Diversity is a marvelous thing for writers.
Uh…quick clarification. In this context, diversity doesn’t mean trying to include a well-rounded cast of characters in your novel rather than defaulting to the singular white, straight male protagonist. It also doesn’t mean highlighting authors from varying races, genders, creeds, orientations, and cultures. These are all good things, yes, and deserve more discussion in and of themselves. However, that’s not what we’re talking about today.
I’m talking about how you earn money as a writer. How you pay the bills. Because that’s what many writers aim to do, isn’t it? (If you aren’t, that’s perfectly fine. I know some folks write purely for “the art!” This post just may not be relevant to you) Writing as a full-time job is a dream for many and a reality for some. Whether you’re a freelance copywriter, are pursuing a career as an author, or a mix of both, it’s quite possible to make ends meet through writing alone. It’s not necessarily a quick and easy career path, but it’s feasible!
If you’re pursuing or already in the throes of a writing career, diversifying your portfolio and skill set is one of the most valuable investments you can make with your time and energy. By diversifying, I mean moving beyond thinking of yourself as “just a novel writer” or “just a website writer” and finding all potential outlets and ventures your writing skills apply to.
Why is this so important? Let’s break it down:
#1 – More income channels!
If your writing income is based on a singular outlet, such as your novels or a copywriting contract with a single ad agency, you run a great risk. What if that income channel dries up for a while? What if a contract falls through or ends and you have nothing else coming down the pipeline immediately? This can leave you scrambling for funds if you aren’t prepared.
However, if you’ve tapped into multiple income channels, it’s far easier to have more consistent monies flowing your way. During my time as a freelance writer, I’ve greatly expanded the sort of work I’m able to offer clients. With my fiction as well, I’ve tried to put as many irons in the fire as possible to see which ones heat up faster. Here’s a top-of-my-head overview of all the different ways I can (and do) ply my writing these days, both as a freelancer and author:
- General copywriting
- Blogs & articles
- Brochures and fliers
- Sales letters
- Audio & Video scripts
- Marketing & Branding campaigns
- Social media
- RPG Writing: Game manuals, adventure and campaign modules, bestiaries, worldbuilding content, supplements, tie-in fiction…
- Short stories
- Flash fiction
- Serialized content
- Ghostwriting & co-authoring
- Various genres: Epic fantasy, urban fantasy, sword & sorcery, science fiction, humor, horror
- Publishing: Traditional publishing, Self-publishing, Crowdfunded
#2 – More opportunities!
If you think of your writing as applying to only one media format, one genre, or one outlet, then you could be missing out on tons of exciting projects or ventures that fall outside the lines. Be willing to stretch yourself a bit and recognize that writing opportunities are found in practically every industry, on every topic, and geared toward every audience. For those struggling to find writing work, take off a few of those search filters and see what else pops up that you might’ve overlooked.
#3 – Less boredom/burnout!
This is a big one for me. I hate being bored, and having a variety of active writing ventures gives me numerous projects to be engaged by if my main one starts to lose its luster (Note: I’m not saying constantly project-hop. There’s value in just sitting down and working until a draft is finished. But it can be freeing to have options if I get desperate. If I have future projects I’m excited to work on, it can also be motivating to get the current one out of the way faster.). At the same time, grinding away at a massive project/story forever can be exhausting. If you have multiple projects in play, then you can switch mental tracks for a while. Or, even if you focus entirely on a single project to completion, you can follow it up with a different effort. For instance, after I finish a novel draft, I prefer to take a break and work on short stories or flash fiction for a while. I’m still writing consistently, but in very diverse modes. It’s refreshing while also exercising different writing muscles.
#4 – Larger audience!
The more your writing reaches across genre and format boundaries, the more readers you can potentially connect with. A quick example: When working a con booth for Kevin J. Anderson and his WordFire Press imprint, I saw an incredibly diverse author portfolio at work. He has books published in horror, steampunk, tie-in fiction (Star Wars, Dune, etc.), urban fantasy, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, science fiction, and graphic novels. Because of this wide range of offerings, anytime a person stopped by to check out the table, it was almost guaranteed that we’d have a story in the genre or style they preferred. I’d love to have a similarly diverse array of stories to offer readers down the line.
#5 – More fun & growth!
This ties in to some of the above, what with avoiding boredom/burnout, being engaged by new opportunities, and the like. But think about it. Do you want to be writing the same old, same old five or ten years down the road? I think it’s far more fun and exciting to embrace growth and change in yourself, in your writing, in the publishing industry, and in storytelling platforms. The more you adopt a mindset of diversity and exploration today, the better you’ll be positioned to adapt to inevitable change tomorrow. Are there challenges to this approach? Of course. Are they worth facing for the sake of long-term career viability as a writer? Without a doubt.
Do you pursue diversity in your writing efforts? Do you pigeonhole yourself in a single genre, style, or format because it’s the only oneyou’re comfortable with? What’ve you done lately to stretch your writing into new areas of expertise or publication?