Why a Jack of All Trades Blogger Outperforms the Specialist 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.”
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:
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.)
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”, [email protected]!*&, 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.
Tons of people will tell you that means you’re not good at any of them, I don’t agree. I think I’m really &#$%^[email protected] 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
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.
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…..