It’s been a tough few weeks. You get them every now and again, but you just ride on through and wait till you get to the other side. There will be times when client schedules slide and collide and there is nothing you can do about it, and there will be times when schedules stall and you are left with gaps. It’s the nature of the business. As a freelance you will have weeks that knock your confidence, and you will have some that leave you feeling on top of the world. You need to accept what you can’t change and try to make changes where you can, to make your life easier. You want more of the ‘top of the world’ feeling in your life.
Now I know that the latest blip is just a blip, but it did get me thinking (as these things usually do), would it be better if I specialised?
I enjoy being eclectic because every commission is different. For example, in the past year I’ve worked on: a large poetry collection, some student thesis work, some business proofreading, some self-publishing commissions, a travel guide, and some ESL material. I’ve compiled, edited, and helped write a cookery book (for real chefs, not a book of my own attempts in the kitchen) and carried out some family history research, as well as completed work for traditional publishers. I’ve proofread, edited, indexed, compiled, sorted, project-managed, designed, researched and written. You see, every new job brought new and interesting things.
But at the heart of it all I specialise in historical subjects, I have just never really advertised the fact. I am an editor and genealogist. Give me an historical subject and I am happy, and quite a number of my commissions do have an historical flavour. See, I’m so old I even use ancient modes of speech (that’s my style, yours may be different).
Should I advertise myself as a specialist? Should you advertise yourself as a specialist? Is it better to restrict yourself to one subject rather than taking on other, equally interesting, areas? I would have hated to have missed out on some of the lovely books I’ve worked on (especially the lovely art books).
So, let’s look at some of the pros and cons for specialisation:
Pros for specialising
- You become seen as a specialist in your chosen field.
- Arguably you can command a higher fee.
- You can still branch out, but in your chosen field rather than in a general direction.
- You don’t have to specialise in a subject, you can specialise in a format. Or you can do both.
- You just have to keep up with advances in one specialist area rather than in many.
Cons against specialising
- Boredom may creep in. One of the reasons that freelance work is so rewarding is the variety of work that comes your way.
- What happens if your speciality becomes obsolete or over-subscribed?
- If you are not already a specialist in your chosen field you may have to re-train … and that’s going to be expensive.
- If you are a specialist you have less opportunity for continued learning in other fields, as you will want to stick to your chosen specialism.
- You are competing against other specialists, some of whom may have more qualifications than you.
Personally, I think the fear of missing out has stopped me openly specialising so far, and I bet I’m not the only one. Am I daft to admit that? Perhaps. Luckily though, many of my commissions have had a historical bent so perhaps I’ve just been lucky.
Perhaps it’s time I took the plunge?
Are you a specialist or a generalist? What are your views on specialising?