SpecializeClearly define your expertise so you can attract the opportunities you want and the money you need.

The process of developing a dynamic brand image asks you to unearth your authentic self, identify what you bring to the table, declare your values, vision your future, and at times live a double life as you evolve into the professional you aspire to be. 

The linchpin to a successful personal brand is your area of expertise. What you call your specialty is of major importance to your success in the workplace. The specialist always makes more money than the general practitioner—it almost doesn’t matter what the specialty is—as long as it’s something that sets you apart and is prized by your clients and/or higher-ups.

Magazines are all about specializing. There’s Food and Wine, Vogue, Cowboys & Indians, Car & Driver, Architectural Digest, Rolling Stone and Cigar Aficionado. On television there are shopping channels, religious channels, women’s channels, sports channels, and channels catering just to kids like Nickelodeon.

It’s the same in my “category”. There are many people claiming to be brand strategists, but by specializing in entertainment, I’ve created a niche that’s attracted top clients and commanded substantial fees for 20 years.

If you’re thinking that narrowing your skills could shrink your market or diminish your value, consider this: By choosing entertainment as my area of expertise, I’ve attracted cosmetics companies, fashion houses and even insurance companies and banks who want to apply the principals of building an audience as we do in entertainment to their own brands. Being a specialist can actually expand your market and turn you into the go-to expert—making you essential and irreplaceable.

If you want to increase job security, specialize. Being a generalist is very old news.

Doctors specialize as oncologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists. Lawyers come in a variety of flavors: personal injury, criminal, patent, corporate. Teachers specialize by subject and grade. Someone who has spent years gardening has probably also developed specialized knowledge, maybe about growing organic vegetables, designing colorful pots, or pruning trees; and so has someone who has practiced a sport, or mastered a game, or read extensively on any particular subject.

For one of my clients, zeroing in on a specialty was difficult because her talents qualified her in many different areas. She had studied folk art and design in college. But her parents had pushed her to major in communications. At Parsons she had fallen in love with the possibilities the Internet held for artists. She saw web design as the folk art of the 21st Century. By building websites for galleries and museums, she could be expansive in a specialized area. Today she has become a star in a galaxy of her own construction.

Your area of expertise—your specialty—doesn’t have to be an art or science. You might be someone who develops a reputation as a skilled listener. You might be an expert at relationship building; or a screenwriter specializing in romantic comedy or science fiction; or you could be someone specializing in online consumer research. From the values and talents you possess that have money-making potential, narrow your focus to an area that you can develop as your niche or specialty that aligns with your vision statement. In no time your professional image will become strongly defined and you’ll be sought after for your expertise.

Think about what you want to be known for. The more you define yourself, the more well known you’ll become and the more money you’ll earn.