Should we specialize?

Philip Morgan

I got this question via my post opt-in survey:

We have a 24-year generalist portfolio, and a successful track record in branding and design and the provision of tactical creative services to a wide range or organizations. I’m unsure of how to convert that to specialization and if it makes sense in $NON-US-LOCATION.

After over 5 years of helping people with this kind of decision, my advice about "should I specialize?" or "does it make sense for us to specialize?" reduces to this:

If you want to specialize, do it. If you don't want to specialize, then don't, and don't feel bad about not wanting to.

I know that could come across as smug, condescending, or like I don't care. I don't mean it that way at all, it's just that that's the simplest way to turn the following truth into a recommendation:

For specialization to work, you gotta want it.

That elaborates to:

For soloists, you gotta want it.

For firms with staff, the managing owner has to want it.

I'm an advocate for specialization, but you can't want things for others, and I can want specialization for anyone else.

If you really want it, the process will be an exciting transformation.

If you don’t want it, the exact same process will be a stressful slog.

Long-time email list members know this, but I'll enumerate the ways I've tried to help folks make a level-headed decision about whether they want to specialize:

  • Lots of conversations with those who have specialized in the first 100 or so episodes of what's now called The Self-Made Expert Podcast:
  • A book that teaches you how specialization works, how to think about specializing, and how to make an effective decision if you decide you want it:
  • 615,989 words of daily emails, many of which discuss specialization: /daily-emails-archive/ (Not well organized, so not really recommended as a starting point)
  • A much better organized content hub on the topic of specializing: /specialization/

I believe all of the above is very useful (except for the daily email archive which is a stream of consciousness archive). I hope that if you're unsure whether you want to specialize it helps you get clear on that.

And if you decide you don't want it, don't feel bad about not wanting it. There are lots of other ways to make a great living on this big beautiful planet.