Freelancing for Two Markets At Once (Changing Your Website Too?)

You’re at a point where you’re thinking of changing your freelancer’s website.

Before now, you’ve been going for a single sharp set of offerings. But now, you’re thinking of having a second type of offering, addressing a different market, and wondering if that’ll mix people up, dilute your message, or worse, make you look generic.

Maybe you’re realizing your current website will take some time to attract leads and you’re tempted to add some offerings that are more generic but that you’re getting success selling face-to-face.

If that’s your case, hold on a bit. Maybe there’s a way to keep your website sharp for those who come to visit.

Before I make my point, let’s go through four types of markets.

Winner-Take-All vs. “Open Gates” Markets

In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport stresses the importance of knowing the type of market you’ll be going in before you make your move. He presents these two types of markets: the Winner-Take-All markets, and the “Open Gates” (or “auction”) markets.

Winner-Take-All markets concentrate all the benefits to the best of the best. That person gets all the mentions, is reknowned for a very specific ability, and her story is clear. Nadieh Bremer, for example, is by far the best at making stunning animated data visualizations.

“Open Gates” markets rely much more on a certian combination of subtle skills that total up to making the person reputable under certain circumstances. Knowing the inner workings of a large organization or industry. Knowing how to interpret a way forward given a variety of problems. Having connections and relying on word-of-mouth.

Local vs. Global Markets

Then there is the difference between a local market and a global market.

Local markets rely much more on being seen, meeting people face-to-face, attending events, volunteering and hanging out at the right co-working spots.

Global markets rely on the trails left on the web leading to your site or mentioning your name.

So those are the four types of markets. As you might imagine, we can criss-cross them to be smarter about the markets we pick to go in.

  • Local Winner-Take-All
  • Local “Open Gates”
  • Global Winner-Take-All
  • Global “Open Gates”

Local vs. Global Winner-Take-All

Your city might not be big enough to support having too many people doing the work you do. Maybe you’ll be known locally for a certain methodology or framework, and you get invited to speak at companies and events. You can still rely on having a fairly generic set of skills, but you’ll be known for an idea, and all the attention will come to you.

Winning a global winner-take-all competition, that’s a whole different level of effort. The more niche you can go, the better, but it’ll take a long time to create that reputation. Your best bet is to take advantage of that niche and amass a body of work to prove your worth.

Take this as an example of going specific: the two guys at Studio Neat, who make some nice physical products, were looking for a specific type of drawing for the watermark on their product’s packaging. They just looked on Dribbble or Behance for illustrators showing off the specific style they were after, and when they found someone who did, they commissioned that guy to make a custom illustration for them.

Global Tends Toward Winner-Take-All

The web favours the creation of winner-take-all winners. That’s because the web favours the prolific – those who publish frequently get more of the attention, leave more links pointing back to them. By choosing to be prolific, you’ll create an inevitable trail of proof that you’re good at what you do. Bit-by-bit, you’ll carve your own winner-take-all niche. (It helps to put yourself in the mind of the buyer before you do.)

If In Local “Open Gates”, Maybe You Don’t Need a Website

In the previous article, I wrote about freelancer David Hicks who does fine without a typical freelancing website. His clients come from a mix of agencies from our town and from other cities. The majority are referral-based. His business is in a “local, open gates” market.

If you’re in that boat, you might not need a website either! If someone calls and asks for a portfolio, just a send a few links and propose having a call.

Keeping Your Website For the Global Market

If, however, you are currently using your website to showcase a sharp set of skills for a global crowd, but you realize you’re also being hired by referral for skills that you don’t want to showcase online, that’s fine too.

You might as well keep your website for the people that find you online first. For the local folks who get to you by word-of-mouth, they probably won’t even check your website before contacting you anyway.

So it’s all good to be freelancing in two differeng markets. Your best bet is to keep that website sharp for the global visitors, and to take advantage of winning the local market by picking the right winner-take-all or “Open Gates” strategy there too.

Stay Sharp!


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