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.
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.
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?