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Do You Make More Money as an Freelance Writer When You Specialize?

Most editorial freelancers can do a myriad of jobs — and do them quite well, I might add. However, it’s hard to convince employers of that, so I always advise freelancers to specialize to increase income. Following is some insight into why.

To Specialize as Freelance Writer or Be a Generalist: That is the Question

For a deeper understanding, let’s look at the “human side” of hiring. I got an up close and personal look at this during my 7+ years of recruiting for on- and off-site editorial jobs/assignments when I owned my staffing agency in New York City (1996-2004).

I interviewed and hired hundreds of freelancers for on- and off-site assignments.

When a company decides to hire a freelancer, it usually means they are on deadline. In-house staff are usually either too busy or don’t have the skill set to complete the job on time. So, hiring a freelancer who already has the skills/knowledge necessary to complete the job makes the most sense — time and money wise.

With the advent of the Internet, many freelancers take the position of “all it takes is a little research and I could handle that assignment.” BUT, it’s human nature to be more comfortable with someone who specializes than deal with a generalist, a jack-of-all-trades if you will.

Further, the person responsible for hiring freelancers has a lot on the line. Just think, if the freelancer fails to turn in the project as specified, they will be in the hot seat. And, if the freelancer’s credentials don’t measure up, how will they explain that to higher-ups?

Convincing a Potential Client to Give Freelancers a Shot

Many times I had what I felt were extremely qualified applicants who didn’t have the “exact” skill set, but had easily transferable skills. However, many clients had stringent requirements — particularly for freelancers — from which they would not deviate.

Every once in a while, I was able to convince an employer to give a freelancer a chance to prove him/herself on an assignment, but it wasn’t often. These were usually long-time clients who had come to trust my judgment over the years. My take: it’s human nature to protect your own carcass — and that is basically the bottom line.

How to Land Even More Clients as a Niche Writer

So, writing in a defined niche — eg, medical editing, legal translation, insurance content provider, etc. — makes it infinitely easier to target your marketing messsage and get more assignments.

To increase your chances of landing even more writing gigs, broaden your reach within your niche. For example, if you are a medical writer, try hosting a webinar teaching others the ins and outs of how to how to be a medical writer (broadens your speaking skills); and/or writing an e-book on how to become a medical editor (heightens your professional profile).

An article on Entrepreneur.com expounds upon this idea, stating:

There are a number of very valid reasons for choosing a well-defined market niche. By targeting a very specific market segment, you can tailor your service menu, marketing efforts and customer service system to meet that segment’s needs. You can refine your marketing efforts and gain a reputation within the industry for expertise in certain areas–which means you can charge more.

Think about it: In the medical field, who earns more–a family practitioner or a neurosurgeon? The neurosurgeon, naturally, because he’s a specialist, and what he does requires greater skill.”

What’s your opinion, experience, comment, feedback? Do you specialize? Why or why not?

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    1. […] enjoy today’s throwback post is Do You Make More Money as an Editorial Freelancer When You Specialize?. It was written in Feb 2005, but is still relevant – as I talked about in a more recent […]