Narrowing Your Focus and Taking on More Specialized Projects

Starting out as a freelance web designer often means taking whatever projects come our way. After all, we need to eat too (and a drink every now and then isn’t a bad idea).

But, as both your business and skill set evolves, you may come to a crossroads. Do you keep on taking on just any old project that comes along? Or, do you instead narrow your focus and take on more specialized projects? For example, perhaps you only want to work with sites powered by WordPress, or just e-commerce or even projects that fall within a certain price range.

There’s certainly a bright side to working on a variety of projects, especially early in your career. For one, you’ll gain valuable experience. You’re also likely to find out which types of projects you love and some you’re not so crazy about. This is a perfect time to expand your horizons.

Making the Choice to be Choosy

For many years, I would indeed take just about any project that was offered to me.  In recent times, I’ve found that I’m at a point in my career where I want to be a little more particular. Over time I have found that there are certain things that, for one reason or another, I don’t want to do anymore.

One task that I have tired of is the "5 minute update". You know it. It’s that message in your inbox from a client asking you to just change some text around, or something else very minor. I love making my clients happy. That’s one of the cornerstones of my business. But when I have an inbox full of these types of requests, it takes me away from more enjoyable (and lucrative) pursuits.

Vector Flat Illustration Website Development specialized projects
Image Source: Vector Flat Illustration Website Development via Shutterstock

This doesn’t mean that I’m simply cutting off clients from this type of work. It also doesn’t mean that I’m going to charge a premium for it. Instead, my solution is to no longer take on "update only" clients. Meaning, if I didn’t design and/or build your site, I’m not going to offer update service. This allows me to keep current clients happy, while at the same time limiting the amount of this type of work I’ll have to do.

I’m also implementing a similar policy with certain types of software. My primary expertise these days is with WordPress. Therefore, I’m not going to attempt a redesign in Joomla!, Drupal or some random CMS powered by GoDaddy. I’ve come to realize that working with unfamiliar software is kind of like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It’s very time inefficient for both my client and myself. In the end, neither of us wins.

Sweet Freedom

It has actually felt very freeing to implement these policies in my business. I feel like I have more time to work on the things that I love doing, without being saddled with an endless array of things I can’t stand. The result has been quite interesting in that doing this has actually allowed my business to grow.

There are still times when I’m stuck doing things I’d rather not be doing. However, I’ve found that I can outsource some of it. If that’s not possible at the moment, I just make the best of it. At least I know it’s not going to dominate my time day after day like it used to.

Flat Vector Illustration Mobile Application specialized projects
Image Source: Flat Vector Illustration Mobile Application via Shutterstock

One bit of advice I have for those of you thinking of narrowing the focus of your business is to still maintain some flexibility. After all, your goal here shouldn’t be to drive clients away by implementing an iron-fisted policy. It’s rather difficult, and maybe even impossible, to just impose your will on everyone else. This won’t happen overnight.

Instead, gradually make the changes you that you want to see in your business. Establish a goal of spending no more than (x) hours a week working on projects that don’t fit within your core services. Sure, there will be times when this simply isn’t possible. But little by little you can get yourself to a place of comfortable balance.

You might just find that, over time, your business will go in the direction you want. The best part is that you’ll be the one in control of guiding it there.

Author: (15 Posts)

Eric Karkovack is a web designer with well over a decade of experience. You can visit his business site here. In July 2013, Eric released his first eBook: Your Guide to Becoming a Freelance Web Designer. He also has an opinion on just about every subject. You can follow his rants on Twitter @karks88.

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