Generalist or Specialist?

Posted on August 14, 2013 by Lizz S

Generalist or SpecialistIs it better to specialize in writing about a specific topic that you’re familiar with, or should you branch out? Writing content about just one topic has its advantages, but it’s better for some writers to write about a wider variety of topics. Here are the pros and cons of each method to help make your decision easier.

The Specialist

Specialists usually have just one topic they are willing to write about. Sometimes they will have two, but usually they’ve found a very specific thing that they know a lot about, and they are comfortable as long as they stay within that topic. Many of these writers aren’t trained writers–they are people who worked within a specific field and now write about it. There are some specialists, however, who are trained writers who decide to specialize because they get plenty of work by doing so.

The Pros:

  • There are fewer jobs to apply to; you only apply to projects that are within your niche topic.
  • It’s easy to find a comfort zone–no weirdo topics to creep you out (hello, male enhancement articles!).
  • Some clients do like it. Some clients specifically look for writers who specialize in what they’re looking for.
  • Very little research will need to be done. Because you’ve written about the topic so many times, you already know it inside and out.

The Cons:

  • Because you’ve written about the topic so many times, you already know it inside and out. If you have to write about clown wigs one. More. Time. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!
  • There are far fewer opportunities. Out of all of the freelance content writing jobs out there, only a small percentage will be about your specific topic.

The Generalist

A generalist will write about anything at all. Some, like myself, have a couple of topics they refuse to write about (we meet again, male enhancement articles), but anything else is perfectly fine. Many people choose to be generalists because they have educational training in writing, and they can apply that training to virtually any topic.

The Pros:

  • You get to write about new and varied topics all the time. I generalize, and I’ve written about everything from The Real Housewives to digging a well. From day to day your topics are new, and that keeps things fresh and interesting.
  • There are plenty of jobs to go around. You may not get them all, but as a generalist there are always many things to choose from.
  • You build a portfolio. If you ever decide to get an in-house writing job, writing about one topic may not help you to do it. Having a varied portfolio filled with content that shows your range as a writer might.

The Cons:

  • Research takes time. Your writing time will be longer when you have to look up and try to understand a topic before you write about it, and some topics are pretty involved. Digging wells is apparently kind of hard.
  • There are clients who won’t hire you to write about their topics unless you’ve specifically written about it before. That can complicate the application process and count you out of some jobs.

Lizz S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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