Cultivating Multiple Areas of Expertise


My favorite cheesy aphorism is “variety is the spice of life.” I’ve always had multiple interests, and this has translated to multiple niches in my freelance writing and editing career. I write web/mobile/print copy for nonprofits, startups, and other companies; I write original articles and blog posts on arts, culture, and travel; and I copy edit and proofread everything from novels to research reports.

The way I see it, this variety doesn’t mean I’m stretched too thin. I’m developing an expertise in each area in a way that works best for me. This translates to better work for all clients because I stay engaged in the work, and all the other types of work on my plate have given me time to reenergize for the task at hand. Doing one thing—like proofreading history books or turning out witty copy for a hotel booking company—all day long, or for an entire week or month or 40-year career, would lead to sub-par work.

I’ve always been someone who gets bored doing the same thing day in, day out; even eating the same thing for breakfast for too many days in a row makes me start to feel nauseous by the end of the week. My favorite hobby during college was looking at the course catalog (Cornell’s was deliciously and dangerously thick) and dreaming about all of the classes I could, should, would take, and all the possible careers my choices might lead to. At various times I wanted to become a neuroscientist, an ombudsperson, a DJ, and a translator.

I used to lament that I’d never find a career or hobby to fully devote myself to because I was just blinded by too many choices, too many genuine interests. Barbara Sher, author of Refuse to Choose!, puts a positive spin on the problem and actually recommends the career of freelance writer to many of us so-called “Scanners.” It’s a good fit for me because it lets me use a mix of creative energy and meticulousness, while learning about all sorts of topics through my work.

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