September 21, 2023

The Generalist Versus Specialist Dilemma – How it Influences Your Business Direction

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The Generalist Versus Specialist Dilemma – How it Influences Your Business Direction

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Are you a generalist or a specialist in what you do? While it might sound fancy and sparkly to immediately go with “specialist”, it’s worth properly understanding what the two terms mean first. Because specialist might not actually be the right term for what you do. Here’s a quick and easy example for you…

On the left we’ve got Emma. Emma is a social media manager and she works with clients in whatever capacity they need for their social media content. She loves working on all the platforms (and learning new ones when they come along)!

On the right, though, we have Mandy. Mandy is also a social media manager but she only works with people on their LinkedIn accounts. She’s tried all the other platforms but they just don’t suit her or her ideal clients.

So, to make it super clear… a generalist is someone who covers things in a broader, more general kind of way, while a specialist has narrowed their field of interest down significantly (also known as niching) and they’ve become a specialist in a very particular area.

You can find generalists and specialists in any industry, including for coaches and service providers, so it’s worth understanding the pros and cons of each approach.

Generalist V. Specialist: The Pros and Cons

I should start off by saying this is no right or wrong choice here. Whether you opt to generalize or specialize only matters based on what works best for you and your business. So do keep that in mind as you read through this post.

Let’s start, then, with generalists. By positioning yourself as a generalist, you cast a much broader net which means a potentially larger pool of people to work with and choose from. In the case of being a social media manager, though, this might mean that you’ll attract people who don’t understand the variances between Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Another example could be generalizing as a business coach. This might mean you’ll attract people from really diverse industries like automotive and retail.

On the flip side, by defining yourself as a specialist, such as being a business coach for cake and candy artists (ooh, that sounds fun!) or a career coach for software professionals, you immediately become more niche and start getting recognized as an expert in your specific field.

So, Why Become a Specialist?

Specialization, in whatever your chosen niche, allows you to serve specific industries where your expertise lies. As a social media manager, for example, you might choose to focus on a particular profession, such as only working with coaches and/or service providers. Another way you could choose a niche is specifically in the industry, so you might decide, instead, to only work with cake and candy businesses.

However you choose to refine your specialism, choose a field or area that you understand well and that you enjoy working in so that you can serve your clients effectively and to the absolute best of your abilities.

Attracting Your Ideal Client

Specialists are exactly that because they only work with specific clientele, which means it’s important to know how to attract those people to work with you in the first place. This can be done by sharing your values and speaking those values to the audience you want to serve (not sure how to create these? Check out the Vibrant & Visible masterclass here).

For example: If you’re a social media manager for business coaches, you might specify that you work with those who show up authentically in their business, that they’re driven by their heart, and that they’re interested in serving others.

Getting specific with a definition like this helps you to avoid casting a broad net, the result of which means far less frustration for you and your audience as it’s clear who you serve!

The Art of Niching Down

Everyone talks about niching down, finding a niche, “pick your niche”, right? I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times before. Along with the saying “the riches are in the niches”. Getting specific, though, is an art—one many people have yet to refine. Anyone can niche to a specific industry, profession, or type of client. But the more specific you can get, right down to a micro level, the easier it’s going to be for you to get really nitty gritty with your message and what you’re talking about.

Hone in on one ideal person you’d like to work with (yes, the ever-elusive dream client!), the one person you absolutely cannot wait to work with. What do they do? What’s their lifestyle like? How can you support them in that? By understanding everything about them, especially why they do what they do, you can better tailor your services to meet that one specific person’s needs.

Attracting Your Ideal Client on Social Media

Like attracts like, right? So it stands to reason that the people you’re going to attract are the ones who are most similar to you. They recognize traits in you that they see in themselves. And who doesn’t want to find more people they get on with like that?

Having a super clear idea of your dream client and putting that out into the world means you’ll inevitably attract similar and like-minded individuals. That’s why it’s so crucial to stay authentic to who you are. Be clear on exactly who you are and why someone would want to work with you. Having a clear understanding of who your ideal audience is, it’s much easier for you to be able to put yourself out there authentically and in a way that’ll immediately resonate with them.

No More “Fake It Till You Make It”, Okay?

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, then you’ll no doubt have heard the phrase “just fake it till you make it!”. Partly as an attempt to bolster confidence, but also to push through marketing your business, it lacks the authenticity we look for these days when we’re searching for people to work with.

Creating a “fake” lifestyle to attract a certain type of client is only going to draw the wrong kinds of people to you. And are you going to want to keep faking it forever? Probably not. Be clear on the values of the business you serve and also that those values align with yours. It’s the only way you’ll be able to authentically work with them, no faking necessary.

Utilizing Your Niche in Social Media Management

When you know what your niche is and how to talk about it, you gotta double down on it when marketing yourself on social media. The more you talk about the things you believe in, know, and understand, the more your content will resonate with your ideal audience. So, for example, if it matters to you that you support sustainable businesses, your social media needs to reflect this ethos. What ways can you show this? You could share images of you using sustainable products, talk about sustainable businesses you support, know and recommend, and really paint a picture that aligns with your audience’s values. The more you talk about it, the more people will start to come to know you for this. It’s an increasing cycle of expertise and authenticity that they will quickly learn is something to know about you.

The Importance of the Ideal Client Avatar

Knowing your client is one of the most important aspects of defining your niche and your message when it comes to running your business. Without having a super clear idea of who they are, how are you supposed to know what to talk about, what to say and how to position yourself?

Getting clear on your client avatar is a key step. Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s just a fancy way of saying dream client (seriously, it took me years to figure that one out!). Look around you and choose a prominent figure who holds many of the traits of a dream client for you. It might be a celebrity or someone you’ve seen in the media. It could be a family member, friend or fellow business owner. It might even be a previous client you’ve already worked with. You might even decide to opt for a totally fictional character, and that’s okay too. Get to know them really well. What do they do? What’s their lifestyle? What are their likes and dislikes? Where do they shop, eat, meet with friends and so on? By getting granular about this person, real or not, and really getting to know them, the information you pull together will help inform your business direction and messaging strategy for many years to come.

The Power of Specializing and Niching Down

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with generalizing, especially in the beginning when you’re still finding your way, figuring out what you like to do and who you like to serve. But making the choice to position yourself as a generalist or specialist is an important decision for you and your business.

There are definitely plus points to being a generalist, I won’t lie! But I do wholeheartedly believe that niching down and becoming a specialist brings with it the advantage of targeted client attraction and the ability to deliver more tailored, effective services. By defining your ideal client, aligning your personal and professional values, and portraying an authentic image on social media, you can effectively resonate with your target audience and enhance your business performance.

Remember, the process of niching down begins with understanding who you want to serve and how you want to serve them. The exercise of creating your ideal client avatar or dream client is instrumental in honing your messaging strategy. As you paint this picture, you not only clarify your own business direction but also enable potential clients to see themselves in the narrative you create. Your unique approach, authenticity, and specialist knowledge become the compelling factors that attract your dream clients to your business. So, take the plunge, niche down, and watch your business flourish. I’d love to help you see how you can do that in your business. Book a free discovery call and let’s start figuring out your specialty.

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