You say you’re a writer? Good for you. But if you really want to be valued (and paid more), you need to constantly increase your versatility. You need to be a full-stack writer.
Full-stack developers are valuable
A full-stack application developer is one who is adept at all elements of creating software, including both front-end (that is, user-facing) elements and back-end (server) portions. Such a developer would have to master multiple programming languages and know about topics like usability design, code efficiency, and interactions between client and server portions of code.
Full-stack developers are in great demand because they can solve all sorts of problems — and because they can foresee and diagnose interactions between different elements of code. They don’t need to involve multiple people to get the problem solved.
What does it mean to be a full-stack writer?
Most nonfiction writers would tell you that they’re successful because they can assemble multiple ideas into a consistent argument. They can conceive something and then write about it in an effective way.
But saying this is your skill as a writer is like saying “coding” is your skill as a developer. It’s limiting. On many writing projects, if this is all you can do, you’ll need to involve other people. And that makes you less valuable.
What skills could you add to become more versatile? Here’s a potential list:
- Developing ideas
- Doing research effectively (not just picking the first thing that comes up in a Google search)
- Writing good material extremely quickly
- Writing steadily regardless of your emotional state (excited, agitated, or depressed, for example)
- Working on multiple writing projects at once
- Developing a great memory for ideas
- Effectively editing your own writing (self-editing)
- Writing narratives (case studies and other stories)
- Writing ironclad logical arguments
- Humorous writing
- Writing about technical topics (the more topics you can master, the more versatile you are)
- Collaborating with other writers
- Editing other writers
- Writing in other people’s voices — ghostwriting
- Copy editing and proofreading
- Writing in new formats (for example, press releases, research reports, web content, newsletters, blog posts, documentation, marketing emails, or academic papers)
- Search engine optimization
- Creating effective graphics
- Graphic design, page design, or web design
- Presentation design
- Presenting what you write in public — giving talks
- Writing books
- Marketing your own capabilities effectively
- Working with the aid of large language model generative AI
I’m not saying you have to master all of that. Nobody could be good at all those skills at once.
I’m saying that given the chance, you should eagerly find ways to expand your writing skill set with skills like this. A writer with aspirations to be full-stack will take every possible chance to learn. If you know environmental science, learn physics and politics. If you know Google Docs and Microsoft Word, learn Scrivener and ChatGPT prompting. If you can write a research report, learn what it would take to write a book.
My entire career has been a long exercise in learning about different topics, different tools, different formats, and different skills. I’ve edited memoirs, books for financial advisors, and papers about the energy industry. I’ve written blog posts, research reports, software documentation, books, and marketing copy. I’m as close to a full-stack writer as I can get . . . and now, in my 60s, I’m still learning.
This makes me valuable to clients who need a lot of different skills.
It makes me better able to get different kinds of work when the market is soft.
But most importantly, it is way more fun that just doing the same thing over and over.
What are you doing to add to your stack of skills?