On The Value Of Being A Generalist

It’s never too late for an epiphany on your writing career.

As you probably know, I blog a lot, often on web stuff and travel, and occasionally on other things. In the course of the past year, I’ve come to realize something about myself – being too much of a specialist can severely limit my creativity!

As nice as it is to have regular writing gigs, the fact is that when you are writing about a narrow niche or within a limited spectrum of client-set parameters, there are times when it’s difficult to come up with new ideas. Sometimes the posts you write can seem a bit samey – and if they seem that way to you, the writer, what about your readers? Sometimes when you write for clients you are following their passion, not your own, and it takes a skilled ghost blogger to consistently deliver the excitement that all the best blog posts generate.

Even when you have a gig writing about topics you like, there are days and weeks when inspiration doesn’t strike in the way you’d like. As an established writer, you may already have a format you follow that gets the writing job done efficiently and effectively. I don’t know about you, but occasionally I’ve rewritten a post because although it was factually correct, it seemed a little bit soulless, devoid of personality. As a professional writer, I can’t publish stuff like that.

So now to the epiphany …

I’ve just had a great email exchange with the new editor of a blog I’ll be writing for. I said to her that I wanted a roving brief because I have a wide range of interests related to the topic. She thought that was perfect – and I got really excited about the gig. I realised that not being tied to a single sub-niche had unleashed my creativity. In the course of writing a short email (say ten minutes or so), I came up with several ideas that I’ll develop into posts. And because I have license to write about stuff outside the web-tech-travel niches, I’ll be able to come up with more great ideas that don’t necessarily fit within a box. It’s extremely liberating!

Of course, this does not mean that I’m going to give up writing in my niches. After all,ย  I started writing on those topics because I enjoyed them. However, I am hoping that the creativity unleashed by my roving brief on one site will spill over to ideas for other sites, giving all my posts an extra shot of juice!

P.S. Another way to keep creativity flowing is to guest blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

Disagree with me? Check out my follow up post on the value of being a specialist writer.

About Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall has been mentoring writers here at Get Paid To Write Online since 2005 to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Check me out on sharonhh.com. Feel free to connect with me online on Google+.


  1. Glad you’ve found a gig with so much flexibility, Sharon! Sounds like just the thing you need. Wishing you the best with it!

  2. Sharon,

    One of the things I love about coming here is the incredible insight you have on these things. I feel like I’m along for the ride, witnessing great things as they happen along the way.

    I can genuinely feel the elation and liberation you describe with your new assignment. Imagine the freshness your new writing will contain. I’m sure you are way anxious to get going on it and good for you, I say.


    • Thanks, George. Sometimes you can get so bogged down that the excitement is masked. This new gig and the spark of creativity have reminded me why I love what I do.

  3. Dan Smith says:

    Way to go on the new gig, Sharon!

    To a certain degree, I’m on the varied workload side in the discussion of whether to specialise or not.

    I call myself a freelance writer who specialises in small businesses (most notably how to develop and expand them).

    Looking at my workload for the past month, however, I’ve covered broadband internet, a whole range of casino games, Forex trading, Australian and Canadian immigration, health and fitness and UK holidays – as well as a host of regular blog posts on freelance writing and business.

    Maybe I’m going to jinx myself here, but I’m yet to have a client come back to me and say “Hey, I can’t accept this” for whatever reason.

    Perhaps I’ve just been lucky that I’ve had easy-going clients or perhaps I’m more knowledgable about the topics I cover than I actually think I am or spend more time researching than I believe I do.

    Whichever way you look at it, though, I completely agree that by having a varied workload, you take inspiration from all of the different projects. It happened this month with me – I was struggling to think of a catchy angle for the Forex topics so I took a break from them and did some research into broadband internet. From this, I found an article that was linked to finances which I took a note of an tied into the Forex topic perfectly.

    I then took a different spin on it for another Forex piece – two completed pieces all because of my varied workload.

    I honestly believe that whilst you shouldn’t spread yourself too thin to be thought of as a ‘Jack of all trades’, you shouldn’t pigeon hole yourself into one tiny niche, either.

    Variety is the spice of life after all!

    • That sounds a bit like my workload when I started freelancing, Dan (if you swap Forex for consumer finance). I tell you what, it makes for some great contributions to pub quizzes. ๐Ÿ˜€ More seriously, on the subject of spreading yourself too thin, although I’m a generalist, there are a few topics I’ve turned down or outsourced because they are too much of a leap or don’t interest me at all.

  4. Dan Smith says:

    I’ve actually just turned a project down a few days ago. it wasn’t for the fact I didn’t have an interest in it, but it was because my interest was purely just that – I had no real in-depth knowledge of it so I would have been, for what of a better phrase, winging it.

    And re the pub quizzes – you have no idea the amount of random information I know!

    I did a lot of work for a fashion company a few months back and by the end of it my girlfriend was calling me Gok Dan!

    (that last bit probably makes no sense to those outside of the UK – there’s a fashion stylist called Gok Wan who’s on mainstream TV over here!)

  5. Dan Smith says:

    And as if to show just why you shouldn’t spread yourself too thin, spot the (deliberate, ahem!) mistakes in my last comment.

    Trying to do too much at once today!