I ask this tongue in cheek, because, like me, you’ve probably grown up in a world where whenever you bragged about what you do or how good you are at it, someone came back with a very sarcastic “So you think you’re so special?”
All I can say is that if you want to be successful for the long haul in private practice, YOU”D BETTER BE SPECIAL!
After all, (you know what I’m going to remind you of here) people need to know the answer to the BIG QUESTION: “Given all of my choices, including doing nothing at all, why should I do business with YOU?”
It might be tough for you to get away from the fear that if you choose a specialist model (over a generalist model) for your practice that: you will alienate too many people; you won’t have enough clients: your business will fail; and you will lose everything (okay, well maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean).
Perhaps you have come to the conclusion that a specialist model makes more sense because: there are enough potential clients in most specialties; people tend to know other people with similar issues (hence becoming a good source of referrals); and because having a specialty puts you in a better position to be seen as an expert in your field. You’re halfway there, but you haven’t been able to determine which specialty(ies) to choose.
Finding a target market and determining the niche services that you will provide to that target market (AKA choosing a specialty) can seem overwhelming. Many folks who are just starting or who are looking to build a practice often feel vulnerable anyway, and hanging out that “expert shingle” might seem like a risky thing to do.
However, what have you got to lose?
There is a much greater chance of you getting lost in the crowd as a generalist than there is of you sitting alone in your office as a specialist because there aren’t enough clients who need your niche. AND… if that is the case, it is probably just time to market yourself differently and/or tweak your niche.
Keep an open mind and ask yourself these questions to help you in the process of choosing a specialty:
- Look at what you’ve done so far; what types of clients have you seen and what types of work have you done up until now?
- What types of clients tend to gravitate toward you?
- What kind of work do you tend to gravitate toward?
- Are you happy in what you have been doing this far?
- What do you feel is missing in your work?
- What populations or services do you feel are under-served in your area?
- What population(s) are you most passionate about?
- What types of work do you really believe in?
- What types of work do you feel would give you an opportunity to grow?
- What work have you always wanted to do, but haven’t done yet?
- When you think of yourself standing in the limelight proudly stating your specialty, what do you see/hear?
Take the time to write out (by hand, not at the keyboard) the answers to these questions. Sitting with a pen and paper often evokes more emotion than is generated sitting at the computer. Emotion is key here, as you really need to feel passionate about your specialty. It should light you up.
When you are passionate about your target market and your niche services you will do whatever it takes to learn more, work harder, and be creative. Your passion will ooze from your pores and no one will question your expert status because they can see that you are all about what you are doing.
The icing on the cake is that when you feel this way about what you are doing, you have much more long-term job satisfaction. There have been studies to show that job-satisfaction is one of the most significant determinants of longevity.
So I guess what I’m saying is…
Be SPECIAL — Live long, and prosper!