Specialization School is an online masterclass for self-employed software developers who are ready to escape the generalist plateau
Join the Waiting List
You'll get an email with instructions on what to do next. In that email, I'll invite you to schedule a call with me to check for fit and answer your questions.
There's no obligation and no sales pressure at all. If you apply, the ball's in your court and you decide when you want to start Specialization School.
Week 1: Understand How Specialization Works
- The business value of specialization
- The personal cost/price of specialization
- Vertical, Horizontal, Platform, Multidimensional, and Blue Ocean Specialization
- The marketing function of specialization
- Examples of specialization
- The lifecycle of specialization
Week 2: Inventory Assets
- Inventory and classify previous client/work experience
- Inventory and classify skills
- Separate inputs from outcomes
- Identify areas of strong proof, access, and interest
- Identify low-hanging fruit for high-value growth (growth that produces more value for clients, not growth for it’s own sake)
Week 3 - 4: Develop Hypothesis
- Choose specialization strategy
- Define threshold of minimum compelling expertise (MCE)
- Define ideal client/buyer
- Concierge feasibility study:
- Hype Cycle context
- Concierge research on competitors and profiles their marketing footprint
- Concierge research associations, conferences, and buy-able lists
- Concierge research on job posting data as a proxy
- Based on above, Philip grades specialization feasibility, scale of opportunity, difficulty, and profit potential
- Define hierarchy of specialization approaches and planned fallback sequence based on personal preferences, prior proof, and market realities
Week 5 - 10: Gather Relevant Evidence
- Market responsiveness test via cold email:
- Concierge list-building to get ~150 prospects
- Concierge outreach setup with “burner” gmail account and outreach automation tool
- If substandard response to this initial “ping” then fall back to other options in the list of approaches and quickly set up outreach to second target
- Student-driven online research while waiting for outreach to yield interview appointments
- Demo interview, practice interview(s) with others in cohort
- Develop customized interview protocol for each student, informed by prior findings
- Identify H2 problems through customer development-style interviews
- Concierge list-building
- Concierge copywriting for outreach emails
- Mock interviews
- Concierge online research
Week 11: Achieve Confidence About Specialization
- Discuss and contextualize the evidence you have gathered so far
- Risk assessment
- Develop a high-level Plan A and a Plan B
- Develop positioning statements based on plans A & B and market awareness
Week 12: Finished Developing Personal 2-Year Plan/“Specialization Framework”
- Develop personal specialization/biz-dev milestones (number of leads, clients, etc.)
- Identify daily, monthly, and weekly habits and other activities that will contribute to personal milestones
- Identify and document ideal and acceptable results thresholds
Learn more about how Specialization School works
Who is Specialization School For?
Generalist self-employed software developers face a revenue ceiling at around $200k/year. You can use several optimization and scaling strategies to move past that ceiling:
- Working harder
- Increasing your rate arbitrarily until you get pushback
- Building a team so you can win larger, more profitable projects
There is another way, though, to move past that $200k revenue ceiling. It is the path of developing deeper, more valuable expertise. This path unlocks the following possibilities:
- Pricing based on value delivered rather than hours worked
- Cultivating expertise that increases your profitability
- Creating products, like books or digital training products, that both produce revenue while you sleep and generate leads for your services
Specialization School is for self-employed software developers who want to develop deeper, more valuable expertise by specializing.
The most successful Specialization School students share the following attributes:
- You get excited about seeing your business improve while also having the patience to execute on multi-year growth plans that involve some delayed gratification
- You are generating at least $90k USD (or your local equivalent if not in the USA) in gross revenue
- You have one day per week you can spend working on this program and if client "emergencies" interfere with this day you are able to make it up on your own time within a few days
- You are willing to operate outside your comfort zone in order to discover new growth options for your business
Perhaps the most important ingredient of success for specialists is a desire to use deeper, more valuable expertise (rather than flexibility, "work ethic", or hustle) to drive your business's success.
If that describes you and you've already figured out how to specialize in a way that gets leads flowing into your inbox and clients happily paying a premium rate to work with you, then 1) you probably don't need Specialization School 2) drop me a line because I'd love to feature your success story by interviewing you on my podcast, The Consulting Pipeline Podcast. 🙂
But if you're still running a generalist software development business and you're wondering how to specialize in a low-risk, sustainable way, Specialization School might just be the perfect intense, 3-month bootcamp experience you need.
Check out the approach I use to help you discover your ideal path to specialization:
We begin by mapping out all the ways you could specialize.
By understanding the 5 fundamental approaches to specialization, you'll begin to understand the most productive and sustainable ways to focus your expertise.
Almost every successful specialist has a background as a generalist. Your generalist background brings multiple assets to the table: interests, skills, and work experience you can use to speed your future development of valuable expertise.
We'll discover and inventory those assets so you can choose a path to specialization that has as much of a built-in head start as possible.
If successfully specializing was a process of merely focusing on your deepest interest or biggest group of skills, then there would be no need for Specialization School.
Successfully specializing involves finding the overlap between your interests and the market's need for specialized expertise, and then subsequently marketing your company based on that overlap. Market research is how we identify the market's need for specialized expertise.
Market research is often a frustrating, drawn-out process, especially when it involves interviews with decision makers and buyers. With Specialization School, the frustrating, low-value parts of market research are handled by my staff, freeing you up to benefit from the evidence and insights we gather on your behalf without the learning curve and administrative overhead of having to learn how to gather that evidence yourself.
Specialization School uses a phased market research process to create a very favorable ratio of time spent on research to amount of evidence gathered.
