Generalist vs Specialist: Which One is Better When You’re a Blogger or a Freelancer?

For those who know me personally, you probably know which one I am. I’m a generalist inside and out. I’m the kind of person who probably knows something about everything.

One minute I could talk about sports, the next thing you know we’d engage in a conversation about politics. That’s what I am.

I speak 4 languages, when God knows I can’t speak any of them properly on a more formal occasion since I use all of them for casual conversation only. Just yesterday, I had a hard time explaining what “engagement” means in Indonesian while later on, I couldn’t tell the word my mom said in Sundanese, which is ironically my first language.

The idea of writing about this generalist vs specialist came when I decided to hire more assistants to help me with this blog. Yup, The BeauTraveler now has a team of 6 including me!

The hiring process made me realize that I really am a jack of all the trades, yet master of none. I ran this blog all by myself, but there are some details that I barely even know exactly how it works. I help clients with Instagram engagement, yet I barely even upgrade my knowledge about it.

Source: Pexels.

Generalist vs Specialist

To keep it short and easier to understand, let’s borrow the definition of both from the one and only Merriam-Webster. When a specialist is one who specializes in particular occupation and practice, a generalist is one whose skills and interests are varied. 

Basically, when a generalist like me has a broad knowledge, a specialist really has deep knowledge about one specific topic. 

So, which one is better if you’re a blogger or a freelancer like me? 

What Happens When You’re a Blogger or a Freelancer: Generalist or Specialist?!

As you know now, I’m definitely a generalist. You can easily judge what kind of blogger I am from this blog. I write a lot of articles about various topics from traveling, blogging, to even dating.

Even as a freelancer, I’m totally a jack of all trades because I do copywriting, managing clients’ social media accounts as well as graphic designing sometimes. But then again, I could never claim myself a specialist for a lot of reasons.

I like writing, but I don’t know the deep knowledge about it. I couldn’t bother to learn about some clickbait title that would attract potential blog visitors, and I basically manage social media account on behalf of clients like a machine.

When one thing works, I keep doing it the same thing until it doesn’t. And I do graphic designing on Canva only because I barely know anything about Photoshop. That’s how much I am as a generalist.

Now that I’m a self-proclaimed blogger slash freelancer, does that make me a better freelancer/blogger for being a generalist?!

Generalist as a Freelancer/Blogger

Being a generalist definitely has its own perks. But then again there are times when I need a specialist to help me with some other stuff.

For example, when I finally decided to migrate from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress, I can’t for the love of me understand the technical process of redirecting my old domain to my new one so I got some assistance from one of the fellow Indonesian bloggers to do it. Even for the migration process, I relied on the hosting provider that I have now that is super awesome with their customer service support!

But overall, there are some things that I think beneficial as a freelancer or a blogger when I’m a generalist.

1. You basically know almost everything, on the surface.

The thing about being a generalist is that I’m pretty much familiar for everything, even though it’s only for the basic level. Intermediate, at the most of it.

I mean, I’ve done almost everything in this blog by myself. After everything is set with the redirection and migration process from WordPress.com, I basically took over everything. I designed this blog, set-up the email marketing, created a landing page, and even for some reason managed to set up Google Analytics and search console for this blog.

But guess what? If you asked me how I did it now, I won’t be able to explain it through and through. I mean, I probably forgot how I could do it but I did it.

I mean, they say curiosity kills the cat. But it certainly got this human cat this far. What I did is just that I know the basic of how each platform works, and I do things that work. When it doesn’t, I seek for help from the specialist.

So yes, basically… Generalist and specialist actually do need each other. I generalist need the help of specialist when I get stuck, but I suppose just because the specialist know the details of how it works, it doesn’t mean they have to do everything on their own.

Source: Pexels.

2. You’re quite flexible in terms of the broad topic that you’d probably know already.

Given the example this blog, you know how many posts I’ve got with various topics from some dating apps drama to even some hacks to monetize my blog. It’s like a totally different topic, but I wrote about them anyway because I have the experience to share when it comes to those topics.

The downside is when someone came across my blog because of the term ‘traveler’ on my brand, yet they couldn’t find some detailed itinerary anywhere in my blog.

I mean, sure I’ve been sharing a lot of blog posts about traveling from some fun facts about Brunei or whether the must-visit places in Bali are actually worth visiting.

But then again, if you’re a visitor who came across this blog hoping you can find an itinerary you could copy for your travel, to be honest, you’d be disappointed. I’m not an expert to create a perfect itinerary, because I sometimes ruined my own itinerary myself. Like, I find it hard to focus on one thing without wandering around when I find something more interesting.

