Everyone makes mistakes—even writers—but that's OK because each mistake is a great learning opportunity. The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them early in the process. Note: The mistakes in this series aren't focused on grammar rules, though we offer help in that area as well.
Rather, we're looking at bigger picture mistakes and mishaps, including the error of using too much exposition, hiding your pitch, or chasing trends. This week's writing mistake writers make is putting all your eggs in one basket.
Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket
I usually think of these writing mistakes (and fixes) as timeless issues that crop up frequently with timely examples. Such is the case for this one that was inspired by the recent kerfuffle at Twitter related to the acquisition and seemingly drastic moves made by Elon Musk. Time will tell whether things work out for the social media platform, but I'm sure there are more than a few writers relying solely on Twitter for engagement who are freaking out as a mass exodus of users (and employees) occurs.
Meanwhile, writers who have a diverse mix of ways to engage their audience (whether that's via other social media platforms, email newsletters, live events, etc.) are probably popping popcorn and enjoying this impromptu reality show. But this week's mistake is not just about putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to promotion. Rather, it's related to nearly everything related to writing and publishing.
For instance, many full-time freelance writers learn over time that it's not good to receive more than 50% of their income from only one client. The reason? If that one client goes under or decides to go a different direction with their content mix, then a freelancer will suddenly have to make up more than half their income in new ways, which is difficult to do in a short period of time.
And creatively, writers are playing with fire if they only work on one project or write in one genre. While there are times for buckling down on one project or story to get it finished, only focusing on one type of project or genre for a sustained period of time can increase the chances of burnout.
So it's not good to put all your eggs in one basket, whether it's related to freelancing, platform building, or writing. But what's the solution?
Mistake Fix: Diversify Your Options
As a writer, I would say the writing that earns money for me is nonfiction. However, I also love to write poetry and have published a full-length collection (with the will to publish more in the future). And I also write fiction that's received minor awards and payment in the past. When I start to feel "blocked" in one genre, I can often just jump into another to unblock myself.
Freelance writers can improve their financial sustainability by building relationships with multiple clients. They can further increase their stability by writing in a few different niches. And many serious freelancers will also work toward a diversified mix of offerings, perhaps writing articles for publications, crafting books, teaching classes, speaking at events, critiquing writing, and more. Each new client and offering strengthens a freelancer's business.
And this brings us back to marketing and promotion and specifically Twitter and social media. Many writers use social media as an effective way to connect and communicate with their audience. However, savvy writers know they should diversify their efforts here as well. Many writers have multiple social media accounts, including profiles with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Goodreads, TikTok, Reddit, and more. For instance, there's a lot of interest in Mastodon recently as a possible Twitter substitute.
But really smart writers will also think beyond social media and be sure to create a personal website that can work as their centralized piece of online real estate, regardless of what the Elon Musks and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world do with their social platforms. These smarties also will create email newsletters and attend live events, whether that's a writing conference, book convention, or even bookstore signings.
The bottom line: Whatever you do with your writing and publishing career, look for ways to diversify. One thin string can be easily snapped, but several thin strings woven together can create a strong rope. Each new thread makes that rope thicker and stronger. As a result, writers who diversify are much better positioned to weather the unexpected storms of change in publishing.
Or, let's get back to our original metaphor of putting all our eggs in one basket. If a writer puts all their eggs in one basket and something happens to the basket, then it also happens to all the eggs. This can lead to higher highs, for sure, but also the very lowest of lows. More baskets leads to more stability.