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Being a Generalist Vs Niching Down

Talent -

When I was studying graphic design at university, we were told that in our first two years we should experiment all that the creative industry has to offer. I did exactly that and tried many different media forms such as photography, physical media, digital media, illustration, and typography.

I thought I had to be great at all these things and that I should try to incorporate as much as I could into my projects. I didn’t enjoy half those things and only ever did it for the grade on the project. If they saw my experimentation, they were happy, but I wasn’t happy with most of my outcomes at university. It gave me the impression that I should be doing all these things at expert level.

Fast forward two years later, I discovered niching down. I found it through a YouTube video by Chris Do from TheFutur channel, where he had a discussion with Blair Enns about his book “The Win Without Pitching Manifesto”, and explained that being a generalist in the world of design can negatively impact us as creatives. He explains that being a generalist puts the client in a position of power. They dictate the price, the deliverables, the revisions, and if you don’t comply, they’ll take their business elsewhere, because they can.

But when you niche down, you become the specialist in that area and the power is shifted in your favour. You are now the expert in that field and clients are actively seeking your expertise. Of course, we seek the client’s approval and work collaboratively with them, but we are not tools that are simply being told what buttons to press on a computer to make something happen. We must work together with the client cohesively but as creatives, we should be given freedom to produce a piece of work that reflects our expertise.

A great example of niching down can be found in a woman who, after completing a business boot camp with TheFutr, decided that she wanted to be an expert in ethical vegan companies. At a glance, this seems like such a small niche in the worldwide market that it barely makes up any of it. However, when we look deeper, we start to see that it is actually a billion-dollar industry! By niching down her offering, she became the go-to “person” for these companies and has tapped into such a profitable industry.

We must take examples like this and become our own specialists. We must find what we love and assess its position in the market, and only then can we become experts in that field. Ultimately, in the long term, it is detrimental to getting our name out and securing clients. Of course, there are exceptions to this and more than one way to niche down, but generally we should try to pick a forte and own it.