The marketplace is crowded these days. It doesn’t matter how you’re trying to get clients. If you’re going to live networking events, you may find half a dozen professionals in your field at every event you attend. Online, there may be dozens of websites in your category that get a higher rank than yours. On social media, you probably see content from professionals like you all over the place. How will your potential clients find and choose you with all that competition?

One of a kind

Put on your clients’ hat for a moment. They are seeing the exact same thing. They want to work with a financial advisor, and they may have met three of them recently. Or they are looking for a psychotherapist, and when they Google “psychotherapist Denver,” they get pages of results. Or they want to hire a copywriter, and they see dozens of experts giving copywriting advice on Facebook and Twitter. How do they even begin to choose?

The answer to both these questions is the same. If you want potential clients to find and choose you, you must be special. Whether you are a life coach, a graphic designer, or a tax preparer, you have to stand out from the others in your profession. You don’t want to be just one of many choices, you want to be the best choice — to your desired clients, that is. And the way to do that is to have them recognize your specialness.

Most professionals position themselves by simply stating what they do, giving their qualifications, and describing some ways they help their clients. For example: “I’m a massage therapist. I’m a Licensed Massage Practitioner, and I help my clients alleviate pain, discomfort, and stress with a variety of therapeutic massage techniques.” The problem is that other massage therapists are saying almost exactly the same thing.

When you sound just like everyone else in your profession, you are generic. You remain a commodity. This leaves your potential clients with no good reason to choose you over others like you. And it does nothing to attract the clients you would most like to have find you in the first place.

Now consider what happens when you become special. For example: “I’m a web designer for authors. I help authors create a site that showcases their book, builds their visibility and credibility with their audience and the media, and allows them to connect with their readers.” If you were an author, isn’t that the web designer you would choose?

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t want to limit yourself like this web designer has. You’re afraid that if you choose a target market that narrow, you’ll be ruling out too many potential clients. Here’s a different perspective. It’s been estimated that there are 500,000 authors in the U.S. alone. How would you like to attract 1/10 of 1% of that market?

Here’s another way to become special. Let’s say you are a psychotherapist. Most psychotherapists say they work with a list of common issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship problems, and grief. What if your psychotherapy practice was focused exclusively on romantic relationships and dating? Or on dealing with serious illness? Or on improving self-esteem? Wouldn’t a specialty like one of those appeal to exactly the clients you would most like to see?

Choosing a specialty like this doesn’t limit you; it focuses you. It narrows the field of people you are trying to reach, and the issues you are trying to address, to a manageable scope. It would be awfully difficult to become the best known psychotherapist in Chicago. But it would be entirely possible to become the best known romance and dating psychotherapist in Chicago. How many people in Chicago do you think need help with concerns about dating and romance?

One more avenue to become special is to design a unique process or approach for the way you work. Let’s say you are a management consultant specializing in conflict resolution — you and about a million others, Google suggests. But what if you were to build your business around your proprietary “Harmonious Resolutions” process, which clients could hire you to implement, or bring you in to teach their employees?

A unique approach like this is something you can speak about, write about, blog about, and discuss on social media. It gives you a platform to stand on, a brand to become known for, and a way to stand out that your competitors don’t have. Wouldn’t you choose a conflict resolution consultant who had his or her own proprietary approach over one who did not?

If you want clients to be able to find you, connect with your message, and choose you over the competition in a crowded marketplace, you must get beyond being a commodity. Choose a defined target market you would enjoy working with, define a specialty that will allow you to use your gifts, or design a unique process to make your work stand out.

However you do it, it’s time to become special.

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