There are different ways to quantify writing success. For the purposes of this piece, I’m going to quantify success by money earned. As a poet who makes very little money (and often none at all) writing poetry, I believe in working on the craft and the art of writing for less monetary reasons. However, everyone has to pay the bills.
Some writers find success through becoming extreme experts with a deep knowledge of one topic and very specialized writing abilities. They’re often considered gurus on their topic, but most writers find success by wearing multiple hats.
They’re experts on more than one topic (sometimes related, sometimes not). They’re comfortable writing copy, editing manuscripts, pitching new clients, negotiating rates, managing their businesses, following up, and more. But here’s the thing: They all start with that first assignment.
One criticism of a diverse writing portfolio is that it spreads a writer too thin. It’s the jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none argument. And there’s something to that if your ultimate goal is to be the master of one (and only one) subject area.
If you’re trying to run a writing business that makes money though, it makes perfect business sense to diversify your offerings and your clients. If you ever give more than 30% of your business to one client, for example, you’ll really struggle if that client goes out of business or moves to another writer.
In other words, diversifying helps writers avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.
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There are several ways to diversify. Magazine freelancers can write for multiple subject areas. Book authors can traditionally publish their writing and self-publish (aka, become a “hybrid author”). All writers can supplement their writing income with education, whether that’s speaking at live events or via online courses.
Another way to diversify is to learn new skills. If you write for traditional publishing outlets (magazines and book publishers), maybe learning how to break into writing copy will help you score more clients than you ever dreamed. Or perhaps, learning the essentials of technical writing will help you communicate your ideas more effectively.
Plus, all writers should have a website and know how to use social media the right way. Writing platforms are the most important marketing tools of the past decade.
Writers need their own websites, because a website is a writer’s own piece of digital real estate–one that will last beyond the rise and fall of social media sites (anyone remember or use MySpace?). If you don’t have a website, learn how to create one that rocks in just one month with the assistance of a personal instructor who realizes you’re a writer, not a programmer.
Start now. If you’re putting all your efforts into one style of freelancing, try dabbling in another. You can start small and abandon it if you’re not gaining traction, but then, try something else.
Personally, I’ve found that my technical writing skills have enhanced my journalism; my poetry has amplified my fiction; my fiction has given extra power to my promotional writing; and so on. As you diversify your writing skills, I think you’ll find your writing ability will only improve.
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
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