Should you be a specialist or a generalist?

I’ve seen so much talk online and in groups this week about specializing, generalizing, positioning, and niching down.

There was even a debate between Chris Do and one of the Pro Group members in this week’s Pro Call about it.

So what’s one to do? Pick a narrow lane and only offer one service? Pick an industry to dominate? What if you can’t decide what to focus on? What if you fear that you’ll lose clients if you narrow your offerings?

As I was cooking this week, I had a thought about this very subject. I was using a particular spice blend that my cousin gave me called Kickin’ Chicken.


This is my cousin’s favorite blend of all time. When he heard that the family who makes it was going to stop producing it, he bought a case full and said he hopes he dies before it runs out, lol.

On the outside it states:

“Works great on: Chicken, Beef, Pork, Fish”

Now, I realize I’m using 1 example with 1 customer and I have no idea how the business actually did or how much their sales were, etc. This is probably a form of confirmation bias that backs up what I already believe, but go with me for a minute. What if they called it “Kickin’ Spice Blend” instead of “Kickin’ Chicken?” Not as impactful, right? Not as memorable either. They could have said they were a “generalist” by changing the name to illustrate it, but they chose the perfect name to stand out while still offering the option of it working on more than just chicken.

It reminded me of when Chris once said “specialize publicly, generalize privately.” Get known for one thing that you do really really well, and your clients will assume you’re great at other things (and most likely hire you for said things). Generalize, in other words, do lots of things, while you market yourself as a specialist, in order to get attention and awareness and to be memorable.

So the idea is to get known for something, even if you do other things. Like Kickin’ Chicken, you want to hold a position in your client’s and potential client’s mind.

Still not sure where to start? Someone in the Pro Call shared this in the chat:

“Generalize to start. You’ll gravitate and master one of a few things. Then specialize to market and maximize profit.”

Do you specialize or generalize? Are you known for something?


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About the author:

Melinda Livsey is a brand strategist, designer, and educator based in sunny Southern California. She’s the founder of Marks and Maker, co-founder of Pre-lance, and co-host on the Futur. Find her hanging out on Instagram and say hello!