Monday, January 14, 2013

Are you a Jack (or Jill) of all trades? Oh dear.

It's understandable, especially when times are hard and work is hard to come by, that people will grab any offer of paid business that presents itself. After all, if someone is offering to pay for your services, it would be a crime to turn them away, wouldn't it? Well, that depends. If you're looking for someone to do some work for you, I suspect you'd want a specialist - someone with a great deal of expertise in the work you want to pay them for. The people who employ you want the same thing. If you're offered something which is outside your competence, requiring skills and knowledge you don't possess, the best thing to do is to politely decline, and recommend someone with the right skills and knowledge. 

Alas, many people short-change not only their clients, but also themselves by taking on work that they aren't suited to. That's no way to build a long career, or to get recommended.

I see it happening with speakers, especially those early in their career, who understandably want to speak as much as possible. Of course, it's always possible to bluff your way through a gig, but how authentic is that? Another approach, which I see used across professional services, is to respond to a request by saying "I know you asked for that, but what you really need is this - and that's what I do". In my opinion, that's just as bad, if not worse, since it's suggesting that the potential client has no idea what they want.

So if you're trying to be a Jack or Jill of all trades, think again. The most successful professionals are those who specialise in a small niche, so that they not only have a huge body of knowledge, but everyone knows what they do. They are the people who get recommended. They are the people who can charge the highest fees, because they offer the highest value. So find your niche, stay in it and become the best there is. Then you will never again have to take work that you really shouldn't do.

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