The Way We Work

By: Yolander Prinzel

There are two types of writers out there — generalists and specialists. Generalists will write about any topic and specialists write mainly (and sometimes exclusively) about the topic or subject that they know best.

No matter how you make your freelance writing dollars — through applying for work, marketing, networking, bidding for gigs, or a combination of these methods — you can make a lot more of them if you decide to specialize. Specializing gives you the edge you need to make a winning bid for gigs because you can more easily convince editors with projects in that topic that you are the right writer for them.

If you don’t specialize, then you can’t make as strong a case. It’s the difference between saying: “I’m an expert in this because of my experience and I write amazingly well” and “I write amazingly well but don’t really know anything about your topic and will have to research other people’s work in order to complete the project.” It kinda makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

After all, when you are blogging, writing e-books, creating articles for marketing or developing web content, you are not a journalist. You are not a third party reporting on an incident that occurred — you are an expert, an authority putting words into the mouth of someone else. You are creating their corporate identity’s face for the public and for that they will want someone who truly understands what their company or website represents.

I should start out by saying I was not an early adopter of this philosophy. In the beginning of my freelance writing career I just wanted to write for anyone about anything. I did some journalism, some web writing, a beauty column, some technical writing, a dash of travel writing — seriously, anything for anyone.

writing specialty freelancerBut then I read Jennifer Mattern of All Freelance Writing’s book Launching a Successful Freelance Web Writing Career and it finally dawned on me …

If I decided to specialize in writing about what I had already built my entire professional life around, I wouldn’t really have to start my career from scratch as a writer.

I could charge more money because people would pay for my experience and education, and the writing would be so much easier because I did not need to research the subject matter. That is when my freelance writing career changed. Within 3 months of reading her book I quit my job to freelance full time. It was like she had given me the keys to a brand new career.

While many other freelancers would like to get out of the “generalist” trap, some simply don’t know what they can specialize in. Often these writers don’t have any formal education or professional training in anything and they think that there is nothing out there that they are qualified to specialize in. If you open your mind a bit and look at your overall knowledge and experience, it isn’t actually that hard to decide what you can specialize in.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • What are your personal interests? Many people have a personal interest in their pets, their town, their sports teams and their schools. You can specialize in writing about these topics on a regional or, sometimes, national level.
  • Do you have any hobbies? You might have a love of cars, beer, music, video games, sewing, reading, or some other hobby. Because you’ve already invested so much time learning about and participating in this hobby you actually can specialize in writing about it.
  • What kind of work have you done? No matter how much you might have hated all the jobs you’ve had before freelancing, you probably learned something. Maybe you know a lot about coffee, customer service, hospitality, cuts of meat — whatever. You’ve done it so you probably know more about it than some generalist writer who hasn’t done that type of work. Why not specialize in it?

So take some time to think about all the knowledge you’ve acquired in your personal and professional life and see if you can’t get a specialty out of that.

Tell us, what’s your writing specialty
and how did you become a specialist in that topic?