Thursday, August 6, 2015

I'm a Writer, Not a Communications Specialist

Many years ago I was a new, self-employed writer. Work came in starts and fits, which made budgeting for things a practice in acrobatics. My confidence wasn't really there, and thinking back it probably showed in a lot of things that I did. One of the biggest signs of my shakiness was the fact that I had business cards made up that said I was a "writer/communications specialist."

Today, I'd never describe myself as a communications anything. Sure, writing is a form of communication, but so is music. I've never heard of a professional musician saying that he's a communications specialist. It's a ridiculous, bullshit term that screams you don't know who you are and are scared to commit.

At the same time I was billing myself as a communications specialist, I was also trying to grab any writing work I could. It's a hard lesson for newer writers or creative entrepreneurs of any kind, but you actually put yourself in a power position by rejecting working opportunities. I have people come to me with writing jobs all the time, and I turn most of them away. Why? Because I'm picky now, and I no longer try to be a jack of all trades.

A big secret I learned long ago is that people are willing to pay a specialist more than a generalist. If you hire a handyman to do some work on your house, you pay him less because he's not as skilled as a plumber or electrician. It was a scary thing to do, but I started to move to a specialization in the automotive writing field. I don't live in Detroit or California, I live in Utah of all places. The funny thing is that fact has actually made me a kind of writing unicorn, a rarity that actually makes me more valuable. Did it require a lot of risk? Yes, but in business the greater the risks, the greater the potential rewards.

In other words, no guts, no glory.

I've vowed to never describe myself with mediocre words again. I also don't apologize for what I do, because I love it and have no regrets. This is probably my greatest piece of advice for anyone who wants to be a writer, artist or any other kind of creative entrepreneur. I'm a writer, damn it, and I'm working to be the best one possible.


  1. I find the most ego-shattering part of being a writer is the assumption that anyone can do it. That writing is just a ruse to get out of real work. I’m usually at my desk 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week. Writing is real work.

    VR Barkowski

    1. Yes, everyone thinks they can write well, but the sad truth is they usually can't.