Why You Need To Pick One Thing To Be Brilliant At

I used to spend summer weekends in a small Michigan town about 70 miles outside of Chicago. There wasn’t enough local or seasonal demand to keep certain kinds of shops in business, so you’d buy your landscaping supplies, do your laundry, rent videos and buy chocolates (seriously) all in the same store. The kitsch was part of its charm.

But the world has changed.

With the flick of a wrist, you can get pretty much any specialty item delivered to your doorstep. You’ve become accustomed to getting exactly what you want—fast.

So naturally, when you go searching for help with your business, you expect the same experience. You don’t want to waste time with a generalist who doesn’t get it.

And neither does your client.

They want the one who specializes in THEIR situation. Their industry. Their big fat hairy problem.

They want to know—without a doubt—that you’re the right choice.

So the “Life Coach, Entrepreneur, Photographer, Internet Marketer, Website Developer, Writer” guy will not be first choice for pretty much anything.

Ditto the “Consultant, Futurist, Keynote Speaker, Author, Facilitator and Community Czar”.

Your audience values focus. Deep specialty. A niche.

Just pick one.

And then tell us about it.

Tell us the client stories that you’d be thrilled to re-live 1,000 times over. Take us with you as you create magic from mayhem.

Show us your expertise—because if we have a brain-surgery kind of problem, we want to be absolutely sure you’re the right choice. We don’t get twice to get it right.

And let us feel you. Because maybe we don’t have a bet-the-business situation but we DO want someone who will listen to us, understand where we’re coming from and where we’re headed.

If you wouldn’t introduce yourself as a “Consultant, Designer, Photographer, Artist, Poet” at a cocktail party, then it probably shouldn’t be on your website or your social media handle.

By all means, indulge in your passions—they make you a uniquely rounded and richly talented human being. And yes, build them into your social media sharings so we know you’re a real person.

But if you want to attract your sweet-spot clients, keep your focus on how your work changes their lives. Not on the 47 OTHER things you love to do besides working your craft.

p.s. Like what you see here? Head on up to that orange bar to sign up pronto and I’ll deliver my weekly insights directly to your in-box.


  • My unforgettable story is not exactly in sync with your comments; but here goes anyway.
    I first went in to the business that has become my “silo” if you will over 15 years ago. One of my first calls was with a large retailer in the auto repair industry. We had a good meeting. I left telling him to “try us. Send us your next difficult job”. On the way back to the airport I received the call with that “most difficult job.” I had to take it or we would not have received another opportunity and the potential was huge for us. I called my then partner and told him only to hear silence on the other end of the phone. Once he recovered and considered the various ways to slap my hand for doing it; he thought about the potential and went to work to solve it. Within a day we had a contractor on site taking care of the problem. We became heroes overnight because I did not want or know how to say no; and because my partner understood what we needed to do. It also showed us another picture of ourselves as a company. We kept that image in mind whenever a problem came up that we had never encountered before. It became the differentiator between us and the competitors.

    • Rochelle

      Love this Ed–isn’t that always how it works? And then you have to deliver which builds your confidence even more. Great story!

  • Excellent post on staying focused! Hobbies and passions are awesome, but expertise will get you hired.

  • For a long time, I worried about focusing on ‘that one thing’ for fear of disqualifying myself for all of the ‘other things’ that I could conceivably do and thereby specializing to the point of extinction. But instead, I discovered that once I started drilling down in my niche, my opportunities grew rather than narrowed. I felt more confident about what I had to offer clients and they felt more comfortable that I really knew my space. A win-win….

    Love your blog posts, Rochelle–they always make me stop and think! 🙂

  • This blog post hits home for me right now Rochelle. I’m still trying to nail down my “niche” and feel drawn in so many directions. For so long, I’ve been afraid to narrow my focus–one because I am interested in so many things, and two, because I felt it would limit my business. I am still just starting out in my biz, and am inspired to follow the advice you give to not be afraid to focus! Thank you!

  • My unforgettable story is one that I hear over + over from clients. I just heard it again this morning: “It made them cry.” That’s right. I specialize in one-of-a-kind gifts that express so much appreciation and love that the recipients are moved to tears. Oh, and this one, too: “This is the one thing I’d grab if there were a fire.” I love that my work helps people “say it now,” in a world when all too often people wait until a funeral to express the love + gratitude + stories!

  • Clients want to hire the best. The tertiary things you mentioned become useful (never to mention) when you need to bring on the folks who do those things. In some of the bigger matters I worked on we “enjoyed” a team of professionals (not sure I like “consultant” for just the reasons you outlined in your commentary.). I hold myself out as the problem-solver, the ultimate strategist/ strategic thinker. The bigger the project, I or my client will bring on others to handle social media, press, scheduling, research, etc. Having knowledge and skills in those areas helps me shape approaches and messaging.
    How I describe what I do I adapt to the audience; I usually work in a project they can relate to and help them envision how I can deliver for them.

  • Rochelle, thank you for writing this piece. Very thoughtful and thought provoking.

    Multitalented and super smart people often find themselves here “Life Coach, Entrepreneur, Photographer, Internet Marketer, Website Developer, Writer… Consultant, Futurist, Keynote Speaker, Author, Facilitator and Community Czar”.

    What is that desire not to be pinned down for one thing.. It is a perceptive jail, but the exact opposite is true. Rumi writes “Free and open sky is an unsterile lancet. It can give you an infection.” I have been struggling with something along these lines, and your opinion piece found its way to me in a timely way.

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