In the second phase of this research, you will be interviewing decision makers or buyers at the kind of companies that would need your specialized expertise. That's why the most successful Specialization School students are willing to operate outside their comfort zone. Again, my staff handle all the low-value outreach work of getting these interviews, you just schedule and conduct the interviews yourself (after completing some practice interviews first) to gather the critical evidence you need to achieve confidence in decision making.
If you change your business focus with a low degree of confidence in how you've chosen to specialize, you will constantly undermine your own success. You'll be second guessing your decision, and always holding back on marketing your expertise assertively.
If there's a way to simplify the results of Specialization School down to 1 sentence, it's this: Specialization School helps you make a very confident decision about how to specialize your business.
With that confidence, you can act more assertively to reap the benefits of specializing. That's really what Specialization School is designed to do. It provides a rigorous process that helps you gather a preponderance of evidence that leads to the deep confidence you need to make the most profitable possible decision about how to specialize.
- Some content will be delivered via self-paced video lessons, and some will be surfaced in weekly 90-minute group video calls
- Up to two 30m 1:1 "trouble ticket" calls per month with me (Philip Morgan) if you need help getting unstuck, troubleshooting, or talking through a specific issue.
- My research assistant will act as your personal "outreach and market research concierge", performing some of the needed market research 100% for you, and setting up outreach campaigns for you.
A Unique Program
- I've worked with hundreds of self-employed software developers on this critical transition from generalist --> specialist.
- I've seen almost every permutation of background, personality type, motivation, and level of expertise.
- I've developed a market research protocol that provides high quality evidence without the cost of engaging an expensive market research firm.
- Helping devs specialize in a way that benefits their business has been the primary focus of my business for over 2 years now.
There are others (David C. Baker & Blair Enns)who work with larger, more mature professional services businesses on positioning and specialization. There are others who touch on the issue of specialization inside a more broad coaching or training program (Jonathan Stark, Kai Davis, & uGurus Uacademy are three examples). But there just isn't anybody else who is as uniquely qualified to help you make this particular transition, and whose business focuses 100% on helping generalists make the right decision about how to specialize.
Before we move on... and just to be crystal clear... the consultants and programs I mentioned above are world class, high quality offerings offered by colleagues of mine that I deeply respect. I'm not denigrating these offerings at all. In fact, if you apply to Specialization School and we both agree it's not the right fit for your needs, I'll probably refer you to one of the consultants or programs above. I mention them simply to point out the unique place Specialization School occupies in the larger world of programs designed to help you improve your business. There are broad programs that help you with multiple issues, one of which is positioning or specialization. And then there is Specialization School, which is laser focused on helping you with one issue only: how to specialize with minimum risk and maximum reward.
Specialization School itself is a new offering, but I've been working with self-employed software developers on specializing for years now. Here's what my clients have to say about this work: https://philipmorganconsulting.com/what-my-clients-say/
Specialization School FAQ
What’s the structure of Specialization School? How does it work?
- This is a 12-week online program
- Class size is capped at 5 participants to make it easy for introverts to participate in group sessions and to make sure nobody "falls between the cracks" due to an overly large class size
- The program takes you through a highly structured progression from theory, to personal inventory, to a rapid market market feasibility study, to a deep market research process, and finally to analyzing the evidence you have gathered and organizing a personalized plan for specializing in a way that you find enjoyable and your business finds highly profitable.
- Classes are held online using Zoom, a pretty great videoconferencing software that's pretty easy to use and pretty reliable.
What kind of time commitment is required?
- Be able to spend about 1 day per week working on Specialization School activities
- Have enough flexibility in your schedule to set up ~4 30-minute appointments per week with research candidates. You'll need to schedule phone or Skype calls with these people based on their availability, so you'll need some flexibility in your schedule.
What will my ROI be?
That depends on a number of factors, including your level of engagement with the not-easy work I'll be asking you to do.
The best source of information I have about the long term payoff of specialization is:
- David C. Baker has reviewed the financial performance of something like 1,000 professional services firms and found that specialized firms starts at $160/hr while unspecialized firms charge $120 to $160/hr.
- My own personal experience shows that specialists can earn an effective hourly rate of $300/hr after about 2 years of career development, and closer to $1,000/hr when they are more established and have a more robust hybrid offering of products and services. This does not always translate to a yearly revenue of $300/hr x 2000 hours = $600k because:
- Even full time consultants billing hourly are unlikely to bill that many hours in a year
- Most of the specialists I know have moved away from hourly billing and instead price their work using fixed prices or productized services, making calculating an exact hourly rate somewhat difficult
- Many specialists opt to work less than full time because they'd rather spend time with family, hobbies, or deepening their own expertise.
3 months seems like a short time period for making such a critical business decision.
For several years now I've run the Positioning Accelerator Program (PAP), a self-paced mentoring group for devs who are specializing. In that time, I've noticed that the fastest-moving participants complete the process of researching and deciding how to specialize their business in 3 months. Others choose to take longer or move more slowly, but again the fastest moving participants need about 3 months to reach the point of feeling confident in their decision.
I've done 3 things to help replicate that velocity for you:
- Assembled every accelerant I've discovered and refined in years of mentoring PAP participants and made it part of Specialization School.
- Carefully structured the timeline of market research activities to eliminate dead time and un-necessary lead time.
- Offloaded slow-t0-learn and low value tasks (list-building and running the email outreach campaign to recruit research candidates are two examples) to my team (me and a research assistant) so you don't have to waste time learning stuff that is valuable but not nearly as valuable as the other outcomes of Specialization School.
In short, the "Gantt Chart"of activities for Specialization School is based on a road-tested approach derived from PAP, and the sum total of those activities will present you with a body of evidence that you can use to make a great decision about how to specialize your business.
3 months is aggressive, but it's do-able. And given that it's do-able in 3 months, there's no reason to make it take any longer than that.