The Importance of Diversifying Your Writing Business



Writing is a craft; freelancing is a business.

When I speak publicly about freelancing, I recite this sentence at least a dozen times per lecture. Like a personal credo. Or a mantra.

The statement is neither complicated nor controversial. Writing, the creative process of stringing words together to form sentences, is a form of artistic expression. Freelancing—essentially, writing for cash—is an exercise driven by capitalism. You do it to make consistent money over time.

Matt VillanoI usually go on to draw comparison between how we freelancers are no different from any of the small businesses we frequent in our hometowns—the local dry cleaner, the local butcher, the local coffee shop. Like these businesses, we provide our customers with a product or service. In our cases, the customers are publishers and other media outlets, and the product is the written word (and the service is content creation).

When you think about the business of freelancing in these terms—as if each and every one of us is a small business owner—it’s easy to understand why businesses that diversify make the most money: The more products you offer, the more products you can sell, and the more sales you likely will make.

Sure, businesses (again, we) can specialize in one or two products, but simply having supplemental (or, in some cases, complimentary) products ONLY IMPROVES THE BOTTOM LINE. Put differently, the more products you can add to your portfolio, the more successful and less vulnerable to market fluctuation you will be.

Now let’s go back to my mantra. Writing is a craft; freelancing is a business. And, since most of the folks who come to TBEX (myself included) are bloggers, let’s substitute the word, “Blogging,” for the word, “Writing.”

What does this mean for us?

For starters, if we want to make REAL money, it means we need to get serious about ourselves as businesspeople. As much as we might like the process of researching and writing our blog posts (who doesn’t like traveling for a living?), this alone is not activity on which anyone can hang a long-term business.

Instead, to succeed as businesspeople, we bloggers must approach our profession as something more—as freelancers. This, in turn, means it is IMPERATIVE that we diversify to guarantee the survival of our businesses. Put differently, it means we must do more than blog.

There are plenty of reasons for diversification:

  •  Blogging doesn’t pay big bucks.
  • The more bloggers there are, the fewer opportunities there are to earn money blogging.
  • If the travel industry takes another hit, there’ll be even fewer opportunities to earn money blogging.
  • For sanity’s sake, after hundreds of posts on the same general subject, it’s nice to write about something different for a change.

Some of us fundamentally understand the benefits of diversification, and already have branched out into photography, traditional journalism, marketing partnerships and more. Some of us sell our influence on Twitter and other social media sites. For the rest of us, unless we’ve got income from somewhere else (a sugar daddy, perhaps?) diversification is essential in order to survive.

I contend that the easiest and most sensible strategy for diversification is to add corporate writing and sponsored content into the mix. As travel bloggers, we already know what it means to work closely with brands. Heck, some of us likely have penned guest blog posts FOR big companies—bylined or not.

Even if you haven’t worked closely with big brands, you undoubtedly can identify big brands with which you’d want to work. The rest is as simple as cold pitching and selling yourself.

I’m not going to divulge my secrets to diversifying successfully here in this post—for those insights you’ll have to come to my session. The bottom line: For long-term success in this business, in order to earn the kind of money you’ll need to sustain your career into the next decade, diversification is a must. Remember, writing/blogging is a craft; freelancing is a business.

Author Bio:  Matt Villano also serves as senior editor of the Expedia Viewfinder blog. His talk, titled, “In Search of the Cash Cow: Corporate Freelancing and Sponsored Content,” is scheduled for 10:45-11:45 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13.


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Tim Leffel
Tim Leffel
September 3, 2014 11:15 am

Great stuff as always Matt. I cringe every time I hear one of the “make money online” people say you need a laser focus on one product or service and don’t get distracted by other opportunities that don’t support that core thing. I credit most of my success to having a whole portfolio of websites and like you, my freelance work has gone well beyond travel to telecom, sports, small business, finance, and even biotech. Travel is the most fun, but it’s also the most competitive, especially if you’re a generalist without niche authority that can get you hired easily.

Matt Villano
Matt Villano
Reply to  Tim Leffel
September 3, 2014 1:03 pm

Right on, Tim. It’s cool to have areas of expertise — for me, they are family travel, gambling and whales — but the more product lines you can offer, the more solid your business will be. Looking forward to discussing this more with you guacamole and margaritas in Cancun!

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