How to Specialize in Tech…Even if You’re a Beginner

By Joyce Akiko

Don’t waste time competing when you can specialize instead.

When it comes to getting a new dream job or landing freelance clients, how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you get chosen out of all the other coders vying for the same jobs?

On top of that, how do you ensure that your focus is on creating and building, rather than competing, which is a zero-sum game?

When I was just starting out, I had no idea how to answer any of these questions. It took me a long time to figure out how I could stand out, and work with people who were offering similar services.

I was afraid that my competitors would take all the clients and leave me alone in the dust of a failing new business.

Over time I learned the difference between creating and competing.

I began to ask myself: how can you be different? What can you specialize in, that few other people are specializing in?

I learned that by creating difference instead of competition, you can offer unique value and expertise that compliments your cohorts, builds you an excellent reputation, gives you a distinct voice, and helps you stand out.

A good way to accomplish all this is to choose a specific area of expertise.

A specialty.

How to choose your area of expertise

Choosing your area of expertise isn’t just about whether you will be a web designer or a web developer, or even a choice between what programming languages you will focus on.

It’s also a decision about what kinds of problems you want to solve.

If you want to be a web designer, do you want to build incredible user experience? Beautiful mobile or responsive design? Elegant interaction?

As a web developer, do you want to help local restaurants increase their revenue by adding a backend that supports online food ordering? Or maybe help content marketers expand their offerings with white labeled, turnkey websites?

If you’re looking for a full-time job, what companies do you want to work for and how can you help them by going above and beyond a job description?

Whatever problems you want to solve, think of ways your skill set can address the issues. If you need to pick up a few more skills, do that.

Practice, build, and create projects around your chosen area of expertise.

Your goal is to become the natural, first person that comes to mind when someone asks “who can help me with [your area of expertise]?”

How to showcase your expertise and get your voice out there

Once you’ve started zeroing in on your area of expertise, it’s time to get creative!

Think of ways you can share your expertise using a unique voice that resonates with your target market—whether it’s a new employer or a freelance client.

This will further set you apart from your coding cohorts and allow you to stay front-of-mind for your particular area of expertise.

To find voice elements that resonate with your market, research a few companies you want to work for or clients you’d love to have.

Look at their websites and how their content is written. What pictures do they use? What kind of language do they incorporate? What styling elements do they choose? How do they set themselves apart?

If you can find these companies or people on Twitter, look for the articles they tweet and retweet. What sort of information do they find useful enough to re-share?

Gather all this information in one place. Then analyze it and decide which elements you want to incorporate into your own voice, and which elements of your natural voice you can add to create a unique, distinctive flavor.

It may take time to fully develop your voice. Start by slowly working it into your your online branding efforts (which can include social media, a blog, or portfolio).

Over time, you will find that your voice will naturally develop, and because you researched the types of voices that appeal to your target market, you will naturally begin to attract those types of employers and clients.

This additional step to choosing your expertise will further set you apart from your coding cohorts and allow you to partner up and find supporters rather than competitors.


Joyce helps self-taught coders know when and how to find their first freelance clients so they can work for themselves, call their own shots, and experience freedom and flexibility every day. Download her eBook “How To Transition Into Tech With Self-Taught Skills”, completely free for Skillcrush readers.

Joyce Akiko