Why Putting Your Eggs in one Baskets Will Make You a Basket Case

We’re fast approaching Easter, so I thought now might be a beneficial time to use the ol’ egg and basket metaphor. Because…why not? Any other time of the year it’s just cliche and boring, but for some reason when you get within a few weeks of Easter anything with eggs is fair game. But it’s a somewhat serious topic and I want to discuss it here because I think it will be good food for thought and helpful. 

I’ve talked before in other posts about not relying on one source of income entirely – at any point in your freelancing career – because it’s so dangerous, and a recipe for disaster. I probably don’t have to convince anyone that relying solely on Textbroker, or solely on Elance, or solely on one corporate client alone is a bad idea. If Textbroker suddenly has zero orders (I’ve seen it happen), or you put out 30 proposals and get zero work on Elance – or not enough to support yourself – or your clients randomly cancel jobs you’ll be stuck. And broke. And upset. 

But there are many other ways that writers put all their eggs in one basket without realizing it. I want to go over some of those here just in case you haven’t thought of them. 

Relying on One Client

I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to rely solely on one client. A lot of people say well, I write on Textbroker, I write for Constant Content, and I’m doing query letters to magazines, so I have more than one income stream. I’m good. But what they don’t consider is that within Textbroker they’re only doing orders from one client because they’re on a team. Or they only submit orders to requested content for Constant Content. Or they only pitch to one publication because that’s the publication they have their hearts set on. This is particularly true on Textbroker. What happens if that one client suddenly decides to take his sweet time reviewing orders and you don’t end up getting your funds until your next pay period. (It takes 4 days to have funds released – to the minute of your submission – if clients just sit and let the orders auto-accept. You have to request your pay-off on Thursdays before midnight.) Always make sure you’re working for a variety of clients, even within your various income streams, so you can make as much as possible (as quickly as possible). 

Relying on One Form of Payment

Perhaps it’s because I know exactly what it feels like to be broke, but I almost never turn down money just because it’s in a certain form. Unless that form is somehow illegal. Yet I’ve met writers who don’t write for publications or certain corporations because they pay via check. Listen, I understand that we live in the 21st Century and it’s a little weird to be paid by check for some people. Amazon payments and Google Wallet are also kind of strange, but still totally legitimate forms of payment. Get used to accepting various forms of payment. If you stick to PayPal alone, you’re turning down valuable work. Also, I happen to prefer checks because that system of payment has been going strong without too many hitches for years. Electronic payments are really rather recent. If PayPal happens to crash some day, at least you can rely on your good old fashioned checks and deposit them. 

Relying on One Type of Work

Another problem I see freelancers having is when they rely solely on one type of work. For instance, they only write white papers. Or they only write web copy. Or they only write eBooks. Now, don’t get me wrong, some people do very well specializing in one type of writing. But specializing in a type of writing shouldn’t mean you exclude all others. The market changes frequently, so if you only write eBooks and some day eBooks die down, where will your business be? Always do at least 3-5 types of writing so you can alternate between them, diversify your income, and create a safety net for yourself if one type of writing slows down. The only exception to this would be, perhaps, government documents that are always needed, like CSR reports. But even so, I’d vary it. 

Relying on One Subject Area

Just because you’re a health care specialist doesn’t mean you have to write only about health care – at least not directly. Many people have a specialty or a niche as far as the topic they write on, which is great. What’s not great is when they box themselves in subject wise. Let me explain. Let’s say you’re a health care writer, so you focus on writing for hospitals, health magazines, weight loss blogs, etc. That’s a great starting point. But why not pitch an air and space magazine, or a law blog? Wait a minute – you’re a health writer, why would you be able to write for those things, right? Wrong. Write about how space suits affect the human body, or write about the new health care law from a medical standpoint. Think about ways you can apply your knowledge of health care without writing directly about it and a whole new world of opportunity will open up to you. I write about crafts and handmade business quite a bit, but I’ve also applied that knowledge to health care (art therapy), education (using crafts to help kids), collectors (taking trinkets and making crafts), business (how corporations can learn from handmade businesses), and so on. 

