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For most situations in life and work, the admonition makes for poor advice. But it’s great career advice for a journalist, where specializing is key to success.
Reviewing the thousands of writer portfolios in the Contently network, a schism becomes apparent between the successful and unsuccessful journalists: specialization. The most successful journalists report on one, narrow subject. The remainder try desperately to prove they are a jack-of-all-trades and find few publishers seeking a do-it-all writer.
Whenever young people approach me for advice on how they can start out in journalism or working journalists wonder how to break into freelancing, I always tell them to pick a market niche to write about and pursue that avenue through any number of trade magazines that serve the purveyors and aficionados of that particular industry.
Narrowing your focus will eliminate you from many assignments, but it will put you at the head of the pack vying for the assignments on the topics on which you specialize.
It’s a lesson I’ve seen in action by observing my colleague and friend, Mary Jo Foley, who made a career out of covering a single company: Microsoft. Mary Jo, a blogger for ZDNet and author of Microsoft 2.0, is as skilled and able a reporter as I know and could pick up any topic or beat in a matter of days, but her decision to focus on Microsoft for more than a decade made her one of the world’s foremost experts on one of the most important organizations of the 21st century.
Mary Jo will share her experiences covering Microsoft and the importance of specializing at the Freelance Writers Meetup at 7 p.m., June 19 at Foursquare headquarters in New York.
It’s the second of what we plan to be monthly meetings of the Freelance Writers Meetup and specializing is an important lesson we hope to evangelize among freelance reporters. Please join us June 19 ,support the Meetup page, “Like” our Facebook page and keep reading The Freelance Strategist for more on improving your freelance career.