If you have a specialist mindset, then go ahead and pursue your specialty, deepen your knowledge. If you have a more "versatilist" mindset, as I do, it should be alright to keep learning and exploring. I think these sorts of decisions need to come from the inside out, and not vice versa. If you become what "the market" wants you to be, you may find that you lose your soul -- never a good thing for any creative person (and we're all creative persons).
There's a danger in narrowing your focus: either concerning the areas you write about, or the clients you work with. Today's hot topic could lose its traction/budget/popularity/trendiness, etc., and you might find yourself out of work. Writers need to be as dynamic as every other business in today's fast-evolving world.
Here's an example. When I worked as a print journalist for two decades, I could see how digital technology was eroding both our revenues (through classifieds and ads) and circulations (as younger folk switched to online sources for news). Year after year, print journalism lost revenues and readers. From 2007 to 2012, I started seeing some of the print outlets I'd been writing for literally disappear. By disappear, I mean go out of business. Other print outlets either froze their budgets or slashed them, both bad for freelancers like me.
I learned to be a strong marketer in this dynamic climate because I had to do so to survive. If a client closed down or cut their freelancer budget, I had to scramble to replace the lost revenue. I was constantly on my bicycle looking for new print clients to replace old ones that "disappeared" for me. Was this process depressing and exhausting and endlessly challenging? You bet. But it led me to make a major change -- leading me to content marketing, where revenues and opportunities were actually growing.
Yet even in content marketing, clients can churn. Sometimes they drop the agency you're writing for, maybe switching agencies or doing digital marketing with an in-house team instead. In any event, you've lost a client and need to replace those revenues. Writers need to be marketing their services, always. Even if you're doing well, you want to move up and do higher-paying, potentially more challenging work.
Accepting that some level of client churn is natural will give you the right mindset to thrive. As new opportunities come in, consider whether it's a good fit. How confident are you with the topic area, the voice the brand seeks, the people you'd be working with, the payment terms, and more? Standing pat is never a good option, no matter the business. As the great jazz composer and conductor Duke Ellington once said, "either you're appearing, or you're disappearing."
You need to pursue opportunities that fit your approach to the work. Yes, a client may need to drop you. But you may need to drop a client. Sometimes, they put more demands on your time and patience than they're worth. Having enough confidence to drop a client who isn't working for you is a key success indicator for any creative professional. You can't allow clients you supposedly "need" (and try never to be in the position of relying on just one client) to make your life so bad that it impacts your work and life. Just as clients have the right to move on, so do writers.
The more clients you have, the less financial and creative pressure you'll place on any single client. You want different clients, and you want to write in different areas, simply because difference is good. I love pizza, but I don't want to eat it all the time. Having a bigger menu of options can serve you well, and not just financially. Sometimes we get into creative ruts, so being able to do something different can serve as the spice of life, refreshing our palettes, showing us new avenues.
The idea I'm advocating here is diversity in what you do, including your client base. You can still be a thought leader in one area, and be curious and passionate about other topics too. I don't see that as a bad thing, though some writers might. But being flexible and versatile has been a big help for my business and my creative process, and I plan to continue exploring new areas that catch my eye.
How do you view the classic debate between specialization and versatility, dear reader?