In a ‘free’ economy with information readily available, how does anyone make money? By being a specialist. You get paid for intelligent analysis, have the opportunity to set the agenda in your chosen field and build your own tribe.

And as you grow older and build on your knowledge, you can have a better work life balance. However this doesn’t mean that the working hours are shorter but you can think ahead with a clearer mind. So how do you become a specialist?

Speaking recently at an NUJ event in London, five journalists – Richard Palmer, royal correspondent for the Express; Ann Mroz, editor of the Times Educational Supplement; Barrie Clement, industrial correspondent at the Independent; Dominic Casciani, home affairs correspondent at BBC News and Emily Beament, environment correspondent at Press Association – share their advice on how to develop a specialism.


From left to right: Dominic Casciani, Richard Palmer, Barrie Clement, Emily Beament and Ann Mroz Photo: @FrancineBeleyi

These tips although primarily intended for journalists are relevant to anyone looking to stand out from the pack and be positioned as an expert. Below is a summary of their advice to be a sought after specialist:

  1. Focus on your passion. To be a specialist you got to love what you do… but don’t be so obsessed to the point of killing it
  2. Find an audience who also cares about your passion and is ready to pay you for it
  3. Be selective and disciplined to focus on the topics that fit your specialism rather than being all things to everyone
  4. Have a long term strategy for your specialisation. Treat it as a stock market investment. Like a trader, study the market and evaluate when a topic is on trend or not. Be patient, be consistent even with the small things and keep sharpening your saw. It can take years for your expertise to came to fruition. But when your moment arrives to reap the fruits, go for it full on.
  5. Build your personal brand. You will be recognised as the go to person when people are looking for content they can trust.
  6. Know where the trends are going to keep fresh and relevant
  7. Be an analyst and a storyteller. Combine hard facts and explain complex concepts in plain English. Decrypts what it means and why it’s important for your audience
  8. Constantly update your knowledge. Talk to experts and diverse sources to acquire distinction
  9. Get attention to detail. It’s your duty to know everything on your topic as much as possible including the history.
  10. Reach out to a wider and diverse audience. Don’t get trapped by talking only to experts and people like you. Don’t preach to the choir.
  11. Use social media. Each platform has its characteristics. Use Twitter to re-evaluate the way you think by getting confronted to other views; use YouTube to create your brand and be the hero; no one recruits these days without checking your LinkedIn profile
  12. Build contacts, lists, followers, fans, etc. Who you know and who knows you is as important of what you know.
  13. Identify the gaps. Pick up the stories people don’t have the time to do or have just missed
  14. Put yourself in your niche’s shoes. Think about what people want to know rather than what you know.
  15. Adopt the ‘give and you shall receive’ philosophy: To make money, offer free content and upsell when they are in and see the value you provide

Click on the button below to download the one-page checklist as a high res pdf.15-tips-to-become-a-well-paid-specialist-in-the-digital-age-smallDo you have other tips to become a well-paid specialist? Share your experience below.

photo: @stockimages/