By Alan Eggleston, writer, editor, SEO strategist
A great mentor once told me, a good writer can write anything. At the time, I doubted him, but I came to see through experience that he was right. Although subjects and formats and often the way you carry a project out are different between jobs, all writing is essentially about communicating facts and truths. A good writer, with a little research and toil, can write anything.
Answering the question I have posed would seem simple, then: You can feel good about hiring a generalist writer for any project. Yet, I think you can make plenty of cases for hiring a specialist, too.
When You Should Hire a Specialist
A specialist writer, like a specialist in any occupation, is one who works almost entirely in one discipline: a poet, a sci-fi/fantasy writer, a Web writer, a direct mail writer, a video writer, an audio writer, a DVD or or other interactive media writer, for instance. He or she has gotten so good at the craft and is so effective at it, that he or she can concentrate on that form of writing and make a good living at it. He or she has a reputation and clients have formed a line to tap his or her services. These professionals have tapped into niches that many other writers either haven't dared to try or haven't had the opportunity to do. They have honed skills key to mastering some very difficult or very intricate art or science.
I would hire a specialist when this is the sole project I'm going to do or when it is so key to my campaign or upcoming season that to fail would cause irreparable harm to my business. Or, I would hire a specialist when I don't feel confident the generalists I usually hire can or will do the project well.
When You Should Hire a Generalist
I would hire a generalist when I have multiple projects and he or she is so talented or skilled that I feel he or she can handle multiple formats. Or, I would hire a generalist when there are multiple elements to a campaign and you want to make sure the elements and messages hang well together between them, that they sound like they're part of one campaign. For instance, you may have a multi-tiered campaign involving letters, brochures, websites, post cards, radio ads, and mall kiosks, and you want the same theme and messages to run throughout them. A generalist will bring you unity across a range of collateral.
You may also have worked with a specialist who can handle a wide range of projects. For instance, I specialize in websites, but I can also write letters, brochures, event programs, blogs, social media, DVDs, post cards, videos, audios, ads -- you name it. Such a writer should be more than happy to help you with any project, even though he markets himself in a special niche.
The thing about writing is, the more you do the more you come to realize as a writer that a good writer can write anything. The goal is always good communication.
Follow me on Twitter: