There is a dark side to the creative professional.
Creatives thrive when the landscape is constantly changing. This makes them highly attractive to work with. They are adaptable and able to solve any problem thrown their way.
But this quality is both a gift and a curse to creative business owners.
Because creatives crave new challenges, they get stuck in generalist gear. They'll take almost any job that comes along because they're afraid of either getting bored or losing business if they say no.
If you're a wedding photographer who's taking any old wedding that comes your way because it feels like a challenge or you have some bills to pay--whether it's ballroom, B&B, historic, coastal, Western, barn, big city, small town, rural, weekday, outdoor, tented, 50 guests, 300 guests...you're a generalist.
If you're a portrait photographer taking any old gig that comes your way because it feels like a challenge or you have some bills to pay--headshots, kids, newborns, maternity, weddings, seniors, pets, corporate, bands, product shots…you're a generalist.
Lord help you if you are doing BOTH weddings & portraits.
Being a generalist is fun and maybe even profitable, for a bit. But it will backfire one day if it hasn’t already.
A backfire is when you're...
- Feeling like you're always competing on price
- Wondering what your year will look like
- Wishing you had a steady pipeline of highly paid, rewarding work instead of a trickle of erratic work
- Sitting by your computer hoping a bride or family will email
- Struggling to blog and market because you don’t know your audience
Is your ulcer acting up yet? Can you hear the backfire coming?
Enter THE SPECIALIST
You might think that specialists are bored because they only do one thing. Or that they're losing business by claiming expertise in one narrow avenue.
It's just the opposite, in fact.
Here is what the world of deep expertise for your creative business looks and feels like:
- Rather than excluding potential clients, you are opening up your access to a more profitable, desirable niche market
- With focus comes confidence. No more learning curve. No more competition.
- Specialists don’t get bored. They get better. Your confidence gives you power to take on larger and larger challenges. You think Picasso got bored painting? Heck no. He got deeper into his craft--and commanded ever higher prices for his work.
- You think generalists do TED Talks? Nope.
- With deep expertise comes deep value. You can charge more and more as you sail deeper into those blue-ocean solo waters, where only you can solve your client’s problems.
Here's the kicker: once you have become a deep expert in one thing, you can choose at any time to take on a project or client outside your scope--on your own terms. It's the best of both worlds.
For those select few (link to 1%) who choose to do the hard work that it takes to plant their flag on the undiscovered worlds of deep expertise, the sum of their parts creates the most stellar advantages in the business landscape.
P.S. This post is dedicated to some mentors and authors we cherish here at 16 Hoops. Thank you to Blair Enns, Jonathan Stark, Jody Maberry, and Philip Morgan (in no particular order!) for helping 16 Hoops dive deep into our own fascinating worlds of expertise.