Why a Jack of All Trades Blogger Outperforms the Specialist Blogger

March 14, 2015
 / 24 comments

 

a jack of all trades
Matthew is a jack of all trades blogger.

Last week, I stumbled upon two different podcasts that proposed the same theory:

The entrepreneur is better off being a jack-of-all-trades than being a specialist.

Something about that clicked with me, because my own experience has confirmed this, despite living in a culture that screams, “Specialize! Specialize!”

Now, you might be thinking, “Matthew, I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m a blogger.”

Oh. Okay.

So you don’t want to grow an audience? You don’t want to earn any income with your blog? You just want to write your thoughts down and you don’t really care if anyone reads what you write?

Maybe you should just get one of these: old skool blog

Because here’s the thing: Unless you’re treating your blog like a diary, you are a blogger AND an entrepreneur.

This even applies to those of you who are using your blog like a business card–a means to attract clients. It doesn’t matter if your blog is not technically monetized. You’re still hustling with your blog, working it to find income. Technically a freelance service provider isn’t an “entrepreneur”, but still, a jack of all trades approach gives you the advantage.

Anyone who dreams of one day earning a buck with their blog should keep reading: The best thing you can do is embrace being a jack of all trades, because that’s what you need to be to build your blog to amazing heights.

You see, in my mind, the terms “blogger” and “entrepreneur” are married. Nobody can just write blog posts and make income.

The blogger must bone up on various areas of the blogging field, like SEO, Design, Online Marketing, Video, WordPress, and so much more. Bloggers are much better off having a firm grasp on all of these areas, instead of just being a specialist in one area, like writing, and not know what they’re doing in the other areas of blogging.

You can be a super talented writer who writes amazing blog posts and never get more than a double-digit readership if you refuse or fail to become a jack of all trades.

I know firsthand. A few years ago when I became self-employed, I started blogging as a way to attract clients. I was a “specialist” in copywriting and content writing and that’s the topic my content focused on. My blog wasn’t otherwise monetized. Still, I had to learn WordPress, digital marketing, design and so on to make it work.

After starting Build Your Own Blog, I’ve had to morph into a jack of all trades so much, I’m about to change my name to Jack.

All kidding aside, this deserves repeating: If you want to make money with your blog, it’s better to be a jack of all trades than a specialist.

This isn’t something new. I didn’t come up with this alone. A couple of online entrepreneurs I follow helped me see this light.

The two podcasters I heard say this are both living examples of online entrepreneurs (both use blogging in their business model as a means of income) who have succeeded not as “specialists” but as “jack-of-all-trades.” Both of these guys have robust blogs, dabble in many different content marketing areas, and know just enough about social media in general to be really dangerous. 🙂

These guys are killing it online.

So don’t just take my word for it. Check out what Tim Ferris and Gary Vaynerchuk have to say about the importance of being a jack of all trades…

Top 5 Reasons to Be a Jack of All Trades (Generalist) According to Tim Ferris

The first podcast that helped me put this together was The Tim Ferris Show, specifically Episode 19 Top 5 Reasons to Be a Jack of All Trades. His recommendation to be a jack of all trades intrigued me, as it’s not something you hear much today. At least I hadn’t. (Ferris is the author of bestselling books The Four Hour Work Week, The Four Hour Body and the Four Hour Chef.) a jack of all trades

Before I get into how Tim blows up this “false dichotomy,” I want to share a quote Ferris used to kick off his show, because it was made by one of the best science fiction WRITERS of all time. (A writer is considered a specialist normally, no?)

[blockquote source=”Robert A. Heinlein”]“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”[/blockquote]

Like Ferris goes on to say in the podcast, many today believe the days of being like Da Vinci, a renaissance man or woman who indulges in multiple areas of interest, and masters them, are ancient history. We think the 21st century is about choosing a specialty, then devoting most of our time to mastering IT ONLY. That is the path to financial success…

Or is it?

When it comes to blogging for income, you’ll need to find your inner Ben Franklin.

No matter what specialty you possess, there are plenty of other “trades” necessary to help your blog grow. If not you, then who will do it?

If you have a sizable budget, at the very least, you’re going to need to multi task and be a LEADER that delegates or outsources some areas you don’t want to do, yet cannot be ignored.

Like Franklin was a diplomat, writer, inventor and scientist, YOU can and should embrace the diversity of skills a blog requires of you–writing, video, online marketing, web design, WordPress, SEO, and more.

A big reason why people stopped encouraging this, I think, is because of the common expression, “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” People tend to see a jack-of-all-trades in more of a negative light than positive, and honestly, before mulling this over, I leaned that direction as well. We think of it as someone who isn’t really that great at anything.

