If the only tool you have is a hammer…

If you specialize, won’t you fall into the trap of mis-applying your expertise?

In other words, won’t the old saying (If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail) start to apply to you? Won’t you be the person who only has a hammer?

No. Here’s why:

  1. Every specialist doctor or lawyer has been through the general, broad curriculum of medical school. You have probably been operating as a generalist for years, which gives you a broad background to draw from even as you become a more highly paid, in-demand specialist.
  2. You’re not a dingaling. As specialist you deeply understand what problems you can solve and which you can’t. After the demand for your services increases, you’ll be able to politely decline projects that aren’t really the “nail” your “hammer” is best suited to. In fact, at a certain point I find that specialist businesses must decline a good percentage of the work that comes their way simply because they don’t have the time to take it on, even if it’s a good fit for them.
  3. Specialization is both a deepening of your most valuable skills and a narrowing of your marketing. You still retain (and may actually frequently use) secondary and tertiary skills. In other words, you don’t become an assembly line worker who literally does only one thing over and over again. But you do narrow down your marketing to focus on that single most valuable skill, and that narrow focus makes your marketing far more effective.

So again, no. You don’t start to go around hammering the wrong problems with your specialized skill. 🙂

Which skill should you choose to specialize in? My book The Positioning Manual is the only book aimed at helping solo freelancers and small dev shops figure that out. Get a copy here: http://thepositioningmanual.com

Talk to you soon,
-P

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