to position yourself this way when you’re desperately trying to find clients, but it can limit the credibility you have moving forward in your career. Specialization helps you bring a coherent approach to the marketplace. 

Why Should You Specialize?

It’s important to pinpoint the intersection between your services, skills and talents and the needs of the marketplace. You may be talented, but if you don’t have a market of potential clients, you’re not going to make money. The starting point of your freelance career should be firmly rooted in something you are comfortable with and have expertise in. Even if you are still a student, you’ll have a much easier time getting job offers after school if you specialize in something. It will be easier for people to recommend you as that “design guy/gal” or “that guy that’s awesome at logos.”

Start Broad, Evolving Your Speciality Over Time

Choosing a focus is something that might happen organically over time. You could choose a horizontal focus (“I like designing websites for all kinds of companies”) or a vertical focus (“I design for startups only“). You’ll start to notice that once you complete projects in a certain sector, you might find yourself getting more leads from that industry. 

If you’re fresh to the industry, it might be a good idea to be a generalist in the beginning. This gives you a better understanding of what areas of design you enjoy and what areas you dislike. Most people tend to lean towards design or code, depending on your preferences. If you’re unsure, listen to what kinds of leads you’re getting most often (Do I get mostly coding projects or design projects?). This will give you an idea of the services that are being asked of you most often. 

Have More Than One Area of Speciality

Most designers get up in arms when you say you only do design. Specializing doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to a certain realm of work. It would be ideal to have a couple of specialities that you can fall back onto in case something happens within a certain niche and you no longer can find work. You might find that some clients like to work with one person for both the design and code. If you can offer these services and feel confident about it, then go for it.

It also depends on how much time you have and what other projects are on your plate. Having more than one speciality will require more time and effort on your part because you need to be able to speak knowledgeable about the services you’re offering. Even though you might be reaching a wider market, you’ll need to spend more time on the upkeep of your skills.  

Even though you might be reaching a wider market, you’ll need to spend more time on the upkeep of your skills.  

Focus on Businesses Within a Certain Size

When you focus on businesses within a certain size (small, medium, large), it can give you instant credibility. For example, if you’ve worked with a big name company (like Nike or Google) it means you have the capability to understand the challenges faced by these types of companies. Small business owners have different challenges and goals than a Fortune 500 company. Each will have different processes and ways of operating (Big companies are notorious for design by committee). You can market yourself more effectively to these clients once you establish yourself with the size of company you are comfortable with. 

Anticipating the needs of your clients is important to evolving yourself as a designer. Clients will feel more comfortable choosing you if they know you will serve their particular needs. There are a few benefits to specializing:

  • High Rates: Once you become specialized, you can start demanding higher rates for your services.
  • Freedom: Being a specialist has a snowball effect with clients. Once you get one, it’ll become easier for more to follow. This means you have the freedom to pick and choose which projects you take on, not just whatever gets thrown your way. 
  • Credibility: You’ll have the chance to be known as an expert in your field. 

Specializing is something that requires a lot of focused energy and attention, but once you get started, finding clients within your speciality will become a lot more natural. Specializing is the only way you can dominate a marketplace and distinguish yourself amongst the hundreds of other designers competing for the same clients.

Start proclaiming your speciality as soon as you can, and marketing it to the clients that fall under that category.