DON’T Be A Jack Of All Trades

In 2008, I packed in my corporate job and set up my own business. It wasn’t the wisest time to do it (remember when the recession started?) but nearly a decade later I’m still my own boss and I’m proud (and relieved) to say my business has flourished.

So I’d like to think that gives me a certain amount of credibility when it comes to offering advice to those just starting the adventure of going it alone. In fact, I’ve recently had a number of individuals ask for any pearls of wisdom I’d be willing to share to help them grow their business.

So here’s what I tell them…

There’s a temptation to make the scope of what you offer as broad as possible – the logic being that you’ll appeal to a wider range of people and therefore have a greater chance one of them will buy. Or to put it another way, most people take the ‘Jack of All Trades’ approach, promoting every last thing they can do in the hope something will appeal.

My advice is DON’T. Because what people often overlook is the rest of that saying, which is:

‘Jack of All Trades…but Master of None’

And who wants to hire someone who isn’t a master at what they do?

If you keep your remit too broad ie the range of products you sell or services you offer, it makes it impossible for people to get a handle on exactly what it is they’re buying. And if they can’t do that, they’ll go elsewhere. (The same goes for trying to put too much into your personal brand – you make it harder for people to buy into you.)

It applies in the corporate world too.

If you’re trying to make your name as a ‘go-to’ person within a company, you need to specify exactly what it is people should go to you for and the type of person they’ll get when they go there.

So whether you’re setting up your business or climbing a career ladder, my advice is:

Find your niche

  • You might narrow your scope by geography – focusing on a particular area of the country.
  • You might narrow your scope by gender – focusing on men, or women, or those in the transgender sphere.
  • You might narrow your scope by life stage – focusing on children, or teenagers, or newlyweds, or new parents, or parents of teenagers, or people in the middle of their career, or people about to retire, or those who have retired.
  • You might narrow your scope by sector – focusing on financial services, or telecoms, or engineering, or anything else you can think of.
  • You might narrow your scope by job title – focusing on trainee lawyers, or senior lawyers, or lawyers who have made partner.
  • You might narrow your scope by type of problem – focusing on those who lack confidence, or need help dealing with a bad boss, or planning their next career move.

Better still, niche within a niche.

For instance, I know a coach who helps parents [life stage] of difficult teenage children [problem + age] to learn how to communicate with them [type of problem].

Or anther coach who helps women [gender] over 40 [age] who are single [marital status] and want to find a man to gain the confidence to do that [type of problem].

I myself have niched by only offering personal branding [service type] instead of throwing team or company branding into the mix. I’ve also niched by clients, focusing on FTSE100 and global corporates with recognisable brands [company size + presence] particularly in the areas of finance, engineering and healthcare [sectors].

Some people say to me, “But what about all the other people I can help? If I niche, I’ll exclude them.” In some ways, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, as it’d certainly help you focus your efforts. But in reality:

Niching doesn’t automatically exclude other audiences.

If you’re good, people will find you regardless. For instance, I’ve been approached by and worked with clients in the telecoms, retail, grocery, oil and gas, manufacturing, media, legal and accounting sectors, even though I haven’t specifically marketed myself there.

So what would your advice be? Is being a Jack of All Trades a better option than I’m making it out to be? Or have you found your business (or career) has taken off once you niched into a specific area? You know me – I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts with a comment.

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2 responses to “DON’T Be A Jack Of All Trades”

  1. Denis Kaye says:

    Excellent advice Jennifer. All I’d add is to say you need to be sure your preferred niche has the spending authority and ability to pay that you need for your success otherwise you’ll find you have a new hobby rather than a new business.

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