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I've decided that I want to start freelancing doing web design for local businesses/organizations.

Much like how in product development we talk to customers prior to building stuff, I'd suggest verifying that you have an addressable market for a service offering prior to defining what that service offering is. "Freelance", "web", "design", "local", and "business" are five things that you said in that sentence which might be distinctly suboptimal.

Consider alternatives such as "I am the world's leading expert on WordPress sites for heritage language Asian schools." That sort of thing potentially resolves a lot of customer identification and marketing problems, and lets you charge much higher rates than generic "local business web-dev", even though you might just be doing web development and heritage language Asian schools may all be local businesses for some value of local.

(By the way, just my biases talking, but when I think "local business" the phrase "the best possible customers for programmers because they love paying five-figure invoices in a timely manner after competently managing reasonably specified projects" does not exactly jump to the forefront of my mind.)

> I am the world's leading expert on WordPress sites for

I'd tune out the second I saw such a marketing boast; the odds of being pure b.s. are through the roof.

The idea is that you google 'wordpress sites for heritage language asian schools' and this guys blog is the only thing on the SERP for the informative, expertise-demonstrating content he's got there. At no point does he have to be explicit about being the foremost expert in this or any other niche.

Right. Or, when you're talking to a potential prospect who has just been referred by your middle school teacher, you say "I know you've got a web site at the moment, but it probably got done by somebody who does web sites for dog walkers and legal firms. Do you ever look at it and think it was written by someone who just doesn't get you, and what you do, and what your parents want in a school? Think that maybe the site doesn't understand that Mrs. Tanaka is terrified that Sakura won't ever know her grandmother if Mrs. Tanaka picks the wrong place? I know where Mrs. Tanaka is coming from. I've spoken to her a thousand times. This is all I do: making Wordpress sites for schools just like yours. Want to hear about three things I can do to improve your website?"

I wasn't critiquing the specialization, I was critiquing the claim of being the worlds leading expert. Going for the long tail doesn't require lying.

Way to read into it. That was totally beside the point. The point was just to specialize. The example pitch was exactly that; an example.

If you were the director at a heritage language Asian school (whatever that is) who just wants a website that represents the school well, you might find it more compelling. Not everybody is as cynical as you or I. Because of this, pointing out "This wouldn't work on me" isn't particularly illuminating unless you are the target audience (and maybe not even then).

So said the Inuit, when presented with "the world's coldest ice cubes". The problem, it turns out, isn't the marketing claim.

I think this assumes your portfolio, if any, can actually prove that specialty. You might even need to do some free work, assuming you are just starting, in order to advance the idea that you are specializing in some area.

Or you could simply begin to learn everything there is to learn about that niche. I think the point Patrick is making is that knowing your own specialization is as, if not more, important than your customer knowing it.

If you're "a programmer" then your customer base is pretty much anyone who needs software. That doesn't help much because you're back to the same question: "who needs software?"

If you're an expert on sites for heritage Asian language schools then it's much easier to find schools->Asian language schools->heritage Asian language schools. Odd though it may seem, it's easier to market to a small, well defined niche than a large amorphous blob of "potential customers."

So, is anyone reading this looking for an expert in on-vehicle liquid spray control systems? :-)

... and lets you charge much higher rates...

At the risk fo stating the obvious, this is not automatically true. Specializing makes for easier marketing, but not necessarily higher rates. Some clients just don't have a lot of money to spend.

Specializing allows you to target the ones who do. Cast a wide net across "local businesses" and you're going to get a lot of boots and toilet seats to keep your tuna company.

To this, I'd like to add that once you get those first few clients, get very serious about customer service. Expect to take a call any day at any time, and if you can't, always call back the moment you can. Believe it or not, this alone will put you miles ahead of the competition.

Starting off a freelance career by pitching for gigs in a narrow niche market seems like a potentially challenging strategy for someone with no track record to back it up

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