Same goes when it comes to working as a freelancer. One of my clients is actually an Instagram expert, when I feel like I don’t like Instagram that much. If anything, I’m only on Instagram for the sake of being there. Also because most of my friends use the platform for a little chit-chat too.

I know the basic stuff like editing some pics or creating some stories template on Canva, but I really couldn’t bother to understand about the algorithms that keep changing all the freaking time. And my client understands this that the tasks given to me is just to boost up the engagement and hashtag research.

After all, if anything… I think I’m a generalist for a reason. My passion to find out about some random stuff through research is quite astonishing!

3. You’ve tried almost everything that you eventually find out which one that you enjoy and which one you don’t.

I’m not saying I’m a good writer, but I think writing is something that I enjoy the most compared to other activities when it comes to both blogging and freelancing. I still kinda suck at proofreading, but I find writing itself enjoyable and therapeutic at the same time.

To be a blogger is basically to understand the art of (digital) marketing. And the bombastic content is those that combine good copywriting and dang pics. Am I right or am I right?! See, I understand the theory. It’s just when it comes to practicality, I suck at photography so when it comes to visual… It’s just in average quality.

I use photo editing tools like Lightroom, but it’s only the basic one that I don’t even know how to setup a preset. I don’t even bother installing the app on my phone because I know from the beginning that photo editing is not my strength.

As a result, I’ve hired my friend who knows about Lightroom better than me to start revamping the quality of my photos for my next posts. That way, he could focus on the visual part when I could focus on the thing that I enjoy the most: writing the content.

Source: Pexels.

Specialist as a Freelancer/Blogger

Well, this post might be a little biased since I basically write from a generalist’s perspective. But then again, as I said before… There are times when a generalist still need a specialist to help them with the details.

If anything, I might have hired more and more people for a lot of things that I don’t enjoy doing if only budget is not my restraint. Like, given a chance and budget, I want to hire someone to deal with my finance since I kinda suck with money.

The list goes on and on, but then what if you’re a specialist thinking about going freelance or starting a blog?

1. You’ll be an expert!

If you still can’t tell the difference which one is the generalist and which one is the specialist, then I suggest you find bloggers or influencers who are self-proclaimed or certified *insert their niche here* coach or guru. Well, they’re the specialist!

They basically claim that they know the industry so well that they stick to one topic and nothing else. That makes them the expert because they will keep updating the knowledge and information within the industry, something that a generalist like me lacks.

2. It’s probably easier to find gigs for your expertise.

I’ve been working as a virtual assistant for a couple of years now, but I gotta admit that finding gigs or clients for me isn’t an easy job. And that’s why I stick to work as a subcontractor instead of starting my own virtual assistant business.

When you’re a specialist, it’s quite easy to find your target market because you basically have the ‘title’. But for a generalist like me, the market is so saturated that sometimes I’m not even sure whether I have the capabilities for a job opportunity.

For example, if there’s an opportunity for a copywriter position for an international company. As much as I enjoy writing, I’d be like… Am I good enough to apply for this position since my English isn’t like that fantastic?

Or when a potential client needs social media manager… Despite the fact I manage some of the clients’ account, without the help of the expert to deliver some new information about the social media, would I be able to keep up with the trend and algorithm?

Source: Pexels.

3. In the world where everything is dynamic, what’s your contingency plan when your industry isn’t on demand?

This is probably the only downside when it comes to being a specialist. Like I briefly mentioned the thing that works for me when it comes to blogging, one of them was the fact that I didn’t listen to those ideas about niching down into either beauty or travel blog only.

I’m a person with so many interests myself, so I figure my blog has to reflect my own self with one of them being a generalist. The benefit of being one is that when almost all travel bloggers complained about their traffic going downhill during Covid-19, I still get some occasional visit for other posts like work from home jobs or just some review of Freeman mask that I’ve been using.

In that case, when things happen so fast and the change is forced like that… You need to have a backup plan. Are you gonna stick with your niche, but tweak it a little in a way that is relevant to the current situation? Some travel bloggers are leaning toward the armchair travel or movies/books related to travel, as I can see it.

Or else, you can also try to start something else that might interest you apart from your niche. I mean, you can always find an opportunity when you’re on a desperate mode right?

So yep, that’s my two cents about being a generalist and a specialist. Each one of them has its own perks, but it’s your choice to pick which one you’d be. You know yourself better, and just believe that there’s a market for everyone when you apply a right strategy.

That being said, are you a generalist or a specialist? Share your experience in the comment below, and cheerio! 😉


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