Want to make the jump to full-time professional writing? Specializing may help — specialists in any field command higher rates than generalists.
Many specialist writers develop a specialty in an area they’re already familiar with. For example, if you’re a doctor, you could specialize in health writing. If you’re a banker, you could specialize in writing about finance.
Most professional writers I know however, developed a specialty more or less by accident.
For example, for several years I specialized in copywriting for large equipment companies. A writer friend fell into her food writing specialty when she did restaurant reviews for a local paper. Another friend fell into his political writing specialty after he wrote a series of articles for a magazine.
One of the reasons for specializing is money, of course. Chances are however, that it’s not your primary reason. In fact, many specialists would write in their area for minimal payment, because they’re highly curious and fascinated by anything to do with their specialty.
The benefits of developing a specialty include: a steady flow of projects (editors and other buyers prefer to hire specialists); minimal research, so writing is faster; and useful contacts.
Let’s look at how to become a specialist writer.
1. Start by Reviewing Your Archives: What Areas Are You Writing in Now?
Check your archives of published material. What areas do you enjoy? What areas do you have contacts in? Make a list.
Once you have the list, one area may jump out at you, simply because you enjoy writing in that area; it’s fun for you.
Choose an area in which you could specialize.
2. Write a Book in an Area in Which You Want to Specialize: Become an Expert (Optional)
Writing a book in an area and getting it published takes time — at least a year or three. However, it will establish you as an expert.
Over my long career, I’ve specialized in several areas. One was business writing. An editor of a technical publication passed my name to a book editor at a major publishing house. We got on so well, that the editor encouraged me to write a series of business books.
Once I’d written the books, I was a de facto business expert. I mined that particular area successfully for years.
3. Build Your Contacts in Your Specialist Area: They’ll Spread Your Name
Once you’ve chosen your area, focus on building your list of contacts, and make sure that you stay in touch with them. Every major project I’ve ever landed has come to me courtesy of my contacts. Yes, it’s always who you know. 🙂
Your contacts will spread your name, and you’ll be handed many projects which only go to specialists in an area.
So, should you specialize?
As your professional writing career develops, you’ll find yourself specializing in areas, simply because you’re known as a competent writer. It can be highly rewarding.
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