Ferris starts his list of reasons with #5, and says this: “The ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ is an artificial pairing. You can also call it a false dichotomy. It’s entirely possible to be a jack of all trades, master of many.

How is this possible?

Specialists tend to overestimate the amount of time needed to master a skill and confuse mastering a skill with perfecting a skill…Generalists recognize that the 80/20 principle applies to skills.

For instance, 20% of a language’s vocabulary will enable you to communicate and understand at least 80% of the time ( 80% of the language.) 20% of a dance like Tango, let’s just say lead and footwork, separates the novice from the pro. You could also say that 20% of the moves in a sport account for 80% of the scoring. etc.

So, is this settling for mediocre?

If you take a surgical approach to applying the 80/20 principle, I would argue not at all. Generalists take the condensed study up to but not beyond the point of rapidly diminishing returns.

You can be world-class, I think, at anything in 6 to 12 months. Meaning in the top 5% of the general population. People cite the 10,000 hour rule, which was in many ways was a vast oversimplification of research by Anders and a few others. And that has largely been discredited. When you look at deliberate practice, there are just too many factors at play here, and correlation does not equal causation if you look at that data set.

Certainly, if someone wants to be speaking Spanish fluently, or even Chinese or Japanese, it can be done in 8 to 12 weeks. I’ve seen it done. I’ve done it myself. Even as someone who thought himself to be bad at languages as a kid.

Okay, so back to the main point, Generalists take the condensed study up to but not beyond the point of rapidly diminishing returns. So there’s perhaps a 5% comprehension difference between a focused generalist that studies Japanese systematically for say, two years vs. the specialist who studies Japanese for ten years. With the lack of urgency (this is really important), with the lack of urgency typical of those who claim that something “takes a lifetime to learn”, bull@!*&, that’s hogwash.  

Based on all the experiments I’ve done throughout all of the books, the hundreds of people I’ve interviewed, it is possible to become world-class in almost any skill within one year. Meaning top 5% in the general population. And sometimes well beyond that.

So reason #5 again, a jack of all trades, master of none, is an artificial pairing. It sounds good. We repeat it so often we think it to be true. Kind of like, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but guess what? That’s sometimes true, not always true. Right? You could run probabilities and stats…and it doesn’t always hold true. That’s the point. It’s a very memorable expression, but, it’s artificial.”

His words encouraged me to embrace being a jack of all trades.

I needed to hear this from someone like Tim Ferris, who understands what it takes to be an online entrepreneur–someone who has taken his calling to the internet and proudly embraces being a jack of all trades not just in online business but in life. Ferris has mastered a plethora of subjects, including fitness, cooking and learning new languages.

The four other reasons Ferris shares on why you should be a jack of all trades are equally as powerful and enlightening. I encourage you to listen to this entire podcast.

Gary Vaynerchuk Explains Why a Jack of All Trades Makes the Best Entrepreneur

Soon after finding the Ferris podcast, I was browsing the #AskGaryVee podcast feed and found Jack of All Trades in the title of his Dec. 9, 2014 show. Vaynerchuk has become a multi millionaire by aggressively using online marketing and social media to promote his business. He teaches that today, no matter what you do, you’re in the media business first.

“Hi. I’m Joe Schmo of Schmo Media, and I specialize in plumbing.”

When someone asked him if it was better for a person in business to specialize in one thing or wear many hats?, here’s how Gary responded:

“I think you need both, but in a world of trying not to be politically correct, and trying to draw some real lines in the sand, I’m a huge fan of a jack of all trades.

a jack of all tradesTons of people will tell you that means you’re not good at any of them, I don’t agree. I think I’m really &#$%^!@ awesome at 19 different things and I’m watching people in this room get good at many different things.

I hate when people use the excuse of ‘I’m great at this, and I go deep in this, and not try to get BETTER at other things, so to make a 51/49 call on this, both matter…..but I’m going to go with having multiple skills. I think it speaks to agility, and I love that.”

Vaynerchuk knows a lot about social media and online marketing. I recommend his stuff to any hungry blogger who wants to make a buck with their blog. Just know up front that he curses–a lot.

Conclusion: Here’s Why a Jack of All Trades Blogger Crushes the Snobby Specialist Blogger

Entrepreneurship.

That’s it.

If blogging to you is a hobby or like keeping a journal, then that’s fine. God bless you.

