When I first started freelancing in the early '90s, my specialism was death. Well, I say death, I mean dead people. And when I say dead people, I mean their money. I'd worked, briefly, as a Probate Commissioner in the '80s and had built on the experience while at Which? Magazine, co-authoring a wills and probate kit and writing both reports and book chapters on how to deal with someone's estate.
So, when I was setting out for the first time as as an independent, I had a niche: a specialism where I really was an authority on my subject. It got me more work on titles for accountants, for the Government and even a couple of BBC radio appearances. That niche led me to new building new relationships with editors and commissioners who used me not just to write about wills and estates, but other aspects of legal issues and, making a sideways leap, investments for the elderly. It all helped me get up and running and gave me a regular income stream in those three years of running my own show.
I've long-since left those initial specialisms behind as organisational communication has filled my plate over the last decade and a half, but have never been afraid to use specific experiences: companies and industries worked for, and areas within those organisations, as my entry card when looking for work.
As a microbusiness, the worst thing you can possibly be is the 'jack of all trades and master of none'. If that's the case, you're always going to be competing for work with others who are just a little bit more specialist in the area where you're trying to pick up work. That will make your business development harder- and you'll have to compromise on other factors (price!) to improve your chance of landing the work.
I pick up a lot of work for finance teams, IT and facilities management - I'd love to get some of the sexy marketing stuff, but have built my best relationships around the back office. It goes back to the days when I was running comms for Barclays' Group Planning, Operations and Technology. It may not be the sexiest of areas - but I've found a good niche where I can operate effectively.