Identifying Your Optimal Area of Specialization

How do you choose your optimal areas of specialization to help focus your business and, just as importantly, your messaging? Here are six facets to consider:


  • You have a genuine, driving interest in and have developed a clearly defined point of view around a particular industry.
  • You know the people, the jargon, the drivers, the challenges, the opportunities because you have spent time and gained experience learning about and working with them.
  • Your work clearly demonstrates your capabilities in this arena.
  • You have key referrers among the influencers in this arena.


  • You have a way of working that is unique to and uniquely own-able by your business.
  • You can clearly articulate your unique methodology, including the specific elements that drive success for your clients.
  • Your methodology aligns with measurables demonstrating the success of your process.
  • You have case studies that demonstrate the strength of your process.
  • You have client testimonials that specifically reference your process as a point of difference and a driver of their success.


  • You have a unique philosophy that drives your business, your relationships with clients and the work you produce.
  • You have published elements of your core philosophy.
  • You are steadfast and resolute in your decision to only work with companies that espouse your philosophy.
  • You are known for and asked to present your point of view.
  • Your work clearly demonstrates and is held up as a model of your core philosophy.
  • Clients have indicated that they are inspired by and have chosen to work with you because of your philosophy.
  • Clients have indicated that they have met with success because your shared perspectives were aligned around your core philosophy.


  • You can demonstrate both deep and broad expertise in a technique or medium.
  • You are known and praised by clients and colleagues for your craftsmanship and/or production quality.
  • You can demonstrate your ability to deliver on a broad range of industries and strategies principally on the basis of your technical expertise.
  • Your visual portfolio clearly demonstrates the excellence of your craft.
  • You offer workshops and/or technical demonstrations related to your craft.

Aesthetic point of view

  • You have an iconic style (which may change over time).
  • You can demonstrate how your style has defined success for your clients.
  • You are recognized in and beyond the design field for your aesthetic point of view.
  • People seek you out because of your aesthetic point of view.
  • Your work is typically judged by its style (as opposed to more quantifiable measures of success).
  • You are principally interested in cultivating your style.
  • Your design team is hired and trained to support your aesthetic point of view.

Business model

  • You have a unique business structure.
  • You have an active, broad based network of collaborators with whom you have developed meaningful partnerships.
  • The unique make-up of your team drives success for your clients.
  • You are able to shift your business model as cultural or socio-economic shifts occur.
  • You see your business as a continual work in progress.
  • You seek out new ideas and models for running a design business including those beyond the design sector.

Where does your passion lie and how does it align with your core capabilities and the goals you have set for your business? With an understanding of what drives you and what drives success for your clients, you can scaffold your growth in a way that leverages your best assets and lays the foundation for continued to success.

Have other thoughts on how to assess your optimal area of specialization? Let me know in the comments.