Generalist vs. Specialist Writers: Pros and Cons for Online Companies

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A Guide to Help You Hire the Best Writer

Whether you’re a start-up online company, a website development agency or a firm looking to staff your growing marketing department, you want the best content writers your budget can afford. But with so many writers out there, how do you decide? What qualities should you look for?

Some writers offer to write whatever you need. Others only want to write blog posts. Still others focus solely on public relations writing. When you can’t afford to hire a specialty writer for each specialty you need, you need to do your research, conduct interviews and review samples. During that process, you’ll encounter advice on both sides of the controversy about the pros and cons of hiring generalists vs. online specialists.

Online company needs generalists and specialists, right?

There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both sides. Even the principal writers at Ray Access wrestle with the pros and cons. As entrepreneurs who maintain a very strict niche policy, sometimes they buck trends and local advice. For example, while Ray Access is an online company and content provider:

  • Is it better to offer a diverse range of services and products to a range of clients?
  • Or is it better to stick to our expertise and hang doggedly to the moniker of online specialists?

It’s Not Always Black or White, Good or Bad, Devil or Angel Stuff

For one thing, too many entrepreneurs settle into an inflexible mindset. Just because one way is good, for example, it doesn’t necessarily hold true that the opposite is bad. It may be just different. And the pendulum can even swing both ways — one day, it’s best to remain online specialists, but the following week, it’s better to cover the bases as a wide-open online company.

But most of the time, it’s ideal to find your place, carve out a brand and ride it straight to success. When you meddle with your focus too much, you may actually end up completely losing your edge, your competitive advantage, your raison d’être — or whatever you want to call it — and having nothing at all to show in the end.

Make a List; Check It Twice

Lists can often help you when you’re trying to test a solution. You can, after all, listen to the naysayers and the naggers all day long and still end up on the fence. So sit down and make a list of the pros and the cons of either being an online company that dabbles in a bit of everything and is available for your clients’ every need or living up to your true potential as an online specialist who is very good at one thing.

Consider first the pros of specialization:

  • You’ll at least have one exceptional product or service
  • You don’t have to wonder if you can take on a project or not
  • It’s easier to develop a clear brand identity
  • You become the calling card
  • You know where to put your training resources

The cons of specialization can be equally “con”-vincing:

  • You offer something for everyone
  • You can take on many more projects and won’t have to “leave money on the table”
  • Your identity is well-rounded
  • “Give it to Mikey; he’ll do it” — you become the go-to gal or guy
  • You can always hire really detailed specialists when you need them

Make a list if you're an online company

Many Paths, One Goal

It’s said that generalists at an online company know a little about a lot of things, while online specialists know a lot about one thing. Maybe the richest company is one that has room for both. And that leaves out the majority of small start-ups — unless of course you’re the generalist in the room that wants to start up an online company with a little something for everyone.

A lot depends on how hard you want to work, too. It takes a lot more work, research and training to serve many masters, whereas it’s always easier to get from Point A to Point B by the most direct route possible, the route you know best. It’s a lot less frustrating too, once you define your strengths and forget about trying to be the Jack or Jill of all trades.

The Teeter Totter of Trends

Like many things in life — and in business — there’s no right or wrong, black or white, all bad or all good. But there is a lot of gray, and face it: a lot of color when you run a small business. At Ray Access, we continue to ask ourselves this monumental question:

Do we want to be an online company with many solutions for a multitude of clients or should we stick in our lane and continue to be the best writers and editors on the planet — period?

Most days, we’re satisfied with our niche, the corner of the internet that we’ve carved out for our expertise. We started the company with the idea of being online writing specialists, so why not flaunt it? But on those days that we look out at the vast wasteland that is the domain of every online company and see the potential — in other words, when our minds get bigger than our talents — we ponder the path that so many others have taken, to the world of generalists who seem to be raking it in on every corner.

Most days, we don’t hesitate at all. Occasionally, it may take a full minute. But in the end, we say: “Nah, we’re good.” Being the best at what we do is way better than being just another generalist chameleon.

Posted by on November 2, 2017 in Agency Advice

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