Last week I received a reader question from Shirley Gazenski. She's in an interesting position -- torn between past samples in three distinct specialty areas. She wanted to know if I had any advice for her, and she agreed to have my feedback posted here in case any other community members find themselves in a similar position.
Let's start with her past work.
Shirley has written fillers, short stories, and greeting card verses in the past. She's also created greeting cards with her own artwork, having a background in illustration. She's still new to freelance writing and said she feels lost as to what to do next.
The Issue of Specialization
I'm a big proponent of specialization for freelance writers. But I think it's important to remind newer freelancers that specialization doesn't mean you have to stick to only one thing. What I generally suggest is to choose your specialty areas that fit within a larger target market, so you don't need completely different marketing efforts to reach two (or more) completely different sets of buyers.
If you're willing to invest that extra time into marketing to two or more groups, there's no reason you can't choose to do that. It just won't be as easy, and it'll eat into some of your otherwise billable hours.
In Shirley's case, the markets don't necessarily work well together (unless she could find a way to tie a greeting card series to the type of short stories she writes). So she can still take on all three types of work. She doesn't have to choose between them. But it might make sense to prioritize one over the others so she can better prioritize her marketing.
Where to Focus
I can't advise Shirley about the greeting card market for freelancers. I know it can be a tough market. And really, that's all I know about it. I also know that short stories don't tend to pay well when pitched and sold to publications (as opposed to selling collections yourself).
Of the three sample types she's worked on so far, writing fillers sounds like the most logical option. That's if money is the primary concern, as it will be for many freelancers. But you can also choose to focus on whatever specialty you enjoy working with more and see if you can turn it into a viable career. If you're in a position like Shirley's, you can always fall back on your other options later.
Freelancing vs Self-Release
Shirley has another option to consider. With at least two of the three types of work she's interested in, she can self publish.
For example, she might release her own line of print or electronic greeting cards, featuring her own verses and illustrations. And, of course, she could publish short stories through an outlet like Amazon.
That's not to say I recommend self-releases alone in this case. But it could be a good way for Shirley to diversify her writing income streams while she pitches freelance markets.
Now tell me, what would you do if you were in Shirley's shoes? Personally I'd combine at least two of these things if I had enough interest in them. I would probably focus primarily on pitching fillers while also writing short stories. Those could both be written for a self-published collection and have some stories pitched to publications for feedback and publishing credits.
What about you? Leave a comment with your own suggestions or to tell us how you would turn those three types of writing samples into new income streams.