On The Value Of Being A Specialist Writer

I like to play devil’s advocate, so here’s my follow-up to a recent post on the value of generalization. In spite of what I said, there are very real advantages to being a specialist writer.

Branding

If you specialize in a particular area, it’s easy to be seen as the go-to person in that niche. A few examples: Darren Rowse (blogging), Lea Woodward (location independence), Andy Hayes (travel). You can get a website that relates to your brand and make your image consistent among all your interactions. It doesn’t matter whether your niche is writing resumes or travel writing, being a specialist can help you with branding.

Marketing

Following on from that, it’s much easier to carry out targeted marketing when you offer a specialist service that you know people want. It helps you focus your efforts. When I market my writing services, I am in a huge marketplace with dozens or hundreds of people offering writing services. An alternative is to market myself in each niche, connecting with people who want SEO articles, blog posts, ebooks or resumes. Specialization lets you find a unique selling point (USP) and tell everyone about it.

Better Cost/Benefit Ratio

Then there’s the actual writing itself. If you are a generalist, every new project means a new set of research, which means that the rate you get for writing (unless you cost research separately) may actually work out to a lower hourly rate than you expect. Specialize and you’ve got expert subject knowledge to draw on, with little need to research.

Which Is Better?

So, which is better? I don’t know. I write on a few specialist subjects such as writing (comes of being a former journalism tutor on top of years of writing experience) and consumer finance (because I learned a lot while working for a subsidiary of the Financial Times eons ago).  When I write about those topics, I can write quickly and knowledgeably, making my hourly rate soar. And yet … although it’s less cost-effective, I also enjoy getting to grips with a new topic and increasing my store of knowledge. What do you think?

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+.

Comments

  1. I believe that specializing helps more than generalizing. If there are writing jobs in the niche area, then I find that I usually get the work done in half the time it takes me to research other topics or writing genres. It’s just like you said, the hourly rate goes up when you know what you are talking about already.

    It usually makes my brain hurt when I have to research too many topics in one day. :)
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  2. I think I like the balance, Gabrielle. Those same old topics can feel very stale, even if you’re good at getting them written up. As I said on my post on being a generalist, doing something new and not being pigeonholed can be creatively productive.

    • david blumberger says:

      Read your article and wish to start a blog concening foods, kitchen equip and sourcing the various product lines along this market research. The double dip from this effort is to leverage my 40 years of lifestyle experience. Background is wall street and advertising. I wish to find a software package
      to build my skill set. Any ideas thoughts or peronal advice ?

      Thanks. djb

      • Having experience in one area is a great start, David. It sounds like there should be great opportunities for writing work from trade magazines so a subscription to Writer’s Market is a good way to hunt those out. On the subject of blogging, it never hurts to start a blog (I favor the WordPress platform) and see if it takes. Check out my Getting Started in Blogging ebook for tips.

  3. Miko Holt says:

    Thanks Sharon great post! Well I completely believe in branding… and your brand speaks volumes to the public. I am also fond of specializing in one or two areas, although there may be limitations to this. It’s almost as if each one of your talents (specialties) require its own brand. You know quite honestly, I support businesses that specialize in ONE area. I figure …well this business must be an expert. I wonder if this is how writers are viewed by prospective clients? Great question huh? thanks for the post!

  4. Miko Holt says:

    Gabrielle, wanted to piggyback on what you wrote. You’re correct, when you’re an expert on a subject, you fly through the project. This is quite the advantage, especially for freelance writers who have multiple projects going on at one time!

  5. I know a few people maintain different mini-sites for the different services they offer, Miko. I’ve thought about that, but am not sure it’s the route for me. The question of how writers are seen by clients is interesting – there might be a post in that.

  6. Miko Holt says:

    Thanks Sharon for responding! This is such a great topic, that I need to respond. I am in the process of revamping my company website. Ironically, I believe that the site although attractive, failed to convey to potential clients that I had a particular expertise. Writers specialize in different areas and for the most part so do I. I create content, business plans, proposals, ad materials and I’m also a grant writer. It’s a tough call, but now I’m thinking of ways I can demonstrate my abilities without looking like…I’m a “jack of all trades and a master of none.” Get me! thanks for this post…exciting conversation!

    • That was one of the reasons I reworked my resume, Miko, and I’d like to change my other site to reflect what I do better. I haven’t quite decided how to do that from a design perspective, though.

  7. “Specialist” vs. “generalist” is an issue I’m still struggling with. On the one hand, I think it’s much easier professionally to specialize; you rise up the ranks of experience much more quickly and can easily sort the wheat from the chaff in regard to all the information and opportunities coming at you. On the other hand, one of the reasons I decided to become a freelance writer is precisely because I have so many interests I’d like to explore and many of them are such tiny niches it would be next to impossible to make a career out of any one by itself. I’ve recently tried specializing exclusively in one of my chosen niches and it has helped me focus but so far the pickings have been really slim.

  8. I don’t know. It’s a difficult thing to specialized in one topic when you are interested in so many subjects. I don’t specialize but I only do certain types of writing. For example, I don’t do project proposals or most business writing at all.
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