Every bald man (raises hand) needs a hat, and every bald man of a certain age (raises other hand) tends to amass a substantial quantity of them.
Here are some of mine, now collected on my new hatstand, bought from a shop fittings supplier, since every other hatstand available from conventional consumer stores bore insufficient prongs for my multi-hatted needs.
Many hats, many prongs. A good metaphor for a good writing life, I’d say.
Many hats equate to many skills. The more, the better. Writing articles, writing features, writing reports, writing NIBs, writing books. Copywriting, letter writing. Blogging. Translating. Tutoring. Speaking. There are lots of different skills which involve words, and there’s no reason why you can’t cultivate several.
Many prongs equate to many clients, upon which you can ‘hang’ – or at least attempt to hang! – your skills. Magazine editors, newspaper editors, website editors. Publishers, agents. Local businesses. Ad agencies. Public relations consultants.
When you start out as a writer, your first success is pivotal. Whenever a student of mine writes to me with news of such a success, I tell them to fire off another idea to the same editor. Strike while the iron’s hot, and all that. More often than not this leads to further success and commissions.
But it’s very easy to continue down this road, offering the same type of work to the same editor of the same publication, and not push yourself further forward. I did it when I started out, to some extent – and remember feeling a mixture of loyalty and indebtedness to the first editor who bought my work (who much later became, and remains, a good friend). Same work, same editor; same hat, same prong.
Here’s an idea – different hat, same prong. Offer that favoured regular editor of yours something different. Do they need a guest blog written? Might they be looking for someone to run their social media accounts for a week or two?
Here’s another idea – same hat, different prong. Yep – time to take some of this good work your number one editor is buying to a different editor. Two good things could come of this: first, you could get another regular client, and second, your first editor – noticing you’re casting your eye elsewhere and perhaps offering him fewer ideas – might be tempted to woo you back with, I don’t know, a guaranteed regular column or even a pay rise.
But the best idea – many hats, many prongs. You need eventually to have a lot of hats, if you’re serious about this. You need to be prepared to hang them wherever they may be hangable, if you want to run a freelance business. Offer all kinds of words to all kinds of people who buy words. Your hats should find many homes, far and wide. And forget what the song says, for wherever you lay your hat, that’s your work …