Or if you’re obsessed with the college diploma on your wall and you aren’t willing to get your hands dirty learning about other things like WordPress, SEO, website design, or online writing (not writing in general. Huge difference. If you’re an English major, you may not like the differences.), I hope your mediocre blog makes you happy and you enjoy not making any money from it.

Let’s Talk

I want to hear from you and what you think about this. If you’re a specialist snob, tell me in the comments why you disagree. All the Jacks and Jackies need to chime in here too. Share with us your story. How does being a jack of all trades help your blog?

Looking forward to it. In between my comments, I’ll be working on SEO, video content, marketing, design…..

Author Bio:

Matthew Kaboomis Loomis is the owner of Build Your Own Blog. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter

24 comments

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  1. Sue Chehrenegar says:    •   5 years

    In my mind, the person that has worked towards becoming a Jack of all trades will find it easier to carry-out the research needed for composing an interesting and informative blog post.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      I see what you mean, Sue. That mindset can help a blogger make connections between different topics, which leads to new insights. I like how you say “has worked toward becoming a jack of all trades.” It’s a quality not determined at birth. A generalist is a mindset someone can cultivate. I think the real entrepreneurs at heart take to it easily, without thinking about it. If you’re a blogger and have the heart of an entrepreneur, you can go far.

  2. Gwen says:    •   5 years

    I love this article, and the entire concept that it brings up. It seems, though, as if the problem that we end up facing, is how exactly to define one’s blog if the subject matter(s) vary too greatly. Or maybe that’s just me?

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      Glad you like this, Gwen! I see where you’re coming from…the generalist approach works great “behind the scenes” of blog building. But when it comes to your content, specialization, a.k.a. a narrow focus, is best for growing an audience.

  3. lew fong how says:    •   5 years

    Hello Mathew,

    Good afternoon,

    I would be very grateful to you if you could kindly guide me to some tutorials
    for

    -. Setting up a downloading page for ebooks,files or videos. and payment
    collection by Paypal.sytstem.

    Lew

    Thanks.

    With regards

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      Hey Lew,
      Feel free to email me on that: matt@buildyourownblog.net I want to keep this thread on the blog post topic. Thanks, mate.

  4. Brent Jones says:    •   5 years

    Hey Matthew,

    I love that you put your full thoughts behind this. I know we had started a bit of a conversation on LinkedIn over this one.

    The thing about my background in sales / management is that I have always been a jack of all trades. I kinda had to be. To connect with lots of different types of people, it’s helpful to know a little bit about everything and a lot about nothing.

    I still think I take that kind of approach in building my business.

    Great article.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      Hey Brent, yeah that’s one of the biggest takeaways I want people to get from this post: a blogger “Kinda has to be”a generalist to really go far.

  5. Joe says:    •   5 years

    I am with the concept of Jack all the way! At the young age of 73 I am about to venture into yet another business by joining you in the the Blogging and web marketing business. I don’t think there isn’t a skill I haven’t tried and had some decent success with from shoveling asphalt as a laborer (working my way through college), selling large scale computers to banks for a major computer company, programming computer applications, then forming and running several multi-million dollar corporations, and cooking gourmet meals, and installing new plumbing fixtures in my home, fixing electrical items, painting, carpentry, writing an e-book, raising kids, selling real estate and traveling a good part of the world! I will certainly be looking to you for help and advice in this next step forward in my journey through life.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      Love it, Joe! 73 is the new 63. 🙂 I’m happy to be of service for you in this next chapter of your life. There’s plenty of material on this website now to get you started. 🙂 And much more to come. Keep in touch, okay?

  6. Chuck Legge says:    •   5 years

    I’m an editorial cartoonist/columnist in Alaska. The print business being what it is, I’m also the driver’s/ed instructor for Alaska Job Corps. I’m on the verge of starting my own blog centered on my interest in politics and social commentary. I’m not sure what you mean by there being a difference between blogging and writing in general. Could you clarify? You may have noticed that the website section is blank. There is one coming, but it’s not up yet.
    Thanks for your time.
    Chuck Legge

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      Hi Chuck! Want to visit Alaska one day. You sound like an agile individual. That will really help your new blog in the long term.

      There’s a lot we could get into about the differences between online writing and other types of writing in general (like print).

      There are some things a writer needs to adjust to succeed as a web writer, and one quick example is not allowing your text to form large blocks of paragraphs. On this medium, that tends to turn off a lot of potential readers.

      A grizzled newspaper columnist might not like having to change that, but they need to. That’s just one example, my friend.

      Many folks, when they visit your blog for the first time, if they see your copy bunched together, without any subheads, bolds, or images, they’ll lose interest real fast and leave. That’s just the way it goes…does that help?

