Narrowing it down

Narrowing it down

A Few days back, I had lunch with a fellow freelancer who I only knew from his work and online presence. Being the first time for us to meet, we didn't discuss anything in detail, but rather shared our experiences in the freelance market with each other, for example, what kinds of projects we undertake. I later thought about the discussion in depth and came to the realization that I didn’t have a particular area of focus in my projects.

Specialist or generalist

The dilemma sets in when you have to decide whether to specialize in one specific area of work (specialist) or to carry out wide-range of problems (generalist). To what extent should one specialize and will he/she find market? Some might argue that on a global scale you can't narrow the scope of your work too much, for example, you could coach people on how to start a soap business and still be very successful. Yes, you read it right, a soap business. So far, my clients have been Finnish companies. Being an avid remote worker I could carry out my work on a global scale.

I think I have given a rough idea of the extent of diversification in my profession. Let's take a look at some of the projects I have undertaken this past year:

  • Front-end development with TypeScript and JavaScript (ES2015).
  • User-interface design and guidelines
  • Architecture design
  • Node.js development
  • .NET and C# development
  • Database management (Mongo Db, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, DocumentDb)

When I list things from technology and task perspective everything looks fragmented, but what ties everything together is that all projects are Web applications and the application is the primary business for the client. There are for example no internal tools for corporate clients or native apps.

The main reason for taking too many different tasks is that I like doing all of the above. It has been helpful for a startup clients as they may have limited resources and can't hire a specialist on every aspect of the Web application.

Change to the offering

Let’s go back to the meeting I had with my fellow freelancer who did things differently from me.

multiple short projectsone long project at a time
higher hourly rateslower hourly rates
overhead costs incurred on project handlingminimal overhead costs incurred
specific technology usedwide range of technologies used
more time spend on design instead of implementationmore time spent on implementation instead of design

When I look at this what comes to mind is that he has the upper hand.

Change is inevitable but also gradual, so I’ll have to embrace it and inform my present and future clients. I am already fully booked until my summer holiday, so any new type of project would start in July.

The nature of the projects will change in scope. Instead of hiring for three months and the tasks can be anything, the projects will be more focused on a particular issue. Also, I would enjoy sharing the knowledge by organizing hands-on workshops for developers and product owners that want to build great products.

Does is sound like a plan or have I completely lost it?