If you were starting a small web design business would you work on any business or would you specialize in one area (restaurants, health/medical, trades/services).
I have a background that could give me some credibility on a specialty area. Should I focus on that area?
I think from a marketing and resources standpoint it can be easiest to grow in one or two niches first. For example, you could work on a design that is like a medical CMS where multiple businesses would find it useful, and you could have a few designs to go with it. Pulling an example out of my hat, maybe there are pet hospitals where the doctors are always changing, and they are often writing success stores about pets, or showing which pets are available for adoption. You could have several designs, but all within a CMS that multiple pet hospitals would find useful for their business.
I posted an advertisement on Craigslist recently and got responses from people looking for very different types of projects.
If I were to cater to all these I would need expertise in a wide range of skills that I think would be very difficult to achieve. If I were to specialize I would know what to expect and I think could charge higher fees.
Why would you need expertise in various industries to work on a website? I've done websites for all different types of businesses.
Where you would specialize is in the technology you use. If you want to specialize in an open-source platform (Joomla, Drupal, Wordpress, etc.), if you want to specialize in frontend coding (CSS + Jquery or Mootools), etc.
It's usually difficult to be a php programmer and a frontend code, althought I've seen it. So you specializing in frontend coding and hire someone to do the backend coding or vice versa.
I agree that you need to specialize in a technology otherwise you risk being the dreaded jack-of-all-trades. But, specializing in an industry/vertical is also great way to gain credibility and attract clients.
If you have credibility already, you should use that to your advantage, yes!
Why focus on a specific industry? I think it is just client perception. If you build a lot of contractor sites then you are seen as a someone who is successful at contractor sites.
I think you can provide services in multiple technologies as long as you are good at that specific technology. There are so many languages and frameworks that it is impossible to be productive and have a reasonable level of expertise. For example I posted an ad on Craigslist one day and got a request for an ecommerce site, a request to modify a social networking site and a request to build a order taking application.
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