      1. Chuck Legge says:    •   5 years

        Good Advise. My paragraphs vary in size, but they tend to be about 8 to 10 lines long. I will use illustrations and editorial cartoons to liven up the text. By the way I liked the “grizzled’ part. I’m 64 years old with a full gray/white beard and look like I stepped right out of some turn of the century photo of Yukon prospectors. Thanks again for the advise.
        Chuck

        1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

          Love it, Chuck! You should use a photo with your comments. 🙂

  7. Alex says:    •   5 years

    Man Matthew you messed with me on this blog! (in a good way) Great post man! I have been struggling for a while now because I have always been “Mr. Jack” all the way. To narrow down just one topic or one niche has been tough. Thus the reason for the slow start as a newbie. So thanks for this post bro. One thing I have noticed in my research and studying some of the “big hitter blogger’s” sites and approaches – they write about two or more things, and sometimes in the same blog, so it was kind of confusing to me – until now.

    So I will strategically implement other areas of expertize of mine that I wanted to deal with but have those pages hidden. I write about self development, vision – becoming the real you., etc. But I wanted to reach out to homeschooling parents as well. So we’ll see how I’ll tackle that one. But I feel more comfortable about it now.

    Anyway, thanks again for your great posts. I’ve enjoyed your site/blogs for some time now.

    Cheers!
    Alex

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      Awesome, Alex! Keep us posted on how things go.

  8. Glenis Bateson says:    •   5 years

    Hi Matthew, seem to have lost contact with your blogs; have been busy doing lots of blogging on my site. I did a 30 day blogging challenge and instead of blogging on the topic of writing; which I thought would be a bit boring and not attract an audience, I focussed on topics that I knew about and was interested in for starters – sewing, health & beauty, gardening and some writing topics.

    I found that even though I’m not blogging at the mo, my site is still active with blogs being shared on facebook and other social media and reeferred.

    I don’t want to blog on writing all of the time and I want to be free to blog on whatever topic I feel like. Is this what you mean and can one blog site do it all and earn incomes?
    Thanks
    Glenis

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      Hi Glenis,

      Being a generalist here is more about the building of the blog with an entrepreneur mindset. Your blog content is different. I don’t recommend blogging on “whatever topic I feel like” if you want to earn income. You’re better off to have a focus and “specialize” on one to three related topics.

      Only someone who is already a celebrity can start a blog and write many about different things on a whim.

      Sounds like you’re passionate about those particular topics and I would focus on those you mentioned. That will keep you interested and motivated.

  9. Glenis Bateson says:    •   5 years

    Thanks Matthew, so I’ve decided to blog as I enjoy it so much and so now, is it too generalist to focus on health & beauty and bring in the benefits of growing your own veg and what the nutritional content of veg is? Does that work or is it too generalist still?

    Do I have to stick to health & beauty and say making your own products, reviewing products and follow just that path?

    Thanks
    Glenis

  10. Glenis Bateson says:    •   5 years

    No response needed to last comment; I’ve seen the light. g

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   5 years Author

      Awesome Glenis! Run to the light! LOL
      Seriously, love to see you really digging in and finding your voice. Comment here again soon, okay?

  11. Dr. Rin Porter says:    •   3 years

    Hi Matt,
    I have two thoughts about your post. First, when I was growing up, the elementary school teachers I liked most were those who advised us kids to become VERSATILE – that was one of their favorite words. And it sounds to me like the “jack of all trades” approach. I always enjoyed showing the teachers how many things I could do effectively, while hiding and minimizing the ones I was not good at, like math.

    Second, when I was in graduate school, someone introduced me to a friend who shared this proverb:
    “A specialist is a person who knows more and more about less and less, until he or she knows almost everything about practically nothing. A generalist is a person who knows less and less about more and more, until he or she knows almost nothing about practically everything.” That was meaningful to us graduate students because whether we liked it or not, we had to specialize and pick a very tiny topic for our theses and dissertations, so that we could learn about and write almost everything about practically nothing.

    Rin

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   3 years Author

      Wow, that’s quite the proverb, Rin!
      I like it. Makes you think…is it true? Well, pretty much…so it sounds like you favor the jack of all trades approach? Your first comment from your childhood seems like it, but then after the proverb, I’m not sure. LOL

      Matt

  12. Ross says:    •   2 years

    Nice to meet you! From a jack of all trades. I’ve been fighting this point of view from friend who keeps on pushing me to Master One. I’m sorry but I can’t resist the urge to learn new things or developing each of my potentials from my own timetable. We’ll break this “Master of One” perception of the world soon.