Laptop and notebook

Why being a ‘jack of all trades’ isn’t the worst thing in the world

When I was younger, I remember learning the phrase: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Weirdly, I can’t even remember where, but it’s always been there, hovering in the background. One of the many reasons why it was important to pick a career and stick to it – something I was lucky enough to discover early on and still want to be doing 17 years later.

It reared its head again as I tried to decide whether to stick to ‘general news’ or specialise in a certain sector, and again when I turned freelance and decided to devote some of my time to what many journalists see as ‘the dark side’ – otherwise known as PR. In my head, the two aren’t that different. They’re both storytelling and they’re somewhat symbiotic. But that’s a whole other debate.

Since I started my freelance journey, I’ve split my time between writing news and features with my journalist ‘hat’ on and working as a PR consultant for my clients as well as adding copywriting, public speaking, a bit of work with SEO, blogging and probably something else that I’ve forgotten. In the past few years, I’ve wondered whether that’s a good thing. Do I have a ‘diverse skill set’ or am i just a ‘jack of all trades’? Is having a few strings to your bow a wise idea, or should you just pick something. And does doing a few different things mean that you can’t be a ‘master’ at any of them?

Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived and the world as we know it – including the climate that I work in – changed beyond recognition. It hit different parts of my business in different ways. Unsurprisingly, some of my PR clients paused all activity as soon as their own businesses closed and who could blame them?

Clearly the need for news writers didn’t go anywhere, so my experience in that area continued. And while feature commissions for newspapers are never easy to come by, the fact that food and drink was so hugely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis meant I was able to write about something close to my heart

Other parts of my business changed in ways I couldn’t have foreseen, with webinars and teaching continuing but online instead of in person. Plus, let’s not forget the fact that nothing has stood still during the coronavirus crisis. While some businesses are struggling, others are starting, some are changing and innovating, and some of those changing businesses and new businesses have come to me for help sharing their stories.

On top of that, that small copywriting part of my business has proved to be a lifeline at times, with some businesses using this time to update things, to work on new words, and enlisted my help to do so.

In short, suddenly being a ‘jack of all trades’ doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, it’s meant that I’ve been able to carry on working – not only useful for paying the mortgage but also probably what’s saved my own mental health during this weird time.

So in future, when I worry about being a ‘jack of all trades’, I’ll remember the spring of 2020 and about how having a broad range of skills and interests, all interlinked, and all equally rewarding in different ways, really isn’t such a bad thing. The very opposite in fact. Plus, it’s the product of nearly two decades experience and a need to adapt to our constantly-changing world and to what my clients need. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me, and at the moment that’s all we can hold on to.