Challenge: Go to a website like about.com and pull up the list of topics and subjects on the browse page. Think of your niche. Then, go through some of these topics and think of ways you can apply what you know to these different subject areas. Let us know what you find out/come up with in the comments! 

Relying Only on Client-Solicited Work

Do not forget to have pet projects. We writers are almost all creative by nature. Every once in awhile someone gets into very restrictive legal writing because they used to be a lawyer and retired, but even those individuals tend to have a creative bone. Regurgitating information is not hard. Writing is. There is an art to writing, no matter what kind of writing it is, and that means it’s creative, meaning the people who do it are creative, as well. Don’t deny that creative bone or you’ll start to hate writing. If you only write your Textbroker articles or your white papers for corporate clients or your eBooks you’ll start to see writing like a corporate job – restrictive – instead of as a creative job – freeing! I’m always working on eBook, poetry book, story, novel, whatever. And I still make crafts, too. And write music. Because that’s what I love. Don’t forget to do writing that’s done simply because you need to write it. If you sell it, great. If it sits in your drawer, fine. Just do it. 

Diversity is the key to everything. If you’re investing in the stock market, you wouldn’t dare put $40,000 in one stock and hope for the best, right? Then why would you invest your income potential in one client, type of payment, type of writing, or subject? Always diversify your income streams, clients, work type, subject matter, and even your names. I have several pseudonyms I publish eBooks under if I don’t want them to be attributed to my corporate writing name. The reason for this is that I have a specialty, and if I’m writing mostly about crafts and health and then suddenly publish an eBook about pandas or California tourism, I’m afraid it might confuse my clients. My real name is my business name, and I want my business to be cohesive and only within a few niches. Outside of that I’ll use different names so that if someone searches “Courtney Herz” they don’t see me as someone who doesn’t have a focus. 🙂 It’s a great tip that has allowed me much creativity and broadened my income capabilities quite a bit. 

Hope this helped you guys out! Sorry for the delay in posting. I’m shooting for a weekly blogging schedule on Mondays so you can get your week started with some helpful advice and perhaps procrastinate just a little longer while calling it professional development when really it’s an excuse to grab that second cup of coffee because let’s face it you need it. 😀 Yeah, I’ve been there, too. Once a week. 

Have a super great week, and happy writing! Don’t forget to take the challenge above and comment your results! 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. storydivamg says:

    Great advice as usual, Courtney! I’ve found it difficult to step outside various comfort zones as a freelancer, but I’m also learning that doing so can open new opportunities. I especially like what you say here about working for more than one client within a particular venue. One of the scary things with Textbroker, where I currently earn about 90 percent of my income (although it’s not where I do 90 percent of my work), is learning to go with the flow and ebb of work from different teams and clients. However, that is also one of the awesome things about being a writer there. No two weeks bring the exact same mix of work my way, and that variety feeds my creativity. Besides, it’s great to have a place where I can earn a decent income while I work on books that won’t start paying out for several months yet. Then, later, I’ll have income from those books or another one of the many pies in which I have my fingers.

    Thanks again for the wonderful food for thought.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

    1. courtneyherz says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I agree, learning to go with the tide of workflow is one of the great challenges of freelancing. Over a year in and I’m still learning to sail that ship without panicking. 🙂 I also agree that it’s great to have places where you can earn while working on pet projects. I’ve just signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo for April and earning while still being able to write my novel is exciting. Best of luck to you! Thanks again for the input!

      Courtney

      1. storydivamg says:

        I’m nearly two and a half years in, and I’m still struggling to ride the ups and downs of the business gracefully. It is a little easier as I’m able to anticipate some of the seasonal aspects better, but I’m sure there will always be times when I want to reach for the “panic” button.

        Cheers!
        MG

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